V-Rally 4 PS4 Review
It is about the time in the year where I would be using this paragraph to talk about Kylotonn and their past WRC titles (WRC 5, WRC 6 and WRC 7) and then proceed to review the latest sequel in the long running WRC series. This year is different, because Kylotonn no longer has the WRC license, and rumours are another company has snatched it, one that used to have Colin McRae as the front and centre of their games. So what do Kylotonn do next after working on rally games for a few years? Well, they somehow get their hands on a license in a bizarre resurrection of a series that hasn’t had a game for 16 years. Yep, we are talking about a sequel to V-Rally 3, which has a title less surprising than the resurfacing of the series.
While I am sure the developers would have liked to continue working on WRC titles, what it does mean is that with no official license for the World Rally Championship to uphold to , it has allowed Kylotonn to be released from the limitations that is often brought with developing an official product. Point-to-point rally is still included, but now the bundle also features other event categories that cross the motorsport spectrum of dirt racing. Expect to take part in intense V-Rally Cross (just a fancy name for Rally Cross), ride insane horse powered cars in Hillclimb, bob around in light buggies in the Buggy event or try a hand at Extreme-Khana, something people might have experienced with Dirt 3 when Codemasters had a heavy focus on Gymkhana. These events offer a good variety between them, being different enough to not feel like a copy and paste job, plus, they all come with their unique courses.
Having no license restraint also opens up new locations and imaginative tracks. Expect to be driving in places like Bolivia, China, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, Romania and many locations in America. Environmental designs in V-Rally 4 are very stereotypical, such as seeing a multitude of traditional landmarks bundled into an area to present the course as been in that country it represents. It reminds me very much of the old arcade races of the 90s, where authenticity didn’t really matter if you could get that essence of the country across. The tracks themselves setup for some cool scenes, such as been in Japan and acting out Initial D drifts around hairpins on mountain sides, or hanging on for dear life as you drift on the loose dirt of Monument Valley in the USA. Overall, there is a good handful of tracks that would feel at home in any rally game. They manage to offer a good challenging mix of simple, fast layouts or a twisty flow of nasty corners that need more precise timing to successfully chain together without impacting speed for those fast times.
These events and tracks come together to build the game’s main feature, V-Rally, it’s career mode. Players are given a small amount of cash to buy the first car for an rally event, then after that, more events unlock to gain more cash to be able to unlock better rally cars or unlock vehicles from the other specialised events to then be able to enter them. The career mode lacks any sort of real structure or calendar type progress, everything is related to money gained from the randomly placed events that appear on a world map. As the player buys more cars and harder events unlock, which often bring multiple races together as a short championship, more money is earned, which is then spent on unlocking the 50+ vehicles from a multitude of dealerships and beating more championships.
It’s a shame that the game doesn’t give a car from each discipline at the start, because it would enable the player find which events they like and progress through that discipline’s world championship without having to then spend cash on other cars that they might not enjoy participating in as much. Also, there are classes inside each vehicle type, with the fastest cars at the high end of the spectrum, but since the game forces the player to unlock a car in each level before being able to get to the next tier, it means saving money for the best car isn’t a option and you have to waste money buying cars you potentially don’t want to drive.
The lack of excitement from the game’s presentation in the career’s menu means this is all done through a boring UI, and it’s a repetitive process that eventually just become dull. It doesn’t help that there is one song constantly playing during the career menu when outside of races, which has an annoying repetitive few words – “I’ve got the weight of the world” (ARGH!) – that eventually drove me a little insane. This career package feels like it was quickly pulled together to give the game some sort of meaning to a single player career, where it’s here for players to tick off all the requirements for unlocking the trophies that can be done in V-Rally mode.
Kylotonn have tried to give the career mode some worthwhile features by using money for salary with the crew management concept. Stationed in HQ are the staff that handle various features of V-Rally 4. Mechanics are hired to make repairing cars more efficient, engineers research improvements for vehicles (engine, exhaust, tyres, electronics, etc.) and agents, who offer bonuses or cost reductions (entry fees for example) in specific categories. The more staff and the better they are, the more it costs to run, with salaries taken from the player’s cash at the end of each week. A short one day race often rewards $10,000, so it never becomes a point where money is an issue, it just means it takes a little longer to get the money required to buy the next vehicle. It’s understandable that the developers wanted to flesh out the already simple checklist nature of its career mode, but the staff aspect does feel there for the sake of it. You never attach to any of the staff or care about the feature all that much, it’s something just there that is needed to do.
However, there is a neat idea implemented into the career mode that is available on the far right of the world map called Online Hub. In here are a collection of live events that are currently ongoing with a timer indicating when they are about to finish (usually live for a few hours). The idea is to place a time on the leaderboard against everyone else who has taken part in the same event, and if you manage to do well, a bundle of cash is won. The first one I participated in, I didn’t exactly do great, but for one race I was able to taken home $27,000, a step up from the $10,000 normally given for a single race, so it gives you an idea that these live events are a worthwhile investment for fast cash.
Career modes can be dull, but they won’t often break a racing game if the rest of the package is good, more specifically how the handling is for the vehicles. V-Rally 4‘s handling model takes some short time to get used to, even though it’s more on the side of arcade. The steering is too light and twitchy and isn’t something I found to be able to pick up straight away, especially since the game runs at 30 frames per second, so the twitch handling isn’t as responsive as it should be. My first rally event had me crashing into a ditch, and with no rewind feature in the game, it means no second chances to fix a wrong. This is fine for me, as I always treat rewind as an icing on the cake feature, one that is nice to be there but doesn’t have to be, but for others it might be feature they have become to love in their racing games. Once I was used to its twitchy stick handling, I was crashing less and become more of track demon on all but V-Rally Cross, since the AI in those events don’t see to care about anything, which more often than not leads to a mess of collisions. I found it the worst event out of the five, going on for too long and simply isn’t fun with the AI issues. This is the one race type rewind might have been a welcomed feature.
Away from career is Quick Game (pick any event, car and track and race) and multiplayer, which features two player split screen and online. The online is bare bones – literally pick an event type and then find or create a lobby – it’s no thrills multiplayer, but at least it seems to work okay in the few races I were able to join after the game launched.
No thrills is quite a good description when speaking about V-Rally 4 overall. There is nothing exceptional or bad with the game, it’s just okay, a racing game that can be enjoyable, but has some irksome design choices and a lack of polish. It’s more surprising that the name returned in 2018, but it’s an uninspired sequel with an sterile career mode. At least the tracks featured are good, its visuals are decent enough – at times can set some lovely landscape shots – and the handling, once become accustom to it, is enough to bring some arcade racing fun to the table, if only the song selection was much better, because I am still having nightmares about “the weight of the world”.