Top Gear Rally
Reviewed by Bryan Heitkotter
This review is based upon a 3-day rental of Top Gear Rally. Some may
feel this is not enough time to formulate an accurate opinion the whole
game, but I played it nearly non-stop for those three days so I
think I have a good idea what TGR is about. On with the review!
The first thing I noticed right away when I started TGR up, was that the
menu graphics were amazingly crisp and clear. Some people may think
menus are unimportant but I think they can be a nice touch if done well.
The menus are very impressive, they really look like they're on a high
resolution. Well enough about this, on to the meat of the game!
THIS is the kind of graphical wonder we were promised by Project
Reality! The cars have a decent amount of polygons, but the tracks
are absolutely gorgeous. Frame rates are continuously high, with
very little slowdown. At times this game looks almost as good as
an arcade game. Textures are smooth but not the least bit blurry, and
surfaces look nearly real. Weather effects are nicely done, however
rain makes it almost impossible to see very far in front of you. The
fog in this game is about as much fogging as there are normally in
other games. When you select "Sunny" for a race, there is no fogging
whatsoever. Pop-up? What pop-up? There is only one spot where
I could find it, and even then it was hardly noticeable. Another plus
is that there is not a hint of clipping. The animation of the wheels
on the cars is exceptionally good. Graphically, TGR excels like no
other game on N64. This gets a perfect score of 5.0.
Most of the sounds are very good and they fit the circumstance well.
But when two cars come in contact you hear this cheap "clack" which
really is pathetic. Overall, though, the sounds in this game are superb.
The music is decent. The quality of the music is some of the best I've
heard on N64 (almost as good as Tetrisphere), and the tunes themselves
are somewhat catchy. My only gripe about the music is that there is a
serious lack of bass, in fact there is none to speak of. This aspect of
TGR would get a perfect score if it wasn't for the cheap "clack" when
cars collide. So instead the sound gets a score of 4.5.
This game offers a wide variety of controller configurations, as well
as handling options for your car. Each car has Type 1, Type 2, and Type 3
steering, which is a range from sluggish-response (Type 1) to
ultra-sensitive-response (Type 3). I find Type 2 to be the best, because
with it it is relatively easy to keep your car going in a straight line, and
it also offers responsive handling. Some people will find that the cars
are impossible to control, but not me. I have a lot of experience with
racing, so I know how to keep my car under control. It took me only
about 5 minutes to master the controls. If someone does not understand
the concepts of drifting and/or opposite lock then they will probably have
a difficult time with this game. This is more of a simulator than an
arcade racing game, and I believe it excels at being a sim. I think that
the reason some people say TGR is crap is because they are not the type
who would enjoy a sim anyway, and they do not posses the skills and/or
experience to do well with the exacting physics model in this game. This
is just my opinion, though. My email address is at the bottom of this review,
feel free to write me with your comments. But back to the review. Top Gear
Rally's control does what it set out to do very well. Sometimes, though, it
can feel like you're racing on the moon because the gravity is too low. I'll
give TGR a 4.8 for control.
The thing that really impresses me about TGR is the way the cars
interact with the road surface. It's simply amazing. You can really
feel the difference when the road surface changes. I can't stress
enough how good this part of the game really is. It just has to be
played to be believed. The way the cars interact with each other
is a different story, however. Crash detection is poor, and the "clack"
sound made when two cars collide is even worse. This part of the
game really could have used a lot more tweaking. The tracks are
well-designed and fun, but some of them are a bit too long. The
difficulty level of TGR is right on. It starts out easy so you can
learn to control the rally cars. Then with each season it becomes
progressively more difficult as you learn to control faster cars.
Then it throws in mirrored tracks and even faster cars to keep you
on your toes. One serious drawback is that you never see more than
three cars (including your own) on the screen at any time. This
reduces the amount of action in the game, unfortunately. Gameplay
could be a lot better but it is hurt by some drawbacks. I give this
part a score of 3.8.
This is where the game lacks. The 2-player mode is pretty boring
unless you are racing against someone whose driving skills are
similar to yours. I would gladly have had TGR take a hit in graphic
beauty if it could have had a 4-player mode and/or a 2 player mode
with some computer opponents. Unfortunately, TGR is best played as
a 1-player game. Even then it will probably get old after you beat it
(if you're good enough to). This is just my prediction, as I only had
TGR 3 days and got only as far as gaining access to the Milk Truck.
So I can't offer a 100% accurate review in the Lastability section.
I can only predict. I will give this an uncertain 2.5.
Top Gear Rally has enormous potential. Parts of this game feel like
they've been meticulously crafted; others seem slapped together at
the last minute. Thank goodness, though, that the Top Gear series has
come out of it's downhill slide. If Boss decides to make a sequel to
TGR, they already have a superb physics model to start with, they need
only to tweak the gravity and crash detection and they will have
made it perfect. Throw in better music and more cars/tracks, and a
more exciting multiplayer mode, and they will have the ultimate racing
game on their hands. Boss, you listening?
Overall 4.2 out of 5.0