V-Rally 4 (PlayStation 4) Review

By Tomas Barry 05.10.2018

Review for V-Rally 4 on PlayStation 4

For those who remember it, V-Rally is synonymous with the PlayStation and the Nintendo 64. The series rose to prominence in the late-nineties, during a phase when racers were rapidly evolving due to new technology. When Eden Games and Infogrammes Multimedia released the original V-Rally back in 1997 on the PSone, it was the most realistic rally experience around, ousting SEGA Rally until Colin McRae Rally re-opened the debate. N64 and PC versions followed in 1999, featuring enhanced graphics, making them the definitive versions. Then came V-Rally 2, for the PlayStation, Dreamcast, and PC. This was another classic and was adored by racing fans. It was another significant leap forward for its time, and doubled down on both content and authenticity, cementing the legacy of the series. 2002's V-Rally 3, for PS2 and PC, was stellar, as well, although less of a technical pioneer than its predecessors. Now V-Rally 4 skids into view.

V-Rally disappeared off the face of the Earth, for sixteen years, leaving other rally series to prosper and evolve in its absence, with Collin McRae Rally, WRC, SEGA Rally, and RalliSport Challenge being the most prominent. Then, earlier this year, publisher Bigben Interactive shocked everyone with the announcement that it had acquired the franchise, and that Kylotonn, known for the last three WRC entries and the well-received TT Isle of Man, was developing V-Rally 4. Resurrecting this beloved series certainly creates some anxiety amongst its most dedicated fans. A new entry certainly risks potentially spoiling the nostalgia associated with V-Rally, which was all but fossilised. Furthermore, the fourth entry is made by a new developer, which creates a few concerns about the preservation of the original's DNA. This is mediated, though, by the fact that a handful of members of Kylotonn did work on the originals, back in the day.

Screenshot for V-Rally 4 on PlayStation 4

What validates the concerns more than anything else, however, is that the racing and rally genre has progressed so much since the original entries. There's a far more significant parting between sim-cade and simulation today than back then. This could be quite problematic for V-Rally 4, since the limitations of the time meant that the original series catered for both sides of the spectrum. Unfortunately, that's no longer feasible, with fans of simulation asking a whole lot more of their racing and rallying experiences, especially since the emergence of force-feedback wheels. Hence, it's evident how some of that nostalgia could easily be scrubbed off for certain parties with this unexpected revival. Put simply, developer Kylotonn had some big decisions to make in terms of V-Rally 4's direction and how it respects the legacy of the series. Has it managed to make it stick?

Well, V-Rally 4 stays true to its roots. It's not a modern sim and doesn't pretend to be, but it's by no means an easy-going arcade rally experience, either. What it does do is present a legitimate challenge, one that eerily recaptures what it was like to nurse a car to the end of the stage on the N64 and PSone originals. Just like in those entries, the steering input on a pad is extremely sensitive and twitchy, requiring the player to make extremely smooth and subtle inputs to steer it home. Interestingly, when using a wheel and pedals, the cars feel quite a bit more controllable. It's slightly ironic that the more serious hardware provides a more leisurely experience, but it could be an ideal fit for those looking for a relaxed drive. For the sake of nostalgia, however, veterans will probably prefer the throwback challenge of driving via the deft caressing of an analogue stick.

Screenshot for V-Rally 4 on PlayStation 4

Playing through the game via this control method does require some adjustment, especially for those who are attuned to the more representative car handling in titles such as DiRT Rally and Richard Burns Rally. It's not possible to interpret what's going on with the car in the same way, so rather than interpreting the forces at play, and feeling the weight transfer, the objective in V-Rally 4 seems more focused on having a perfect run. The cars feel very light, so when they get out of whack, it's not easy to save them without over-correcting, sending you into a sequence of rolls or into a ditch. This demands the sort of perfectionism that is very reminiscent of the original series, which will feel familiar to those who loved those games. Even though there could have been more realistic details in the handling for both pad and wheel, overall the model Kylotonn has implemented serves the series quite nicely. In other words, it seems real enough, but it has its own gamified quirks.

The biggest strength of V-Rally 4 also taps into the prevalent nostalgia for the series. Although there is online multiplayer for up to eight players, the two-player split-screen experience is the most fun to be had with the title. This is something that the developer has implemented in previous titles, such as WRC7, but it really comes together here due to the previously mentioned sensitive and snappy handling model. It injects a tension that keeps both players on the edge of their seats till the end of the stage. There's no greater joy than having your opponent disappear way ahead of you, only for them to bin it into a ditch on the penultimate corner. Split-screen multiplayer bouts are scrappy and almost always eventful. They are further embellished by the impressive contrast of disciplines on offer, keeping things fresh and varied throughout competitive sessions.

Screenshot for V-Rally 4 on PlayStation 4

V-Rally 4 offers off-road buggy racing, rallycross, hill climbs, rally, and extreme-khana, which is a mix of drifting, rallycross, and time-attack elements in mostly urban environments. It's a much wider range of disciplines than were available in the original, and this branching out certainly helps the new entry to feel modern. That said, some of these are far more successful than others. Off-road buggy racing is surprisingly fun, and quite forgiving, since drivers can take multiple routes. Rally is the classic experience, where all competitors focus on themselves primarily, snaking their cars to the finish in the most efficient way possible. Rallycross, on the other hand, can be a bit frustrating. The AI cars can be a bit of a blight on the experience. They are not very reactive, and sometimes feel like cannon fodder. Likewise, hill-climbs and extreme-khana, although fun, expose the flaws and limitations of the chosen handling model. DiRT 4 and DiRT Rally provide drastically better experiences in those domains.

Then there's the career mode. It's certainly hard to stand out in the single-player domain these days, with quite a generic formula laid out that most driving and rally entries follow. V-Rally 4 is no different, which is fine, but it hardly distinguishes itself, either. Since there is some arcade-style quirkiness to the series, it seems like a missed opportunity that Kylotonn couldn't find a way to be a little more inventive with the single-player career experience. Instead, it's a bit of drag. Filtering through the stream of sponsor offers and team management aspects between races gets tiresome quite quickly. There's also a tedious onslaught of ill-devised menus, which reduces some of the polish. A lot of the finer details could have been better, and the experience at large is more cobbled together than it ought to be. More specific secondary race objectives might have been a nice feature, as well as more in-depth tuning and car-upgrade options.

Screenshot for V-Rally 4 on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Overall, V-Rally 4 is quite a decent experience that is no blemish on the legacy of the old series. It's pleasing on the eye, features a good amount of discipline contrast, and the split-screen multiplayer is great fun. Fans of the series will feel at home with the handling model, which recaptures the feel and behaviour of the original in a new modern context with surprising success. It's not a sim-heavy experience, but it is an appropriate challenge that asks more of the player than the average arcade rally affair does. The car list is lacking in terms of modern options, but existing fans will have a soft spot for the classics on offer. It's just a shame that the career mode fails to distinguish itself, and the online multiplayer is sparsely populated. Any future iterations will need to be more inventive, but V-Rally 4 is a surprisingly fun throwback.

Developer

KT Racing

Publisher

Big Ben

Genre

Driving

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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