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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 July 2004, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
Let's Play: Richard Burns Rally
By Ed Knight

According to the box, this is the "first true rally simulation game" - no mean boast given the quality of its predecessors.

But from the very start, it is clear Richard Burns Rally is going to live up to its bold claim.

Richard Burns Rally
Format: Playstation 2, Xbox
Price: 39.99
Publisher: SCi Entertainment Group
Genre: Rallying

The budding rally driver is encouraged to visit the driving school and learn how to mix it like a pro before being let loose in competition.

The driving school is very engaging indeed. Former world champion Richard Burns talks you through a series of classes and evaluates your progress as you go. The tasks get steadily more difficult but you get to unlock new lessons upon their completion.

Once you have passed five lessons successfully you can enter a rally. If you take as long as I did to qualify, expect to hear the dawn chorus outside when you finally make it.

Once you have started the season, you have the chance to try out the routes before you race. Then, having adjusted which tyres you're going to use, you're on your own!

In the rally itself, you are competing against other drivers' times - with speed, skill and judgement required just to complete the course competently, never mind get a good time.

Your co-driver's pace notes obviously help, but time spent investigating each stage beforehand is invaluable.

Anyone wanting to do battle with their friends is catered for in multi-player mode, where up to four people can compete on various stages from all over the world.

Competitors take it in turns to get the best times on each stage with the option to have a ghost car if you want it (this is a transparent car that outlines another player's progress on that stage).

Richard Burns Rally
Graphics: 85%
Playability: 80%
Sound: 88%
Lastability: 90%
Overall: 89%

The graphics are excellent, with some nice attention to detail. Drive your vehicle in bad conditions and you can expect to see raindrops on your windscreen - plus a fair few puddles to boot.

The cars handle realistically and take some getting used to, as too much steering at high speeds will inevitably end up sending you into a spin.

You can choose manual or automatic transmission and have a choice of three different viewing positions: behind the windscreen, the front of the bonnet or six feet back from the car.

Arcade racers may get frustrated with the fact that this is a simulation and you really are racing to improve your personal best rather than against other drivers, but as far as faithfully recreating the rally experience and giving the player a glimpse of life out there on the muddy road, it really doesn't get any better than this.

Now, I wonder if I can get my wife off it long enough to give me another go...

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