Game Review Data
 
Game Title
Top Gear Rally
Publisher
Tantalus Interactive/Kemco Games
Features
Multiplayer & Battery Save.
Format
Racing
Reviewer
DjFIL


RATING

Good!


Ratings Scale:

Excellent!

Good!

Playable!

Ho-Hum!

Yuck!


Archived Game Reviews:

From A - Z

 

 
Introduction

Tantalus and their 3D engine CRIS isn't new to the GBA. First with ATV Off Road and recently Monster Truck Madness, the engine featured 3D graphics which were very impressive. After a slight update, the CRIS engine is now able to display car models with 200 polygons and more realistic tracks. Let's see then how well this update shows in Top Gear Rally.

Screen Shots

GamePlay

When you start the game the first time it will ask you to create a profile and choose one of the 3 available battery save spaces. Once your in, your greeted by lots of little icons to choose your game mode. The modes are Championship, Time Attack, Quick Race, Practice and 2 Player. Game options allow you to change the speedometer to the measurement of your choice. There is also toggles for the course map radar, the director arrows in the middle of the screen when driving and the voice of your co-driver. This menu is very slick to look at and easy to navigate with quick access to sub-menus by using the L and R buttons.

Time Attack allows you to take the car of your choice and drive it on the course of your choice (only for the vehicles and courses unlocked via championship). The interesting option available from this game is on the Kemco Games web site where you can register your best lap times from the time attack mode and compare it against other Top Gear Rally drivers around the world. To register your time you require the password, which is encoded to insure no cheating or lying of track times. The passwords of your top 3 attempts at each course is available on the Time Attack Rankings page. This is a very interesting idea by Kemco to give the game a little more longevity.

Practice mode puts you on a test track. On this test track you have the option of doing a slalom around cones or signs. You can of course set the distance between each cone and set it tighter or even randomly. This is a good way to practice your skills. Quick race allows you on any track in a single race in a field with 7 opponents. Although true rally racing isn't head to head, but a comparison of total of times, Kemco has certainly given Top Gear Rally more of an arcade approach.

There are 3 championships to conquer - Amateur League, Professional League & Top Gear World Series. In top gear rally there are a total of 80 tracks, in 10 environments, over 6 different surfaces. There are also 4 types of weather (sun, rain, snow & fog). So far, I've completed the Amateur League which consisted of 10 rounds featuring 3 stages each. The stages rise in difficulty as you complete each round, and you are required to finish at least third in every stage, and second in one of the 3 stages in each round to make your quota of points required. If, however, you finish in first or second consistently, you will unlock new cars, upgrades and paint jobs as you complete the rounds.

The AI, (even though I don't think should be one in a “true” rally game) is fairly competitive and you have to make sure to make very few mistakes or you will not be finishing first every time out. The championship is very challenging but rewarding. Even if I was able to complete the Amateur League first time on each track, it would have still taken me almost 1 hour of track time to complete the entire series. Now that's lots of racing for your money!

The game also includes basic vehicle setup features. You can for example, choose different tires for different surfaces or whether you want auto or manual transmission as well as different steering, braking, exhaust and gear ratios. I should add, however, that I noticed only very slight differences when I changed the settings, even when I chose completely wrong tires for the surface I was driving on. This was disappointing and another reason why I'm not a fan of the arcade racer, since the tune-up options have negligible effects nor does your car sustain any damage in the game. In V-Rally, cars actually took on damage and had to be repaired within the time limits between stages. This feature, however, is missing in Top Gear Rally.

Control

Top Gear games have always been known as a good fun arcade racer, and that hasn't been lost here. Although I am a fan of simulation racers, this game is still lots of fun, even though the physics don't compare to the quality of the Colin McRae or V-Rally releases on the GBA. As for controls, I must say that everything here is lackluster, mainly because the course layout themselves are lackluster. One of my main gripes with the CRIS engine is its inability to create true hairpin turns which makes nearly every course look similar to the next. As such, you'll never have to hit the breaks early, either tap at the start of the corner, or sometimes when in the corner, and lots of the time not at all.

What's amazing, however, is the car's ability to jump, bump and roll over. With the CRIS full 3D engine (cars and tracks in 3D), the developers have succeeded in giving the cars extra physics like body rolls and the ability to lift only one or two tires off the ground when it hits a big rock, or even roll right over on to its roof (but don't worry, it will right itself automatically). Overall, as I've said, the controls are lackluster but consistent and easy to handle, although lacking in realism.

Graphics

The CRIS engine has come a long way indeed and now feature cars with 200 polygons each and more possibilities on track designs, including sheer cliffs and an ocean side with a following water line (although the water line didn't look realistic, it still managed quite nicely to follow all the dips in the road). The car models and animations all looked just amazing and I have nothing but good things to say about them. The tracks on the other hand, aren't the nicest things to look at, and would have benefited greatly with more variety in scenery. I'm not sure about you, but I've never seen a 6 kilometer stretch of city road without any turn offs. On the other hand, because of the simplicity of the track design, the developers were able to achieve some highly detailed car models and great frame rates.

Sound & Music

It took me a while to realize this, because I stuck with what quickly became my favorite car, but once I got around to driving all the cars, I noticed that each car actually has its own distinct engine and turbo sounds. Most of the other sound effects were also well done, particularly the drifting sounds. My only sound effect complaint is that when you do a burn out at the start, no matter if you are on paved road or sand track, it still sounds like rubber peeling off pavement. The music in the menus are very upbeat and nice to listen to. Unfortunately, there isn't much variety to the audio tracks so they might become repetitive and boring after a while.

Final Comments

The CRIS 3D racing engine has taken a step forward in the right direction with highly detailed car models, more track design possibilities and all without any frame rate issues – good stuff indeed and put to good use too in Top Gear Rally. I must say though that the game itself is still more “arcade” then I personally would like, also the lack of car damage and the fact that it's not "true" rally racing leaves me a little dissatisfied. I should balance that, however, and say that I still was entertained while playing this title and despite my complaints, there's no denying that Top Gear Rally really is a good 3D racer on the GBA. It looks good, handles well and has great replay value thanks to the on-line world challenge feature. So, if you want a fast and simple rally racer, than Top Gear Rally is one game I'd recommend.

@ EAGB Advance 2002. All rights reserved.