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The best rally game around? A Tribe Called Cars plays the latest in the V-Rally series, released 16 years on from its PS2 predecessor, to find out as part of its V-Rally 4 review.

The V-Rally series was one of the better rally games and so you may be wondering why it has been 16 years since the last game, developed by Infogrames, was released and whether it should return at all. Why potentially spoil a good memory?

Because profit, obviously. To be fair to the new developer, Kylotonn Games (responsible for TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge and the WRC games), there has been a relative lack of fresh rally action on the latest generation consoles, especially if Dirt 4 and Dirt Rally did nothing for you.

There is also potentially a group of players who pine for the good-old days of Colin McRae Rally and the much-loved original Xbox title, RalliSport Challenge, which featured a more arcade-esque handling model over the current trend of ‘hyper-realism’.

Things have, of course, come on a long way over that time – most notably in the graphics department – but the principles of a rally game remain the same. Lots of speed, lots of corners, lots of fun. Does that mean an old-timer like V-Rally can still race with the best of them?

V-Rally 4 review ─ The Visuals

Let’s be clear, V-Rally 4 is far from the best-looking racing game. Side by side with Forza Horizon 4, it looks much less detailed and considerably less slick to the point where you could accuse it of being a PS3 game. An early one.

That is only half the story, though. Yes, the graphics are lower resolution, the people look like they were copy and pasted from The Sims 2 and certain foliage, such as the flowers you find in the fields of certain courses, fall over as if they were made from cardboard.

But there are moments when V-Rally 4 can be breathtaking. Battling to keep on course as you make your way up a steep mountain in America, for instance, with the falling sun making life difficult truly is a pleasing site.

Likewise, witnessing Japan’s beautiful autumnal-tainted trees and their brown, orange and reddish hues whizz past never proves anything less than satisfying. Even the barren, unforgiving terrain of Kenya somehow boasts more personality than you get in some games.

V-Rally 4 ─ The Driving Stuff

V-Rally 4 review: 16 years too late?

Sometimes the visuals can impress

Glimpses of visual personality are bolstered by the course designs themselves, which wind right and left in rapid and unrelenting fashion. Fast ‘6’ corners are often backed up by 90-degree turns through a gate seemingly as wide as a postage stamp, which forces you to get straight on the brakes and initiate a drift so you can rotate the car and get the power back on pronto.

Even the twistiest downhill sections, where you barely need to touch the accelerator, seem to connect together in a way that suggests the developer spent a long time putting driving satisfaction first, as opposed to unnecessary gimmicks.

Capturing the unforgiving nature of rally is another thing V-Rally 4 does well. For instance, the night-based American rally courses, where the dark sky is filled with stars, require the use of your headlights, which cast a realistic and necessary glow on close-by hazards but visibility is severely reduced.

The same goes for when it rains, as traction is reduced to the point where you have to drive that little bit more carefully. Or risk ending upside down in a field, like in those ten-a-penny YouTube rally crash round-up videos.

Course design plays its part in why V-Rally 4 is capable of holding your concentration, but it is the handling system that deserves just as much praise. Though a little arcadey, RalliSport Challenge style, keeping your foot buried is rarely a good idea.

In fact, it usually ends in disaster. V-Rally 4, whether using a controller or steering wheel, encourages precise accelerator inputs to maintain a speed and equally precise little nudges left and right to ensure you avoid losing too much speed going sideways. Cars react to different surfaces in a subtly different way and each car has its own personality.

Initiating a drift is easy to the point where you can happily spend the entire time going sideways. Doing so is where V-Rally 4 feels best, as it flows beautifully. That and the fact the courses err on the ‘size zero’ thin side, with millimetres between you and the edge of a cliff edge, suspension-killing rock or woodland tree, help build a level of realism.

Hill Climb and Rally are the two modes worth investing time into. Using the two downforce-heavy, highly fast electric cars, for the former – or the tail-happy Suzuki Escudo, made famous by its inclusion in the early Gran Turismo games – really gets the blood flowing.

V-Rally 4 ─ The Longevity

V-Rally 4 review: 16 years too late?

The Suzuki Escudo SX4 is bags of fun to drive

Rally Cross is another type of race you can undertake in the V-Rally career mode, where instead of racing against the clock you race against semi-competent AI opponents, who will happily let you push them into solid objects at the roadside, as opposed to braking or fighting back.

