Colin McRae Rally 3

Colin McRae Rally 3
Developer: Codemasters
Publisher: Codemasters
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1-4
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You can keep all your smooth, clean Gran Turismo, F1 or PGR asphalt and nice safe gravel traps and tyre walls. Give us muddy fields, mountain roads and tree-lined tracks six inches wider than the car - That's what we like, and that's what Colin must like. So he must be a bit mad. So Codemasters have given us the chance to live out a small section of Colin the madman's career - basically: completely nutty driving through 8 countries in total, set in locations as diverse as an English village or an Australian desert.

   

First: The cars - The errrmm…..'focus' is clearly on Colin's Ford Focus here - it's the only one you can use in a Championship (although all the others that you unlock can be used on any of the stages or in the multiplayer modes) - and it looks absolutely amazing. I've never seen such detail. Everything from working windscreen wipers to visible suspension parts, brake callipers and driveshafts. Look carefully and you'll notice an animated engine block and a wobbling exhaust - it's truly a dedicated, automotive work of art. Understandably, some of the other cars seem to have had slightly less attention lavished on them, but they all look superb (including several Citroens, who Colin is driving for next year). Body damage seems to be the driving game by-word these days, and CMR3's is as good as we've seen so far. Every body panel (bonnet, hatchback, doors, bumper, spoiler etc…) dents, some waggle and fall off, glass crazes and smashes, wheels wobble before they drop off, the engine smokes…..And we're pretty sure we've even seen a tyre shredding before it popped. You can literally DESTROY Colin's Focus…… (if you're bad enough).

Next the views: The in-car is as realistic as we've ever seen; similar to Sega's F355 inasmuch as you only see what you really see when driving: The top of the steering wheel and dashboard, and a bit of bodywork. It's excellent. It only becomes difficult to use when it rains really hard, and the rain/wiper effect (you've probably all seen it) is sublime - it looks real - the best yet.

   

Twitchy but predictable handling allows you to throw the car around like you need to, and the physics seem pretty good most of the time. Crashes can look amazingly violent and spectacular as cartwheels and multiple rolls are now possible, and the detailed damage means that the car will shed bits everywhere as the accident unfolds. The replays are a bit disappointing, showing up the rather basic look of some of the scenery, and the car seems to 'float' a bit sometimes, not always looking like it's in proper contact with the surfaces.

More jaggies than Xbox owners are used to, and flat 2D spectators also show up the game's multiformat origins, although the highly believable settings for the stages still somehow manage to outclass the much prettier Rallisport Challenge's panoramic ones. Some nice road and stone textures and time of day lighting effects are the non-car related visual highlights. A rather chunky looking 4 player split screen allows 4 at a time racing against the clock, or stages may be driven by multiple players taking turns, but CMR3 is best played solo, in a quiet room so you can hear Nicky Grist's vital pace notes. A good, pleasing sequel, but not the truly great game we were hoping for.