Rally Racing is a very popular sport throughout Europe and many other countries in that region. Although it is not widely viewed in North America, its popularity here has grown over the last several years. Rally Trophy goes back to the roots of rally racing, when paychecks weren't in the millions of dollars and participants competed for the sensation of danger and sheer entertainment of the sport.
Published by JoWood Productions and developed by Finnish based BugBear Entertainment, Rally Trophy is a unique rally game featuring vehicles from the 1960's and 1970's era. With so many rally games available for the PC, each must offer something unique, an innovation of sort. The development decisions behind Rally Trophy have been very successful in doing this.
Upon startup, players will be welcomed by a variety of modes of play. Rally mode allows players to hit the track in one of five initially available vehicles. As the game progresses, more cars will become available, a total of eleven being included in the game. Forty-two tracks have been included as well, divided among five different countries. The arcade mode pits players against a variety of opponents with a simple concept; the first vehicle to cross the finish line wins. Unfortunately, numerous problems affect the arcade and multiplayer modes of play, these problems being mentioned in greater detail later in this review.
The multiplayer aspect included in Rally Trophy uses the GameSpy matchmaking software to display current events and provide an easy means of connection. This software that is included on the CD requires a separate installation procedure and users must register with GameSpy to login to the multiplayer service. Up to six players can compete at one time in an arcade style event, similar to that of the offline experience. Unfortunately, similar problems to the ones offline plague this aspect as well.
Rally Trophy is entertaining to play when you use the "rally" mode, but soon as more than one vehicle is present on the track such as those in the arcade mode, many problems begin to arise. Rally Trophy has major performance problems on certain systems, and the reasoning behind this is yet to be determined. On our test system (AMD 1.4 GHz, GeForce3), the game ran incredibly poorly, even on the lowest resolutions. After experiencing these issues, I immediately headed online in search of a patch or method of correcting this issue. After completing a quick search in the official Rally Trophy community, I was not surprised to see many other users experiencing the same difficulties. It is entirely possible that the game is experiencing problems with the most recent Detonator XP Drivers, as most people having the problems were using the GeForce line of video cards. In its current condition, the game is unplayable in arcade mode, and this is a big problem that affects several aspects of the game. Rally Trophy has the potential to be a major success, but the quick resolution of these problems will play a vital role. If this issue is resolved in an upcoming patch, then I would be much obliged to modify this review and award the game a score it is potentially capable of receiving, but until then, the score will be affected dramatically as it is unplayable in more than one area.
Rally Trophy features a highly realistic physics engine, comparable in realism to popular titles such as NASCAR Racing 4 or Grand Prix 3. In rally mode, each vehicle handles differently, simulating its real-life counterpart. At high rates of speed, the cars jump around and give the player a bumpy ride from the cockpit view in a true to life manner. If the issues mentioned above were not present, then this area would score very high, but it is very difficult to evaluate when you cannot successfully compete a race in arcade mode.
The damage model present in Rally Trophy is absolutely stunning and is one of the best aspects present in the game. Upon impact with trees or guardrails, fenders crumple and windshields crack. After several hits, the suspension will eventually fail, making the cars incredibly difficult to handle. Unlike most other rally games, the cracked windshield effects are visible from the cockpit of the vehicle, making it very difficult to see from this perspective. BugBear Entertainment has done an exceptional job on the damage modeling, one of the best models seen in any racing title to this day.
Graphics play a large role in the success of a game, and Rally Trophy has that aspect covered. The environments and vehicles are highly detailed, and the graphical damage modeling is superb. As cars drive across the dirt tracks, large clouds of dust and debris fill the sky behind the vehicle. Many little graphical enhancements are present as well, affecting the game as a whole. Most notably, these include the dirt buildup on a car as the race progresses, and the glare of the sunlight off the vehicle's windshield. Rally Trophy also includes varying weather and time of day conditions, allowing players to compete in the rain or the blackness of night. Unfortunately, the performance issues play a big part in this score, and the game would be virtually perfect in this area if they were not present.
Rally Trophy features 11 vehicles from the 1960's and 70's era. Whether it's the Morris Mini Cooper 1275S or the Lancia Fulvia, each vehicle is highly detailed and very close to their real life counterparts. Rally Trophy also includes a total of 42 fictional tracks based out of five nations, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Kenya, and Switzerland. Each track varies in length and difficulty, and offers a unique racing experience. Each country has different weather conditions and vegetation, and this is presented well in Rally Trophy. For example, Kenya involves racing through the hot deserts with lots of open terrain, whilst Sweden is the complete opposite, racing through heavy snow and sliding around treacherous corners. A solid mix of realistic cars and beautiful locations to race them make Rally Trophy an entertaining experience.
Sound plays a crucial role in simulating the experience when driving a car, and Rally Trophy succeeds in this respect. As you approach bends or other places of note, your co-driver will inform you of these obstacles in timely fashion, something present in real rally racing worldwide. A variety of background music has been included as well, that of which fits the era perfectly and keeps the general time period of the game in touch with the player. The sound effects included are exceptionally well done and blend in with the environment. The chirping of birds and the sound of your engine as you attack the rugged terrain is very realistic, as is the sound of twisting metal and shattering glass upon impact with another object. The only issue encountered with the sound in Rally Trophy was the volume controls. The co-drivers voice and background music are substantially louder than everything else, and unless these are turned down to one of the lowest settings, it is very difficult to hear the engine or any other sound effects. If the sound effects are adjusted to the near maximum level and the voice controls are near the bottom, a good balance of sound is obtained.
Rally Trophy is a solid blend of entertainment and realism, with a good graphical foundation. Until the performance issues are resolved however, the game is virtually unplayable in arcade mode and multiplayer. BugBear is currently working on a patch, and we will just have to wait and see if it will resolve these problems.