Then there is Buggy, which involves buggies (VW Beetle, anyone?) on off-road courses, funnily enough. The Extreme Khana ‘Gymkhana’ driving stuff, meanwhile, has you driving around urban environments as if you were Ken Block. Sometimes you get natural playgrounds with steep inclines and rock tunnels to navigate through.

Though less involving, the change of play style helps break up V-Rally 4. The fact you can pick and choose between races around the world helps keep you from getting bored as easily. Given the variety in the courses, cars and locations, you are never more than a few minutes away from doing something you enjoy. Except the championships, some of which are really tough until you buy a decent car.

Persevere and you can soon undertake higher rated races with larger rewards. Money comes in at a decent rate if you get yourself a second-tier car and focus on one particular type of race type. But for even faster progress, the Online challenges are the way to go. These involve setting a time against other players from around the world. The higher your ranking, the greater the reward, which is given when an event finishes.

As these run for a few hours, you can log back into V-Rally 4 to find yourself significantly richer, which means being ever-closer to the car you want. Speaking of which, there is a decent selection of cars but it pales in comparison with the likes of Forza and Gran Turismo. Here’s hoping Kylotonn adds more at a later date.

V-Rally 4 ─ The downsides?

V-Rally 4 review: 16 years too late?

Rain and night makes life more difficult

You could argue the visuals should be better, but the gameplay makes you forget. Much less forgivable, though, is the upgrade system, which lacks much in the way of depth. Engine upgrades, for instance, are known as just that. You get a stat boost, but nothing in the way of what the upgrade entailed, which may upset rally nerds.

The presentation of the menus is very PS2 and PS3, too, which will please those who remember some or all of the previous V-Rally games but everyone else may find it hard to look at.

Then there is the sometimes unpredictable physics system, which can send you miles into the air even if you were doing 10mph, and the AI pace, which seems to go from bonkers fast to painfully slow without much warning. A lack of knowing what cars you are up against is part of the problem, as that would make it easier to know if your first car is no longer viable.

It can also be a little too easy to pick up a large time penalty, too. Though running over members of the crowd is a fairly obvious no-no, going slightly off course can be treated as just a big a crime. Getting stuck on a rock and other scenery also happens more often than it should and the reset time is painfully slow. Although in real life you would be there forever so maybe count your blessings.

Lastly, longevity could be a problem. As fun as the courses are, they always use the same basis and so driving B to D or A to C, though fun initially, will soon go from new to learned and then to annoyingly familiar. At the 15-hour mark, we are still busy saving up and completing races. But for how much longer? It is hard to say.

V-Rally 4 ─ The Bottom Line

V-Rally 4 review: 16 years too late?

Although V-Rally 4 looks like it was made two years after the last V-Rally game, as opposed to 16, it also feels like that – but not necessarily in a bad way. So many modern-day games hope realism and a high polygon count can mask a lack of personality. V-Rally 4 suffers from no such problem.

For capturing the technical aspects and general frantic nature of rally, Kylotonn has created a pleasingly accurate representation. The fact its selection of rally cars is varied (but limited) and that it has a number of enjoyable gaming modes ensures it is a better game than a lot of early reviews have suggested.

There is, however, this niggling feeling that V-Rally 4 may not last you as long as other rally games and it is rough around the edges, which makes its £45 price tag too high. With a bit more development time, it could have been a worthy tribute. But as things stands, despite the good bits, you may want to keep your foot hovering over the buy pedal until it inevitably drops in price.

The V-Rally 4 release date on PS4 and Xbox One was the 6th of September, 2018. The PC version arrives on the 25th of the same month.

V-Rally 4 review (Xbox One): 16 years too late?
Despite numerous faults, V-Rally 4 manages to emulate the frantic nature of rally driving. Wait until the price drops before you buy, though, as £45 is quite steep given the lack of depth.
The Good
  • Great sense of speed
  • Satisfying driving mechanics
  • Sometimes very pretty
The Bad
  • Dated presentation
  • Seems rushed in places
  • Repititive soundtrack
3.0The Score

About The Author


Ben Griffin is a motoring journalist and founder of the website and YouTube channel, A Tribe Called Cars. He is also a contributor at DriveTribe.

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