An entertaining rally game suitable for everyone. (July 18th, 2008)
Product Manufacturer: Feral Interactive Ltd.
Price: $50.00 US
- Visually and aurally impressive. Solid controls. Plenty of extras. Fun play.
- Slightly steep learning curve. Does not support integrated graphics hardware.
In recent months Mac gaming has taken a turn for the better with developers offering big name titles ported to the Mac. Feral Interactive, known for porting Tomb Raider Anniversary and Fable, provides rally-racing enthusiasts with the frantic drift-fest that is Colin McRae Rally Mac. This game features over 30 cars and many famous scenic spots from the sport. While the game is a port of Colin McRae Rally 2005 on the PC, the game holds up well to age, with its rapid frame rate, and solid game mechanics.
Despite Colin's comparably modest system requirements, which allows play on high-end PowerBook G4 or PowerMac G5 machines, it does not support the Intel integrated graphics chipsets, leaving Mac Mini and MacBook gamers out in the cold. The game runs exceedingly well on my 2.4GHz MacBook Pro, easily reaching past a constant 40 to 60 frames per second. From what I have seen, I think Colin scales well on less powerful gaming rigs.
The PlayColin has a very slick duo-tone menu screen, offering a choice between a number of different tracks, located in Germany, the UK, Japan, the US, Sweden, Greece, Spain, Finland, and Australia. You can choose from several cars, including the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII, Austin Mini Cooper, or Volkswagen Beetle RSi. You can change the car performance to suit a particular driving style, through tweaking the ride height, spring density, roll bar durability, and more.
Once you choose from a variety of career, single play, or online gaming options, as well as a car and track, play begins. For those unfamiliar with rally style racing, the heats are done one racer at a time, due to the dangerous driving conditions and supreme concentration required by both a driver and navigator. As such, it is not as approachable as a common arcade-style racer, and even requires a different set of skills than those found in the more complex simulation games.
Of the pair, you assume the role of the driver, while the navigator gives jargoned directions, in the place of a standard miniature map found in most racing games. The trick to Colin McCrae Rally Mac is understanding the directions. For example, a "six left, and six right over crest, 30 long tight left" indicates you should go in sixth gear or as fast as possible while turning a slight left, then right as you drive over a hill, and that after 30 meters, there is a gradual left turn that suddenly steepens.
The game displays a visual representation of the navigator's directions as a road sign, but takes some time to perfect. After a while, it becomes more instinctive than mentally intensive. Players do get an overview map at the beginning of the race, with track conditions, but must rely on directions once inside the car.
As I mentioned, Colin is not a new game. While this usually means a dated look and feel, when you consider advancements in the audio-visual field, physics emulation, and other areas, Colin retains a polished appearance and play style that lasts. The frame rate is smooth - even with all the graphic options enabled - and there is a lot of attention to detail, with spectators, weather, and excellent surroundings, not to mention well modeled cars that use a rather realistic damage engine.
Visually EntertainingThe cars have hanging bumpers, broken windows, and shattered lights as they hit trees, bridges, fences, or other obstacles, which prevents players from hugging the sides of the road to get through races. Some of the areas include spontaneous forests or a bridge across a small creek, which the player must expertly navigate, lest they lose time or render their car useless.
Colin's scenery is very clean and impressive, and includes some interesting visual effects. For example, when a driver slams into an obstacle at a certain velocity, their vision blurs, making it a little trickier to navigate. These elements train the player to better operate the vehicle to achieve as efficient a time as possible.
I was able to efficiently control my favorite car, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII, with either the keyboard or the Mad Catz game controller. Keyboard control is both responsive and subtle, without being touchy or lacking.
AudioThe game's audio repertoire is rather simple, because the most common sounds are cheering, engine revving, gear shifting noises, and the cryptic instructions from the navigator. Since Colin McRae Rally Mac is ideally for car enthusiasts, this is an excellent approach, since concentration is key.
Online PlayFor those too impatient to play through the game, or who wish to play with a more experienced friend online, Colin allows players to unlock various cheats, such as access to the limited edition cars or track variations.
Once everything is unlocked, and all of the single player achievements are complete, the online play is an attractive feature. If players don't personally know any other Colin aficionados, they can connect with others around the world through Gameranger. Rather than force players to sit through up to eight other players' heats before competing, Colin puts a spin on the single-car concept and allow other players to compete simultaneously as ghost cars. Everyone is immune to collisions, but can still impact the environment. Cars represented in this manner are not visually distracting, so you can concentrate on the course.
Casual gamers may shy away from Colin, due to its rather steep learning curve and unique racing concepts, but I feel is still worth a look for everyone. Dedication to learning the basics provides you with an instinctive predictability of course directions, and play becomes fluid after this point. Rally enthusiasts need to look no further than Colin McRae Rally Mac, where you will find a solid, beautiful game with many play options.
Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor