Colin McRae Rally 2005 previewed by DoubleD

Codemasters’ Colin McRae-series is without a doubt the most succesful rally games franchise. Excellent gameplay, high replayability, a very well balanced equilibrium between simulation and arcade etc etc.

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But the games weren’t perfect and several gameplay elements could be improved. Which sounds perfectly sensible… otherwise the Codemasters-boys wouldn’t need to develop the latest in the series: Colin McRae 2005 🙂

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Now, at this years Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), we got a chance to preview the 2005 version, more or less hands-on — host of the day was Michael Rowland (the Community Liaison Manager) who showed us around the game on an Xbox console.

Some features were already known before E3, but we are going to repeat them here anyway — rest assured, this will definitely not be a definitive list on all the changes and new features, but it will give you a nice idea and heads-up.

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First things first: fans will be able to rally around in a new ‘career challenge’ mode which works with a ladder system. Start your way right at the bottom of the food-chain and race your way up to challenge the master himself. Yes Colin, ye ol’ Scotshman, beware of yerself !

The new career mode is supported with +/- 60% brand new tracks. Or in human language: the tracks are spread over 9 countries and on 76 different tracks. ‘Nine, you said ?’ Yes, nine — because this time round, Germany is included. The Teutonic circuit is a pretty nice allround track, with light and heavy gravel, pothole-filled tarmac and a bit of mud in the woods.

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A welcome change is that as from Colin McRae 2005, you won’t be staring at a white screen while loading any more. The art departement chose a less minimalistic road this time round and added what I think can be described as ‘a country-related artwork User Interface’ (a fancy title I made up myself, but don’t shoot me if I got this wrong! :).
Example: you’d like to race a particular track in Greece. Well, while the track is loading, instead of an ugly white screen, you’ll see an arty impression of the Acropolis.

A new element that adds a nice little touch to your Heads-Up Display (HUD) is the addition of a Certina logo to the clock. That’s right, Codemasters has gone through the trouble to license some well-known brands from the rally-world.
On that topic, a lot of people will be delighted with the licensing of the Land Rover 4×4. Personally, I’d like to race anyone driving a Land Rover 4×4 in my Peugeot 206 for a kegg of beer :).

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Now for the biggest and probably some of the most welcome changes in the CMR series.

One of *THE* most annoying features of the whole Colin McRae series were the traffic signs and stacks of hay made out of reinforced concrete that couldn’t even be destroyed by a laser-guided surgically-precision-placed US bunker-buster bom. No more of this!
As from Colin McRae 2005, if you run into a traffic signs at high speed, your car will slow down or spin, but the sign will definitely go down, like a teenage girl on prom night (but don’t quote me on that :).

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A nifty newly added feature is the ‘concussion effect’. If you park your vehicle against a tree or a rock with quite a bit of speed, your ‘vision’ will be slightly blurred for a while. This concussion will also have an effect on your driving and thus the handling of the car. Well done guys, I really like it !

And on that note, if you drive into a tree, you’ll notice some leaves fluttering around. The faster you bump into the tree, the more the tree is damaged, the more leaves will fall. Have fun ! 🙂

Some smaller additions will also influence your driving experience and the gameplay. More potholes have been included on the tracks, giving it a slightly more realistic feel.

As was to be a bit expected, a whole new damage model was created. This assumption might sound a bit pompous, but I figured the producers of the game would of wanted to incorporate one – seen as the result their collegues of DTM Race Driver have had with theirs.

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Last but not least, two features for the real CMR fans. First of all, the return of more than 3 camera points-of-view. Colin McRae 2005 will once again have 5 dynamic camera viewpoints. Good, I like some variation.

And to cater for the die-hard fans, the ones that like to fiddle around with the car settings, the ones that like to finish the track just that split second faster than last time… random weather !
Yup, image enableing that feature and setting up your car nicely for a dry run somewhere in Japan. When all of a sudden it starts pouring for the second heat. Grmbl &#!##� !!! 🙂

All in all, Colin McRae 2005 is top-notch once again. I’m looking forward to it!