Colin McRae Rally Mac Review

Colin McRae Rally Mac is the fourth major motor racing title Feral has brought to the platform, and it’s the best to date. The development of this game has been fraught with problems. Apple’s switch to Intel Macs, some behind-the-scenes changes at Feral and other issues conspired to keep this game from being released until fairly late in 2007, despite it being based on PC-game underpinnings that Windows gamers have been enjoying since late 2004. Then fate conspired against Feral one last time with the tragic death of Colin McRae himself, one of rally motor racing’s most decorated winners. McRae died in a helicopter crash in September, mere weeks before Feral shipped its game.

The game features more than 30 different real-world cars – rally versions of everything from the Ford Focus, Mitsubishi Lancer and the Subaru Impreza, to cars from Lancia, Peugeot, Mercedes-Benz and others. You’ll get an opportunity to throw two-wheel drive cars and four-wheel drive cars around the tracks over about 300 stages of competition across 20 different classes of events; everything from challenges to cups and championships.

Drive of your life
Driving environments vary dramatically. There are nine international venues across Europe, Asia, and North America – dirt roads, mud, snow and ice, tarmac and sand, and all of them affect the behaviour of your vehicle differently. You can set up your car individually for each course, changing tyres, suspension, spring weight, brakes, steering and other factors that will dramatically adjust the vehicle’s handling. There is also extensive damage modelling – it is entirely possible (easy, really) to send your vehicle tumbling off road and to tear off pieces of the body or smash the drive train to bits.

Because of some of the graphics in the game, Colin McRae Rally Mac isn’t supported on MacBooks and Mac minis – systems that use Intel GMA graphics.

Not only do you need to understand how to handle your car as it pitches around twisty chicanes at high speed, threatening to drop off cliff faces or slam into trees and boulders, but you also need to carefully listen to the instructions of your Welsh co-driver Nicky, who’s constantly providing you with a running commentary of what’s ahead and what speed to take the next turn at. He’s a bit like having a GPS system in the car with you.

Graphics in Colin McRae Rally Mac are gorgeous, with realistic weather effects, and dramatic lighting. You can see trees swaying in the breeze or watch leaves falling or snow blowing by; see the gleam of headlights, or sun reflected in the windscreen of your rally car.

Rally racing is marked by stages – parts of a race that are several miles long. This breaks up the gameplay into very short segments, typically only four or five minutes long at most, and that seems a bit abrupt to us. We admit we’re not rally racing experts, but we think generally courses are a bit longer in real life. And Colin McRae Rally Mac clearly revels in its realism.

This ain’t no NASCAR – there’s a lot more than left-hand turning the car on endless oval tracks. Rally races are on twisting, turning roads that vary widely in terrain. And also, there’s no other group of cars to chase or hit – you’re racing for the best time. Colin McRae Rally Mac does let you view ‘ghost cars’ if you want to see how your competitors have done on the same track – these can give you the proper incentive to go just a bit faster around that next corner.

Gameplay is varied, with several modes to choose from. A ‘challenge’ mode pits you against other players in individual stages or rallies, which will extend across multiple stages. There is also a championship mode; and a career mode that lets you battle against other computer-controlled components for the bragging rights to the season.

Sound effects aren’t extensively used – there are a few different view modes, each of which offer you a different audio experience. Viewing the car from above and behind, for example, distances you from engine and road noises, while the bumper’s eye view will give you the steady rumble of the pavement and the clank of the transmission locking into different gears. The game supports game controllers, as well. We tested it with a MadCatz PC Con controller, which worked well.

OUR VERDICT

Rally racing has been tried before on the Mac, mainly in shareware form, and while adequate, it’s never looked, sounded or performed so well. If you’ve ever wanted to kick up mud and dirt as you throw a 300HP all-wheel-drive foreign coupe around hairpin corners, this game is for you.

A single-player demo of Colin McRae Rally is available from the Feral Interactive website, at http://www.feralinteractive.com/game/colinmcrae.

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