If you’ve been gaming since the late nineties, you’ll probably remember the V-Rally series.
It did quite well for itself, with all three main games released between 1997 and 2002 receiving critical acclaim. Since then though, the series has remained dormant. Until now, anyway.
Developed by Kylotonn Games, V-Rally 4 brings the series back, and it doesn’t do a bad job of it. Though that’s not to say that it doesn’t have flaws. Its main draw is its career mode, which has you starting with little more than a wad of cash and eventually ends up with you having a full team of engineers and mechanics, as well as a garage full of vehicles. It’s just a shame that it eventually begins to feel like a bit of a slog.
There are five racing disciplines covered in V-Rally 4: Rally, V-Rally Cross, Hillclimb, Buggy, and Extreme Khana. Initially, you’ll only be able to enter Rally events with the car you purchase in the tutorial. To enter other types of events, you’ll need to earn enough money to be able to buy an appropriate vehicle. Money isn’t only used to buy vehicles though, it’s also required to pay your staff on payday and recruit more capable candidates as they pop up throughout your career.
Managing your team is very important in V-Rally 4. You’ll want the best engineers as they’ll develop upgrades for your vehicles faster, and you’ll want the best mechanics so that your vehicles are kept in tip-top shape between events. You might also want to keep an eye out for an agent whose expertise will help shape your career the way you want it. The trouble is, hiring people costs money, and keeping them will result in regular outgoings. Thankfully, unless you’re really bad with managing finances, sustaining your team shouldn’t be an issue.
It’s all about the money
Even basic events in V-Rally 4 award you with $10,000, providing that you play on normal difficulty and don’t damage your vehicle too much. That’s generally more than enough to keep your team going for another week. And most basic events take only one day to complete. The more difficult the event, the more money you receive, and you also get the occasional contract offer in your inbox that results in you receiving a lump sum if you complete its terms. Needless to say, those who put in consistently solid performances will have enough cash to buy a vehicle for each discipline in only a few hours of play.
It’s the way that V-Rally 4 presents events to you, though, that drains some of the excitement out of it. Instead of having a structured career mode with a myriad of events that you gradually make your way through, they simply show up randomly on a map. One week there might be three Buggy events available and a couple of V-Rally Cross events. Another week there might be one of each. You can try and make more events of a particular discipline show up by hiring an agent that’s an expert in that field, but it doesn’t guarantee that one will be there.
The difficulty level of the events is random too. One star events are great for those just starting out; any bog-standard vehicle should do just fine. Move up to two star events though, and in some disciplines you might find yourself struggling unless your car has been suitably upgraded or you’ve bought something with more oomph. Suffice to say, three star events and, ultimately, championship events require to you have invested a lot of cash and bought the very best vehicles to succeed without tearing your hair out.
There’s no rewind
There are exceptions to the rule though. On normal difficulty, I found I was able to take the lead on most two star Rally Cross and Buggy events quite comfortably in my starting vehicles. Extreme Khana and Hillclimb events were quite manageable too. Rally events, however, are punishing. You really need to be at the top of your game to win Rally events consistently, and without more arcade-like features such as rewind, failure can be frustrating. To rub salt into the wound, Rally events get longer as they get more difficult, presenting yet more chances for you to mess up.
Your ultimate goal in V-Rally 4‘s career is to win a championship in each discipline. It’ll be a long while before you do that, though. You’ll end up completing the same events over and over again, not only to earn money, but also in the hope that championship events will show up on the map. Some won’t mind it too much, but others will find it tedious. It’ll largely depend on how the player gels with V-Rally 4‘s handling.
Personally, I quite like how V-Rally 4 feels. It straddles the line between being a sim and arcade racer quite well. The handling is responsive yet a bit weighty. But more importantly, you always feel like you’re in control. Every vehicle has its limits, and once you’ve discovered them you can really have some fun. Very rarely did I have an accident that wasn’t my fault, and that always kept me going back, striving to do better. To be better. To me, that’s just how a racing game should be.
Keep your eyes on the scenery
Playing on Xbox One X, I was pleased to find that V-Rally 4 is a bit of a looker too. It’s not in the same league as, let’s say, Forza Horizon 3, but it is pleasing on the eyes nonetheless. It’s primarily due to the range of environments that it presents you with. From its colourful fields to its dusty mountain ranges, a combination of crisp textures, sumptuous lighting and an impressive draw distance has your eyes glued to the screen with delight. And I’ve not experienced any performance issues.
Outside of career mode, V-Rally 4 has the typical quick race and online multiplayer options. Both work as you’d expect, and racing online can be fun as long as you can find people to race with. The career mode also has some online functionality, with an online hub that allows you to enter events and compete with others in order to earn a share of the prize pool. They’re essentially time trials, but they’re fun nonetheless, and also a lucrative way to earn money.
If V-Rally 4 had a more structured career, I really feel like it would have been a great game. As it is, however, it’s fun until you feel like you’re completing the same events over and over again. Solid visuals and enjoyable handling can only get you so far; once repetition sets in, it overshadows the experience, sucking the fun out of it. Until you get to that point though, V-Rally 4 is likely to impress, and some might like it so much that they’ll push on until all of its championships have been conquered.