Colin McRae Rally 3, Review
Colin McRae Rally 3, Review for PS2

Colin McRae Rally 3 is Codemasters first off road outing on the next generation systems. With stiff competition coming from WRC and the soon to be release WRC 2 Extreme, can Colin hack the pressure and rule the rally game genre once again?

Colin McRae Rally 3 offers two basic modes of play, single race mode and the championship mode. Single race mode can be used for practice sessions, time attack and a split screen two-player mode. Just one track from each country is available at the start of the game with the exception of Australia which has all six main tracks available from the off. So that will give you 13 tracks to rip up at your will, which is more than enough to choose from in the games early stages. It also gives you a chance to check out all the different types of surfaces and weather conditions that each country has to offer before going in for the full championship mode.

When you get round to starting the full season you will notice that you can only compete as Colin McRae in his Ford Focus. This is a slight disappointment, as you will have to use the single race mode to use the other cars. For some the Ford Focus isn't the best car for the job, although it isn't bad at all. You will also have a choice of Normal, Hard and Very Hard difficulty levels. The easiest of these is obviously Normal which is not that easy, you may win a couple of rallies in your first season, probably USA, which is definitely the easiest of the lot and Finland which consists of plenty of jumps and tree lined dirt roads. I started the game and went straight into the championship mode and finished second overall on the normal difficulty setting.

Colin McRae Rally 3  @
You will also notice that depending on the surface of each rally different teams will do better than others, the Citroen team are very fast on the tarmac stages, while the Mitsubishi team seems to do well on snow and ice.  This offers a good amount of realism, as there isn't a car in the WRC that is great on all surfaces. Well maybe with the exception of Peugeot.

The first season takes place across six countries with seven stages in each with two service areas where you can fix broken parts on your car. Six of these stages are Special Stages which are your basic, rag the car down the road or dirt track as fast as possible; the last stage is know as a Super Special Stage, set in a stadium where two cars race on the same track starting at different points, but the tracks are designed in such a way that both cars tend to race pretty much next to each other for the whole course. Each stage has four check points that will give you a split time so you can see how far on or off the pace you are.

As in previous CMR you can tweak your car to make small performance gains by adjusting brakes, chassis, suspension, gearbox, tyres and steering. There are a massive number of combinations available that will affect your cars performance. For people who might not understand the workings of a car or people that just can't be bothered the game will set a comfortable default for each rally.

Each country and sometimes each stage can offer massively different driving conditions. They vary depending on the weather, time of day, country and nature of the individual stage. Some stages can switch from thick mud to tarmac in a matter of seconds and this can really catch you out. Checking out the stages on the single race mode can be very rewarding when it comes to entering the championship mode.
You will become aware of all the technical parts of each stage, where those nasty trees are that you catch every time and which way to aim over the large high speed jumps. It also helps you to get used to the cars handling, which is absolutely fantastic. If you do have a slight mishap at 90mph you will get to see the superb damage effects. The car can be damaged all over which means damage can become a real factor in the race if your not paying complete attention; it doesn't help if you're a bad driver either. Damage can have severe consequences on the cars handling and performance, your gearbox can start to fail, your turbo can break giving you very little power, tyres can blow out making steering difficult, suspension can break and wheels can even come off - in a worst case scenario. Experienced players shouldn't have a problem with the first season; on the normal difficulty level it should be a breeze. As mentioned before different teams will do better than others depending on the surfaces so if you do cock up a rally, you can usually get away with it. The first season does one very important thing; it unlocks loads of cool extras like special tyres for mud and other surfaces that will make the single race mode a lot easier.

Graphically CMR3 is very good; the rain effects are brilliant, especially when you are using the in-car view. It's good to see that a better job has been made of the visuals than those of TOCA Race Driver. Unfortunately there is some pop up lurking, but it isn't anywhere near as bad as TOCA Race Driver. The trees and bushes lining the tracks are not too good; they look a bit too much like cardboard cut-outs, but from a distance the trees look pretty good. The best looking things in CMR3 are definitely the cars and the weather effects. The car detail is great, the Focus reflects the light very nicely and throughout the stages the car gets covered in mud. If your rear bumper comes off you will notice it's nice and clean where it once was. The disc brakes glow and the exhaust rattles and shakes with every rev of the car, it all looks perfect.
Unfortunately, to totally appreciate the effects you have to be viewing the game from inside the car, which is a bit of a shame as driving properly is a really hard task from this view.

The sound is great, when you're ragging your Ford Focus around the engine sounds great but maybe a little weak and wimp'ish at times. The rasp of the exhaust is also a nice touch. The best sounding car in the game is definitely the Subaru WRC, it's very close to the real thing. One very important aspect if the sound are the pace notes, these are not just for effect, to do well in the game you will have to listen to Grist's shouting "60 3 left, 100 6 right" etc. On some stages your view will be obscured by trees so at times you will have to listen to the pace notes as you can be hurtling in to a blind corner with just the notes to rely on.

Colin McRae Rally 3 has virtually everything you would want in a rally sim, its handling; damage system and realistic feel are untouchable. Some of the visuals could have been better but when you're playing you really won't have time to notice these small flaws. Most of all though CMR3 is fun and it is an essential purchase for any rally fan and definitely worth checking out even if rallying isn't your thing. Brilliant!

9.0 out of 10