The off-road racing franchise has come back for another lap. That’s right, V-Rally 4 is finally upon us. It’s been a long time since the last outing, sixteen years in fact. The big question is; does V-Rally come back with a bang? Yes, yes it does. In their purest form, racing games typically equate to driving from one end of the track to the other. We see as much from the likes of Forza Motorsport, Project CARS and Project Gotham Racing. If the concept of circuit racing has tired you out over the years (who could blame you), then V-Rally 4 might be exactly what the doctor ordered.
Swapping out traditional circuits for the likes of miles and miles of rough terrain may sound daunting on paper, but in practice, this is one hell of a compelling racer. Though we’ve already established that this is a good racer, with Forza Horizon 4 on the, er, horizon, as well as Super Street: The Game and Dakar 18 releasing next week, does V-Rally 4 do enough to stand out alongside its immediate peers? The aforementioned titles all look spectacular, but they do indeed offer up unique experiences nevertheless, so it really falls to your preferences in racing.
If you find yourselves leaning towards V-Rally 4, you’ll be glad to know that this game has a lot to offer; from hill climbs to rally cross and buggies to extreme-khana, there’s no shortage of content within. Starting out, and as expect, the game offers a short yet intuitive tutorial for players to get acquainted with the fields of play. Using a rental car, this takes place on a large track that’s set within an American desert and gives a low-down on controls, handling and so forth. Straight from the get go, I could tell that I was in for a tense time, and boy howdy, I wasn’t wrong.
Hell, keeping the car straight was a task in itself, let alone keeping on-track. The steering is literally all over the place. Now, I did afford the game some time sinking into its dynamics and functionalities, but even after hours of play, this really began to bug me. Several times did I have to readjust the sensitivity of steering, mostly due to how loose the handling is. I wish I could say that it’s easy to overlook, but in all honesty, it was a big gripe for me. Once the tutorial is done, this is when you can begin your career mode – the main meat of what V-Rally 4 encompasses.
Here, players will choose a car from a select few vehicles and depending on which car you select, will determine which race you can take part in; Rally or V-Rally cross. Then, from here, once the game gets underway, you simply choose your destination on the main screen, pay the entry cost and set the amount of days the races will last over. With this being a simulation racer, you will indeed have mechanics and a team that will assist you along the way, learning new upgrades and other like-minded additions as progress is made, throughout.
Your team will help you in a range of different ways during your time with V-Rally 4, but it’s your responsibility to ensure that they get their fair share of the cut through weekly wages. This means that you wont be able to spend all your money in one go and this, to some degree, throws a layer of strategy into the mix. On top of that, each race will only pay kindly if you finish in the top three. Anything short of that and you’re not going to be taking home a great deal of cash, equating to roughly one grand per race. It’s a solid, simple system, and one that works well in the game’s favor.
The race types vary from V-Rally cross, hill climb, rally, buggy and finally, extreme-khana. These are pretty much self-explanatory categories, though extreme-khana is a lot more drift-focused than anything else, tasking you with overcoming some extremely tight corners, steep angles and even drifting helicopters and jumping planes. Every one of these race types features in the bulky career mode, but you will be in need of making a lot of cash in order to progress and unlock more cars – ranging fifty in total – to make the most of each and every category.
No, the game does not allot you to use the same car for every type unfortunately. Better get investing in some skills, people. When you’re not on-track, chances are you’ll be scouting for new team members to add to your crew. Each member comes with their own skills and insights, individually playing key roles in your chase to number #1. Collectively, your crew is responsible for not only you, but for looking for new agents to get you into new race types. I’ll reiterate, it’s a fairly deep system, but one that’s not at all complex and feeds well into the game’s foundation.
V-Rally 4 also offers up an online hub. Here, players will be greeted with a map in which they’re able to select any race that’s available, providing, of course, that they own the correct car for it. These are all time-based so you will need to be quick and precise on your way through. Your time on each course will be charted and the higher you place, the more money you win. Friends and global players can indeed take part too. V-Rally 4 serves the option of both two player split-screen and online support for up to eight players, spread across each category and map.
Be warned though, before you dive online, you’ll do well to brush up on your driving. V-Rally 4 does not hold your hand. It’s a very intense and very taxing racing game. Timing and accuracy is as equally as important as speed, despite the loose controls. This is a racing game that demands your full attention every split-second of the way, and taking your eyes off the screen for even a moment can oftentimes be all that it takes to see you falling either off track or in rank. Realism is the key ingredient here, right down to listening to your co-driver for that all important info regarding upcoming turns, bends and so on. Though, you may want to google the lingo beforehand.
Furthermore, and if I haven’t made it clear enough already, V-Rally 4 is a tough game. This is a racer in which any track itself can be as lethal to your time-keeping as anything else. Divots will bounce your car, small rocks will throw you up, and anything bigger than that will generally spell trouble. Like I said, you blink for too long, you’re likely going to suffer for it. Weather also has an impact on track performance, as does the game’s varying terrains. It does take some time to adjust to the functions in this regard, but a lot it falls to common sense, trial and error, and perseverance.
Overall, as far as content diversity goes, V-Rally 4 packs plenty of it. There’s no shortage of tracks spanning world locations and vehicles to take to, many of which vary greatly from the next. It helps that the game looks and sounds absolutely stunning. Everything from the tracks, to the vehicles, to the weather and particle effects, are gorgeous throughout the entirety of play. If there’s one thing that V-Rally 4 excels at, it’s its atmosphere. The game does a wonderful job at putting you in the moment and keeping you firmly in place until each race is over. This isn’t one that I advise you pass on by.
V-Rally 4 is a deep and challenging experience. There’s an undeniable issue with the game’s somewhat overly loose controls, but with that to the side, this is every bit as engaging as V-Rally has always been. Everything from the game’s stunning visual and audio presentation to its dynamic systems and its content diversity, has been developed meticulously to produce one hell of a tense second-by-second racer.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.