Eden Studios / Infogrames
In this reviewer’s opinion, the Sega Dreamcast isn’t nearly as renowned as it should be for its racing game catalogue. Loaded from the beginning to the end of the alphabet, Sega’s swansong system boasts variety galore when it comes to its North American library. With heavy hitters like Sega GT, Sega Rally 2, and Daytona USA 2001, the Dreamcast had plenty of first-party support with regards to giving its players a righteous taste of speed. But what about some of the third-party games that may have slipped through the cracks of time? The titles that perhaps aren’t remembered as vividly, yet remain just as playable as the mainstay juggernauts, if not more so? A quick drift around the Sega circuit affords even the Dreamcast newcomer enough of an opportunity to realize that some spills (looking at you, 4×4 Evo) and total wipeouts (Spirit of Speed 1937) were suffered on the track, but even the sky high plumes of flame and devastation that inevitably erupt from every console’s occasional blunder can’t hide the fact that there are always gems in the rough, just waiting to be discovered. Enter Test Drive V-Rally.
Test Drive V-Rally released stateside for Sega’s Dreamcast way back on October 25th, 2000. One of three titles to don the Test Drive name for the console, V-Rally hit store shelves a mere two weeks before yet another Test Drive game (Test Drive Le Mans) would rev its engines on the system. Given its close birth date to its French brother, it’s easy to see how one (or both) of the games could’ve been lost in marketing translation, loosely purchased by the guy looking for a new set of wheels to get behind, or just passed on altogether, oversaturating a market all at once almost never pays dividends. That taken into consideration, was Test Drive V-Rally any good upon comparison with its contemporaries? Regardless of when or how a game is released, the most important quality of a new title is how fun it is to play. Well, it’s not a flawless game, but this Test Drive will almost certainly have you spinning it for more than just a quick assessment.
V-Rally’s true strengths lie with its impressive graphics, solid gameplay and excellent forms of variety. A near master class showcase of beautiful performance vehicles (of which there are over 25 to get behind) along with some truly spectacular looking environments, the game shines with a presentation that can exhibit visuals set during the day, evening and night, including weather conditions such as snow and rain. On more than one occasion, I found myself impressed with how scenic a lot of the courses looked while I was chewing dirt and burning rubber. Vehicles even take real-time damage as they traverse some of the game’s more rugged terrain. With over 80 original tracks to rev through, Test Drive V-Rally is aesthetically awesome, letting you know at the turn of every green light.
Similar in design to what was Sega’s latest entry in their flagship arcade rally racing franchise, Sega Rally 2, V-Rally expands on that game’s ideas and pushes them beyond the quick, quarter play hemisphere by introducing a plethora of new game modes to explore. There are the expected Time Trial, Multiplayer, and Arcade modes here, which are all excellent when spinning the disc for short periods of time or with friends for a bit of couch multiplayer, but the meatier Championship and V-Rally Trophy modes are what really help the game standout – both of which feature three different championships to surmount: European, World and Expert. These two modes of gameplay had me hooked for hours as I was always looking to unlock new cars by way of progressing through them. And if all of that isn’t enough to keep you occupied, there’s also a fully-fledged Track Editor that allows the player to design their own custom-made courses to race around – very august for the year 2000.
For the most part, Test Drive V-Rally’s gameplay is really tight. Easy to learn but tough to master, the game is great for beginners and veterans of racing titles. Progressing through some of the game’s stages can feel like a breeze, whereas others had me crying folly when my front right tire would pop over a slight ridge, consequently sending my car hurdling nose over tail. Such trappings are avoidable upon taking the time to learn your vehicle and the track that it’s tearing up, so this occasional issue isn’t a massive one, but it can be annoying when you think you’re cruising to victory only to have your car flipped into submission as rival racers squeal past you. Keep your eyes peeled and your sense of timing sharp and you should be fine.
V-Rally’s largest weakness revolves around its soundtrack. Whereas a few of the tracks are okay, the majority of them leave a lot to be desired. Performed by industrial metal band, Sin, (of which information is extremely scarce) the songs just didn’t jive with me while I was behind the wheel. I’m actually a fan of metal or hard rock music playing in my racing games (cue Alice in Chains’ “Them Bones” in ATV Offroad Fury) but I wasn’t digging these ones. Thankfully, the option to turn music off does exist.
Outstanding visuals, killer gameplay, and plenty of modes to test your skills with make this one a must-own for the Dreamcast. Easy to serve up for some solo fun or with friends, this is a game that would’ve only been made better had it offered online support and a much better soundtrack. V-Rally deserves more than just a Test Drive, so find yourself a copy and keep it in your collection for good.