Let’s get the good news over with first. Colin McRae Rally 2005 is an exceptional rallying game, and certainly the finest in the genre ever to grace a PC. Its graphical prowess is undisputed, it’s extremely challenging and it’s a contemporary testament to just how well PCs can shift this kind of thing around.
So why are we left with a sense of disappointment after a couple of days in Colin’s company? Quite simply, because so little has changed since we met him last. Colin McRae Rally 04 was released fairly recently on PC, yet so crucial is this franchise to the Codemasters bottom line, it seems, that they’ve forsaken their willingness to leave breathing space between subsequent sequels. The result is a game that’s barely altered in any fundamental way.
Let’s look at what exactly has changed to demonstrate the point. Graphics are better, certainly, and the aesthetics all round are that bit more detailed. There are more tracks and cars to play with, both of which are most welcome. You can also take the role of Mr McRae, in spite of the fact that in real life it seems that his best rallying days might be behind him.
In terms of gameplay, the steering appears to have been tightened slightly and the career mode will keep any rallying fan suitably happy. Also, little bits of the game appear to be a little more forgiving. And there we seem to have come to the end of our list.
Now there’s little doubt that the game at the heart of all this is fundamentally excellent. It’s a stiff challenge, one that doesn’t lend itself to racing novices, and it’s more than happy to punish mistakes. Yet it’s fair, and the sense of satisfaction when you start to make progress is considerable. It’s also got plenty on the disc to keep you glued to it for some time, should you get into it.
But then Colin McRae Rally 04 did all of that too. It thus becomes hard to put together a compelling argument for anyone who has bought either of the previous two McRae games to fork out for the 2005 edition (especially as you know that this time next year another will have rolled off the production line).
New to rallying games? Then this is ideal. It really is. Wealthy, and loved the last McRae title? Heck, then why not. But for the rest of us, to whom the wallet is a vault that requires some justification to unlock, Mr McRae is simply going to have to try harder next time round. Stick with the last version, which should be heading to a bargain bin near you shortly.
This is a great game, yet conversely appalling value for money for anyone who bought McRaes 3 or 4. Either will give you similar enjoyment, and can be picked up a lot cheaper than this.