Colin McRae Rally 3
I often find myself wondering quite why driving games are the toast of pretty much all gaming platforms; when the differences between titles can at times seem decidedly small - if not non-existent. It's a problem of audience expectations, I suspect, as driving games - since the dawn of time, have been accepted as the staple gaming diet of the masses, who, lets face it, aren't always the most discerning of punters. Thusly, games companies tend to take advantage of this audience, by slapping heavily branded but often insubstantial offerings in front of them at every opportunity safe in the knowledge that they're bound to take the bate.
There are of course notable exceptions, such as the Gran Turismo games, World Rally Championship, and of course Colin McRae Rally, titles which have at least tried to keep progressing the genre, despite the hefty constraints of it. Colin's latest outing has however been the victim of mixed reviews at best, many bemoaning the game's stagnant and clinical feel. Colin McRae 3 on the PC, which has just arrived on our doorstep, is disappointingly little different from the Xbox and PS2 version's which were met with so much apathy some months back.
Firstly, Colin McRae doesn't actually even drive for Ford any longer, and his former co-driver Nicky Grist has also departed the seat beside him - leaving the game from the outset feeling somewhat out of touch. This theme is continued by the disappointing visuals which do little to highlight the enormous technical benefits the PC should offer, and in fact the game rarely looks any better than the Xbox version, save for some higher resolutions.
It all looks a tad dated and 'undernourished', when placed alongside some beautiful examples of the driving genre like Burnout 2, and this coupled with gargantuan system hogging requirements combine to cause the kind of irritation usually only reserved for Microsoft Windows errors. This is a very poor port indeed, and what's more it'll take 3.5gb of hard drive space for the privilege.
Of course, Colin McRae 3 is as solid as ever in the game play department, even if the improvements over previous incarnations are not as benchmark-setting as we hoped they might be. The controls are very flexible, and the process of honing your skills and getting accustomed to your vehicle's handling can be an engrossing experience, if incredibly hard work at times.
The fact that Codemaster's have failed to utilise some of the PC platform's major advantages is a shame, however, as we are once again reminded of Colin's shortcomings by the lack of multiplayer options. You'll get a four-player split-screen mode like on the consoles certainly, but any form of LAN or internet mode is sorely missed. Which leaves us PC gamers feeling more than a little short-changed even if the game is occasionally quite pretty, and the game play frequently satisfying - if unoriginal.
Codemaster's must try harder with Colin McRae 4, which we hope will sit Colin back atop the genre.