The original V-Rally, the 20-year-old original, was developed by a bunch of talented veterans who at that time formed the core of Infogrames Multimedia. The game is a PlayStation classic, with its superb graphics (for the time) and amazing focus on the split screen multiplayer portion of the game. The car physics were completely useless, though. In V-Rally, unlike the Colin McRae Rally for the same console, you only needed to touch some grass with one of the wheels for the car to roll and end up on the roof and the simulation of friction was truly horrible. Still, we played V-Rally almost daily for over a year and we loved it.
When the game series now returns it is in the form of a reboot developed the same team that developed WRC 7 and Kylotonn (KT Racing) has used its proprietary graphics technology, the KT Engine, which according to the studio itself was tailor-made for this purpose. One should, however, be very aware that V-Rally 4 is a significantly different racing experience compared to that of WRC 7.
KT Racing has clearly tried to copy Codemasters Dirt 4 rather than attempting to revert to the look and feel of Infogrames' classic. In fact, V-Rally 4 doesn't have anything to do with V-Rally at all, except for the name itself. It's more like Dirt Light. Super light. KT has used the same kind of presentation, the same type of overly tired infomercial voice over that tells you about the different parts of the game as well as the same sort of mix of various racing disciplines.
Rally, rallycross, and baja racing (buggys) are offered here, and just like in the Codemasters-developed titles, the player is thrown around amongst disciplines to create a sense of chaos and extreme sports. The problem here, however, is that none of these disciplines are particularly fun, which ultimately means that V-Rally 4 feels shallow, unoriginal, and it falls flat as a result. The core of the experience is the career-style V-Rally Mode, where everything begins with a test race, giving you the chance to prove your worth. After that, three different entry-level cars are offered in two different disciplines. At any time, it is possible to return to the garage to upgrade your ride, and, although these opportunities can't compete with genre giants like Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo, it is still a welcome feature in a game of this type.
In WRC 7, KT Games succeeded with balancing all the various aspects of gravel physics, and the fact that that they simulated the outer as well as the inner temperature of the tires meant that they could offer a driving sensation that was realistic and perfectly predictable without ever becoming too easy. In V-Rally 4, this is completely missing. The thought here has apparently been to create a more accessible, fast and "arcade-like" game than before, but the only thing that really happened is that they ruined the driving feel of WRC 7 with some pretty silly ideas.
First of all, the balance between torque and peak power is weird. Especially in the rallycross cars which have so much off-the-line-power that they go from standing still to 150 km/h in less than a second. They look like cannon balls or Scud missiles when they leave and although we know that, for example, rallycross world champ Mattias Ekström's S1 accelerates faster than an F1 car (yes, it really does), this still feels super weird in the game. Cars in V-Rally 4 accelerate like nothing we have ever encountered in a rally game and it feels more like Rocket League than something even mildly realistic.
The cars are really jittery and nervous at high speeds and trying to straighten a skid with the help of the gas pedal is more or less impossible. This is not only completely unrealistic since rally cars with all-wheel drive with the type of mid-differential that is being used in rallycross and WRC, it's easily controlled below the limit by learning to straighten the car with the use of the accelerator pedal since all four wheels are driving the car. In V-Rally 4, this does not work, at all. Even worse are the buggy races that feel fluffy, boring, and shallow.
From an audiovisual perspective, V-Rally 4 is decent but not great. The graphics are alright thanks to stylish car models and semi-creative lighting (there is way too much bloom here, though) while the sound is semi-good thanks to solid engine and exhaust noises. However, Dirt 4 is better at everything that this game has to offer. Everything. In the end, it's impossible to recommend this to anyone when there are games like Dirt Rally and WRC 7 on store shelves. We were never completely sold on Dirt 4, which felt like a rushed product even if it came from an amazing group of developers, but compared to this game, Codemasters' latest offering is a masterpiece...
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