Colin McRae Rally 05 PS2 Review

Could Codemasters’ improve the series after the untouchable rally king that McRae 04 became? This is a question we have constantly asked ourselves since revelling in the delights of the fourth game. If Codemasters’ had given us a handful of new tracks and cars for the fifth game we would have been happy, but at the top of their list of things to include was a brand new career mode.

The championship mode is now exclusive to the 4WD motors, but fear not as the fantastic career mode is the place to be for those drivers wanting some diversity. It’s a little like the career mode from the developers very own Race driver titles, but without the plot, which was nothing more then a slight distraction from the racing anyway. McRae 2005’s career is as progressive as many modern racers, where things start off slower and the speed steadily increases whilst the handling becomes wilder. Placing in rallies earns you driver points, serving as a ranking, opening up events or keeping them locked until the rating claims you are ready to enter. Winning events also grants you access to new vehicles, which is all well and good, as there’s also specialised events for some of these motors. This just goes to show that this is no lazy update and we love it. Need further proof? The introduction of German rallying should be enough.

We also welcome the new online mode, which keeps the spirit of rallying alive and the twisty and narrow tracks could have become nothing but destruction derbies for all those involved, but thankfully all players – apart from yourself – is displayed as a transparent ghost, much like the one which appears for personal best lap times and the such. Up to eight players can take part in singular stages or entire rallies and it remains smooth enough whilst playing online.

Much discussed last year was the new vehicle handling of the fourth game, although there’s just some little tweaks this time around, some are still clearly there. Cars now tend to slip and slide around corners easier and we found that this was sometimes at the expense of frustration and one of our important components. This nicely brings us bang onto the addition of the damage meter, colour-coordinating the state of each portion of the car. This meter is perhaps a little overdue, but we’re glad that Codemasters’ have seen fit to include it this time around.

Graphically the game is marginally smoother, little difference compared to the fourth version. The cars look fantastic, although the environments could have done with a bit of a spruce up. Some of the surroundings still look cardboard, flat and devoid of any wildlife. Crashing into things has been improved though and it’s nice to see a shower of leaves succumb from the trees as well as signposts bending after ploughing into them, things are a little more organic perhaps but not up to the standards of the Rallisport Challenge series on the Xbox.

It’s the last we’ll see of the series on the current generation of consoles, although it’s a perfect send off with some neat additions. The career mode definitely hits the spot and online racing gives an extra dimension to the multi-player rallying. The only thing really wrong with this is the rather heavy difficulty level, which requires a lot of time and commitment to bring out the best in yourself, if you love arcade racing and don’t have the patience for simulation driving, avoid. Apart from that, this is quite simply the best that money can buy and still the undisputed king of the rally gaming scene, excellent stuff.