V-Rally is a franchise that I have fond memories of back in the PlayStation era with V-Rally 1 and 2. I was an avid racing game fan during that generation, fueled by franchises such as this and Top Gear Rally. Now sixteen years since the franchise has last seen an entry on the PlayStation 2, V-Rally 4 looks to pick up right where it’s predecessors left off. Does it succeed… or should it have stayed a distant memory?
Title: V-Rally 4
Publisher: Bigben Interactive
Available On: PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4 Pro
Release Date: September 11, 2018
Game Provided By Bigben Interactive for the Purpose of This Review
Developer Kylotonn is no stranger to rally games, being the studio behind World Rally Championship 5, 6, and 7. Having played through those entries, I was expecting more of the same from V-Rally 4. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was a throwback feel to the game that took me back to the PlayStation era, sitting around the living room TV with friends on a Saturday afternoon and having a blast. Unfortunately, the nostalgic factor and fond memories quickly wore off, and what was left was a racing game struggling to perform in the modern era of Forza Horizon.
Upon first starting V-Rally 4, you are slowly introduced to the way the campaign is going to work through your agent. You will partake in your first race, learn about purchasing cars, hiring a crew, paying your crew, maintaining your car, and jumping into online matches. The introductory course should take no more than an hour at best to get through, and from there, you are free to explore the races currently available and work on your cars.
Split into different race categories that require different types of cars, there are the traditional rally races, v-rally cross, buggy races, hillclimb, and extreme gymkhana. Each type offers unique challenges and rewards for completing, but remember, in order to enter each race, you’ll want to ensure you have a vehicle that will perform well.
Rally races are where the game truly shines and where the most fun is to be had. Offering different types of surfaces such as asphalt, gravel, tarmac, mud, and snow keeps the racing interesting as you’ll constantly need to be aware of your surroundings to make sure your car doesn’t spin out of control or go flying off the track. It was nice to see the Joker lap being utilized as well in v-rally cross, which for those unfamiliar, is a separate section of the track that must be taken at least once during each race or the drivers will face a penalty. This presents a certain level of strategy as you will need to figure out the best lap and time to take the Joker lap, as it usually is slightly longer than the traditional course itself, which could drop you in the rankings if you aren’t careful.
Buggy races are just that, racing around in a buggy car. These types of courses typically offer many hills and jumps which are suited to that style of car. Nothing unique here, just a different type of course to try and keep things interesting. Hillclimb has drivers racing up the side of a mountain and then back down, and extreme gymkhana is more of a stunt and trick style course. The different offerings do a decent enough job to keep players entertained, but unfortunately everything except the traditional rally races feel very underwhelming and flat.
When in an actual race, the controls are the most important aspect of the game. Drifting around corners and through roundabouts felt fun, and the level of care needed to keep your car on the track when faced with different surfaces was a nice challenge. I wish I could say the same for the AI of the other cars. During the campaign, the AI is nothing to write home about, and feels very lackluster. Adjusting the difficulty in either direction seemed to make little difference, and the smallest mistakes will likely cost you the race and thousands of dollars in repairs.
For example, as this is a rally racing game, you will have to maneuver through tight corridors around a Japanese city, or a rocky terrain in Malaysia, or a snowy landscape in Russia. The different locations and scenery present in each area was quite beautiful. However, running over the smallest rock on the side of the road is sometimes enough to send your car spinning wildly out of control off the track, or flipping it over entirely, costing you precious seconds and sometimes putting enough distance between you and the competition that you can never catch up. The smallest rocks, ones that typically wouldn’t have this type of impact on an actual vehicle. What’s crazy, is that other times, running over these rocks will do nothing more than cause your car to slide briefly. It’s very inconsistent, and otherwise frustrating.
The meat and potatoes found within V-Rally 4 is without question the campaign mode, as there is a decent amount of content to be found within it. We’ve discussed the various types of modes and racing challenges you can expect, but there’s a deeper level of customization involved. You can purchase different cars from a handful of manufacturers and further change them up to your liking, but the one thing I truly found interesting was the hiring and firing of your staff. Engineers, mechanics, and agents are what every good racer needs when competing, and this is no different. Hiring the best engineers will unlock additional parts for tuning your car, mechanics will reduce the cost of fixing the damages incurred during each race, and agents will find you better races to compete in for the most amount of money possible. Just be warned, hiring the best of the best will quickly get expensive, and at the end of each week, you are expected to pay your staff their salaries.
Once you finish the campaign or get bored of it, all that’s really left to do is jump into the online multiplayer matches and compete against other racers from around the world. Here you can still compete for in-game currency and for a chance to climb the leaderboards each week. After just a few races, I was quickly done with the online multiplayer, as it didn’t have the lasting appeal that the campaign mode provided.
And that’s sadly how the entire experience felt with V-Rally 4. A game where there is fun to be had, but it quickly diminishes and you’re left with an experience that feels as if it should have been preserved in a previous generation. Fans of rally racing and die-hard fans of V-Rally will likely find levels of enjoyment with this iteration. For everyone else, it’s best to leave the fragments of nostalgia untouched in your memory for fear of tainting them.
6.0 / 10