Colin McRae Rally 3 Review

I admit that I don’t know all that much about racing in general and therefore even less about Rally racing.  For whatever reasons, NASCAR has never held that much appeal to me.  Maybe going around and around in circles just doesn’t do it for me.  However, I’m learning more about Rally racing and it seems pretty darn interesting.  Rally racing is a bit different than the typical racing that most Americans are used to.  Instead of the pretty controlled tracks of NASCAR, Rally racing throws you basically into the heart of nature where you race between trees, fields, through snow, dirt, mud, etc.  It’s kind of like driving through a hurricane (with occasional snow).  So how well does Colin McRae Rally 3 (CMR3) present a racing genre with such diversity?  Quite well, actually.  I may not know that much about racing, but I do know a fun game when I play one.

The weather turns nasty.

CMR3 for the XBox is a little different because the goal of the game is to be more of a racing simulator than an arcade game like RalliSport Challenge.  This is not a good thing or a bad thing; it just kind of depends on what type of game you enjoy.  I may tend to lean more toward “arcadey” than realistic, but you may go the other way.  Either way there is a lot to like about CMR3.

CMR3 has two main modes: Championship and Stages.  Championship is the more detailed area and so I’ll talk more in detail about that later (Get it? I’ll talk in “detail” about the “detail” area! Hmmm, sometimes the jokes are just for me…).  But first, let’s go over the Stages mode.  It is just as it sounds. You race a single rally stage from any of the unlocked stages in any of the unlocked cars.  You can either run the race by yourself or have up to 4 other players.  In the multiplayer modes you can either race simultaneously against the other players, or you can alternate racing in full-screen mode.  Simple as that…

The Championship mode is where things get more involved.  You play as Colin McRae through a 3-year contract with the Ford Rallye Sport Team.  This is only a single player game.  One little odd thing about the Championship mode is that you must be Colin.  I thought it would have been nice to create my own driver and work him through the ranks. But just as everyone wants to be MJ, Kobe or Duncan in NBA games, I guess rally junkies want to be Colin.  Oh yea, and you will be driving the Ford Focus RS WRC; so don’t even think about wanting a different car (of course you can always go to the Stages mode and pick from over 20 other cars).  Each year in the Championship consists of racing in eight different countries.  Each country follows the same format of 3 days of racing.  The first day is called the Shakedown Day.  This is a day dedicated to tuning and tweaking your car to the exact configuration that you feel will give you the best chance to win. It is in the Service Area that the true grease monkeys will feel right at home.  The Service Area gives you seven different sections of your car with which you can “monkey around” and some of the areas have a couple of sub areas.  For example, when optimizing your suspension you can modify the springs, dampers or the anti-roll for the car.  After you have made your adjustments you get to take the car for a spin and see if you’re happy with the configuration.  If not just head back in and tinker some more.  But don’t feel intimidated by all of these options - more often than not the default settings for your car at each rally are very acceptable, so no need to worry that you’ll end up with snow tires on a gravel course.

Following the Shakedown is the Rally event itself.  The Rally is divided into two days.   Rally Day 1 involves three special stage races.  These races are just you against the clock.  That is, you run the course alone trying to get the fastest time.  The stages are run one after the other using the same car.  So if on the first stage you smash your windshield, you no longer have a windshield for the next 2 stages.  The next opportunity you have to fix your sled is at the beginning of Rally Day 2 that starts you back in the Service Area.  Once you make the needed repairs, and you’ll need to, you head back out for three more Stages.  If everything goes right you get to run in the “Super Special Stage” that pits you not directly against the clock but against another driver.  After this it’s off to another country and you start the whole process over again.  So if we do a little quick math here, we have 8 countries with 7 stages in each country for a total of 56 stages.  The box claims there are 64 stages, so I guess there are 8 more hiding out there somewhere…