I’ve not paid attention to the world of Rally driving for a fair old while, actually not since Richard Burns sadly passed away have I actually followed it, thats probably more to do with its television rights issues than anything else. Still, the class has always made for excellent videogames of varying approaches, from the infamous SEGA Rally through to Codemasters more recent efforts and many more besides. Also, despite not following the discipline for a long while, I’m still aware of a few of its personalities, highest of which is definitely Sebastien Loeb, so it comes as no surprise that he’s got this particular game attached to his name.
First off, Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo isn’t particularly light on content, racers will find they have over 300km of track available to them over 8 different rally locations plus 5 Rallycross tracks plus the most famous Time Trial event of them all, the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. Theres also around 50 cars from various power categories and era’s at your disposal, all of which have their own handling attributes. It’s a decent specification list for a racing game thats only really focused on one discipline, there’s also a couple of different game modes, including a career mode that has you working your way up to becoming the number 1 driver in the world as the titular Loeb’s prot�g� and a mode that both introduces you to Sebastien’s own career and challenges you with taking on the same events he partook in to get to where he has, minus a few elements that don’t fit in with the games discipline such as his involvement with the LeMans 24 Hours or World Touring Car Championship.
Whilst content is important, its nothing if a racing game is a pain in the arse to play. This is where things get muddy as Rally Evo’s handling model is incredibly off putting at first, its incredibly twitchy and feels far too responsive when at speed, it also feels far too easy to clip a bit of scenery and roll the car causing you to lose an incredible amount of time. Fortunately this can be undone by the games inclusion of a rewind mode, for which you get 6 tokens per race. Back to the games handling model, yet its twitchy, incredibly so initially, but I found the best approach was to use the bumper camera and make lots and lots of tiny constant adjustments on the steering, acceleration and even the braking, it feels much like you’d imagine from any in-car footage you’d find on YouTube. It takes some getting used to too, but once you do, the feeling of speed is exhilarating, and in actual fact the way in which the cars are so twitchy and the environments deadly reminds me of the original V-Rally and how challenging that was to handle back in the day but again, how rewarding it was as a speed freak once it all began to click.
Even once you’ve gotten used to the handling model, Rally Evo is still a challenge, obviously different cars with different set ups will require different approaches to this technique, this mostly comes down to the games various stages with different terrain also providing you with a challenge. Its much more difficult to throw the car around hairpin bends sideways, for example, on tarmac than in almost any other driving game that I recall playing, whilst the twitchiness is exaggerated further by the snow covered events. Getting the start right is also key in some of these events as you can find yourself spinning up the tyres for too long at the start if you apply too many revs.
Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo isn’t a must-have racing game, its certainly not either platforms strongest driving experience either, but it is rather enjoyable and really gets the adrenaline pumping as you throw your car around desert courses, kicking up sand behind you and launching all four wheels off a bump in the road before trying desperately to slow down for a 2 Right Hairpin Turn.