Colin McRae Rally 3 in the test - The racing game series remains true to itself and delivers quality

Author: Georg Valtin
Date: 2003-07-01 15:12:00
Better sliding: In Colin McRae Rally 3, too, the rally simulation shows off the gravel bulkhead with the best driving behavior!

People associate Scotland with good whiskey, Highland warriors and of course the greatest stinginess. But one of the best-known rally drivers also comes from the north of Great Britain: Colin McRae shows as much courage on the track as William "Braveheart" Wallace in the fight for freedom. The 1995 world champion slides through curves constantly at the limit, races down serpentines at full throttle and flies meters high through the air on bumps. The simulation Colin McRae Rally 3 transports the terrain feeling with perfect driving physics and grandiose control to the PC. However, despite the best driving behavior in the racing game genre, some mistakes prevent the ascent to the reference.

Ford compulsion

For the first time in the Colin McRae series, you and the eponymous pilot have to race over stick and stone in the Ford Focus in the world championship career. The Scot is now driving Citroën - so much for the topicality of the consolation implementation.

All other cars like Subaru Impreza WRX or Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VII are only allowed to maneuver over the routes in single stage mode; the currently best rally models from Peugeot are completely absent from Colin 3 for licensing reasons. That takes a lot of motivation away from the game: In the previous game, rally fans chose their favorites for the championship from a much larger fleet.

A World Cup season consists of six individual rallies with seven sections each. The last of these is the so-called "Super Special Stage": In contrast to normal stages, you fight for important World Championship points on a circuit with two parallel lanes in a direct duel with a computer opponent. At the end of the rally, as usual, the total time decides on the placement; depending on your performance, you will receive points for the World Cup ranking. By the way, victories in the championship rallies unlock bonus cars. You can only get behind the wheel of these additional cars in single stage mode, but not at the World Cup.

Bold: If you want to get going with fun vehicles such as buggies or jet fighters, you have to get the corresponding cheat codes via Codemasters' chargeable 0190 number, as with DTM Race Driver.

Driving physics genius

Like its predecessor, the third Colin McRae part also offers the best handling in the racing game genre. Whether speed feeling, braking distance, acceleration or grip - everything fits here.

The developers matched the keyboard controls so perfectly to the driving physics that the car is always fully under control. Although the game also supports force feedback steering wheels, even with a lot of practice you can hardly achieve the times of the keyboard handlebars.

Although the ballast slingshots are so easy to master, they behave physically correctly: You do not reach the front positions with lead feet, but with your brain. As a result, Colin McRae 3 impressively refutes the widespread misconception that rally drivers keep driving with the handbrake: if you try to do that, you somehow heave your car around the corner, but lose valuable seconds. Even with hairpin bends, experts prefer to make the car slide with controlled load change reactions.

Rally figure skating

The eight rallies in Spain, Great Britain, Greece, Australia, Finland, Sweden, USA and Japan present you with changing challenges. On Sweden's snow- and ice-covered forest paths, Colin depresses the brake more often than the gas pedal in order to slide sensitively through the corners. In contrast, the red sand slopes in the land of the kangaroos invite you to spectacular drifts. Overall, Codemasters is not reinventing the bike when it comes to track design, but offers consistently very successful courses with challenging passages at Colin 2 level. Commendable: Almost every route has its typical rhythm. After just a few meters, PC pilots know exactly which driving style to adopt in the next three minutes - that is how long the stages take on average.

Setup for dummies

The simulation is stingy when it comes to car setup: You can adjust the driving behavior to your personal preferences at any time using variable values for brake balance, steering sensitivity and power distribution. However, important tuning options such as different chassis, turbos and tire types will only gradually become available in the course of your World Cup career.

In the single stage mode, however, you are not allowed to change anything on the racing car. This eliminates the important opportunity to test individual rally sections with changed gear ratios, spring rates and turbos. Another tactical limitation: In contrast to its predecessor, your team will carry out repairs between the World Cup stages automatically. This means you miss the thrill of having to choose between improved suspension or turbo, for example.