September 22, 2001
Paris - Dakar Rally - Review
Paris-Dakar Rally has received a lot of hype from the press, as well as Acclaim. Based on one of the largest rally races in the world the game looked set to make an impact on Playstation 2. But then it booted up, and I started to get a funny sensation about the developer, Broadsword Interactive. I couldn't quite place the development teams logo when it appeared on screen, but the name was familiar. Then it dawned upon me. They were the developers of Spirit Of Speed 1937 on Dreamcast, arguable the worst game released on the system (indeed I gave it a whopping 29%!). Oh boy. Could Acclaim really hand such an important and potentially lucrative license to a company that produced the Dreamcast's darkest hour? They did. However it's not all that bad with Paris-Dakar Rally being infinitely better then their Dreamcast racing game.
|Poor graphics? Check out the trees.|
The Paris to Dakar rally is among the most gruelling races around the world. The race pits over 400 drivers against each other in a gruelling 17-day race over almost 7,000 miles. The competitors race a mixture of buggies, 4x4 vehicles, motorbikes and quad bikes across the toughest terrain and conditions. While the game doesn't include the entire race (I don't think you will want to play a racing game for 17 days) it does include 12 large levels which are around 25km long each. To add some excitement and variety each stage includes multiple routes, which offers the opportunity to reduce your times if you are good enough. The game actually begins on the west coast of Africa in the jungle, through the savannah and scrub before finishing in the sand dunes and the wonders of Egypt.
|This is the standard in-game view.|
As with most rally games you don't directly race with other cars, rather it's a race against the clock. At times during the races you will pass other cars broken down on the roadside (which is strange as you can instantly repair your car) while the occasional opposition car may overtake you if you crash a couple of times within a stage. Paris-Dakar Rally includes several main game modes including Arcade, Time Trial and the full race accross the continent. Unfortunately, for reasons unknown, the developers haven't included any multi-player modes in the game. There isn't even a 2-player split screen option, let alone i.Link or 4-player multi-tap capabilities. This severely limits the longevity of the title, although the single player mode should keep you busy for quite a while.
The game isn't without numerous flaws however. The biggest of these is the handling of the vehicles. They just don't seem to respond as you would expect. At times turning will result in the vehicles going into an almost uncontrollable spin while on the next corner the car will struggle to turn. It's too inconsistent throughout, not only through the entire game, but even within each level. Another problem is the collision detection. Hit one rock on the road and your car will be launched on two wheels before flipping over. Go off the track and you can often drive straight through the trees or shrubs with little effect. Another problem is the directional arrows on top of the screen and co-pilot calling which are often inaccurate (on a couple of occasions it said "Medium Left" when it was actually a right hand corner) or occur either too far before the corner or as you are already half way around it.
|Vehicles are quite detailed.|
Compared to the delights of so many other PS2 games the graphics in Paris-Dakar are quite disappointing. Sure the cars are modelled superbly and the game has some wonderful smoke and dust effects, but the backgrounds look like a high res PSOne game. The majority of the backgrounds such as buildings and trees are merely 2D sprites with absolutely no depth to them, and a very average quality as well with little variety. Perhaps the most amusing thing in this game is the lack of testing. On one stage (I think it was Senegal stage 1C) it was possible to drive into a lake with no speed loss. Not only do you keep driving in the water but clouds of dust come up from the tyres!! It's these sorts of things that really give a game a bad name. On a brighter note Acclaim have continued their fine tradition of including a 60Hz mode. (Hear this Capcom, Namco and Electronic Arts - WE WANT 60HZ!)
Another disappointing aspect of this game is the sound. The music has a suitable Egyptian/Arabic theme but it becomes a bit repeatitive with little variety between tracks. Paris-Dakar also really lacks in the sound effects department. The game is pretty much devoid of any ambient sound such as waterfalls, birds, crowds cheering etc. The engine noises are satisfactory and while the are't the most accurate or exciting ever indicate how your vehicle is running during the game.
|The view distance is quite solid.|
It's sad to see a dedicated Rally game such as Paris-Dakar, which received so much hype and promise, fall short of the rally mode in Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec. The game just doesn't quite have that polished touch to it. Rally fans will probably be much better of waiting for the Sony/Evolution Studios World Rally Championship 2001 which is shaping up very nicely indeed.
Talk about Paris-Dakar Rally in this forum topic now.