I vividly remember playing the original V-Rally on the battered old PSOne (it was second hand from Cash Converters) and I remember it looking great, but most of all I remember racing the Subaru Impreza through Corsica. I remember this because it was the only track that I didn’t come off at every turn and for once I enjoyed a realistic rally game I felt like a real master. Not sure why I remember that so well, but the memories came flooding back with the announcement of V-Rally 4. I figured this would be great because I had totally mastered Corsica over the years.
Yeah, I was wrong. V-Rally 4 is as punishing as any other rally game, understandably so given the game was developed but some of the team behind super serious rally game WRC 5,6 and 7. Unlike WRC games, I always considered V-Rally more of an arcade-style racing game. Not on par with the likes of SEGA Rally but somewhere in between the two games it seems that is no longer the case with developers opting for a more simulation approach. At first, you’ll be skidding off all over the place, with its simulation like handing, but on the flip side, it doesn’t take too long to master, and soon you’ll be feeling at home if you have played any of the previous entries.
So what do we have in V-Rally 4 then? Well, we have fully licensed cars, from which you can find your favourite ride and detail with all the options you can think of. If you know your solenoid from your spark plug or your cam belt from your car horn then you will love the exhaustive options available to make the car your own. The adjustments are not just cosmetic but really go into the depths of car mechanics so you can adjust your ride to the various surfaces that are going to come your way.
There is a career mode, that will get you from one race to the next earning money and sponsors so you can move up the ranks. It’s a pretty bog-standard affair, but as a few nice touches to make it more than just a filler. As part of the norm, each race dishes out prize money. With this you can buy new cars, or hire new agents, workers or mechanics to unlock new modes, car parts, setting and even research your favourite bits and pieces to make them even better. Interestingly though you have to pay for your own car repairs. You can’t rely on your sponsor to just bail you out. This adds a level of strategy often missing from these games. It also means that you can’t just bash and crash your way around the course hoping for the best as it will mean your prize pot at the end will diminish greatly. If you want that new car, you have to race like a pro.
There are also a variety of modes in V-Rally 4, it’s not just rallying you have to get your head around, there are now off-road challenges (odd when you think that rally is off-road anyway) but it’s cool because you get to use buggies. There is also the V-Rally Cross which offers a tougher more technical competition giving you the opportunity to unlock even more powerful cars. Also available is the Hill Climb and the Extreme-Khana which will offer more jumps and flips than a trampoline convention. Add on top online leaderboards and driving tests to check out your new rides and you have quite a bit to be getting on with.
So V-Rally 4 is pretty packed, which given the launch price it should be, but it’s not all plain skidding. The Career mode, although useful in adding an extra dynamic it all seems such a faff and overly complicated. When you want to get on with racing you have to go jump through all sorts of hoops to get there. If you know your cars, your settings and everything to do with rally then you may find it all a necessity but for the majority who just want to race, it’s far too much information and you soon get overloaded.
Visually it can’t compete with the likes of Forza Horizon, and can sometimes vary from early PS4 graphics to blazingly gorgeous (Japan being a prime example). Along with the visuals being a bit hit and miss at times, so are the crash physics. They are a little bit awkward, far from realistic and more often than not found myself hopping from one side of the road to the next in a bit of a mess, for a split second I thought I was playing a Katamari game. The worst part is if you actually come off course. Not only do you have to wrestle with the inevitable time loss, but you also have to fight the scenery. If there are some small rocks and boulders dotted around the side of the track, be prepared because you can get stuck between them for what feels like minutes (it’s not its about 10-15 seconds) and then the game decides to reset you to the road. It’s annoying as you know you can get back on the track and carry on. If the game would only let you.
Finally, in the early stages, you are racing for your team hoping to beat the best time. At first, you think it’s just a time that the developer set which is a reasonable time to aim for. But it turns out, it’s whoever at the time was racing in a 90’s Toyota Supra, while all you have is an old mini because you don’t have the funds for anything better just yet. Didn’t seem fair to me especially right at the start when you’re trying to get to grips with the game.
Above all though, the game just doesn’t feel that much fun to play. V-Rally 4 it just seems like more hard work to get there than it should be. I think V Rally is aimed at those people who are skilled when it comes to cars. It’s a funny game. At first, I thought it was going to be an Arcade type game because of the look and feel of it. Something like Forza Horizon. Turns out it plays like a super serious simulation like WRC so you need to get in the right mindset to play it. The game seems to be confused about its identity.
The options are exhaustive and credit to the developers, even if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can feel the changes you have made – for better or for worse and the lack of a mini-map makes it hard for us normal folk if you don’t understand the language of your co-pilot. It’s not a terrible game but I think if you’re after a simulation then WRC is probably the better bet. If you’re after something less punishing then Horizon games would suit you better.
V-Rally 4 just doesn’t quite know where it is right now but it’s good to have it back in the gaming lexicon.
V-Rally 4 is available on PS4 (version reviewed) Xbox One, Switch and PC.
Disclaimer: We received a code from the publishers for this game in order to complete the review. For more information on we review and score games, please see out review policy.