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SummaryA visually stunning GBA racer with decent, but flawed gameplay.
The GoodThe first time I saw a screenshot of V-Rally 3 I thought it was a fake. And who could blame me. The picture depicted a fully texture mapped 3d graphics engine that looked more like a Playstation racer than the usual mode 7 jaunts that GBA owners are so familiar with. Yet here I am several months later, cart in hand and playing what I thought I would never see on a GBA. The graphics in V-Rally 3 are proof that there is more to the GBA than a portable SNES. All of the tracks are rendered in real time texture mapped 3d with only the cars themselves remaining as 2d sprites. It looks amazing and there's plenty of visual variety too with rolling hills, snow, mountains, buildings zooming past and even the odd onlooker. This all zips along at a very smooth rate without any slowdown in sight. What's more is once you get past how great it looks you find yourself with a playable rally racer that has a lot to like about it. Modes of play feature the primary rally racing mode in which you choose a car and get racing on over 10 road tracks that each have 5 sizable stages to them. Before each rally you can adjust your car for the conditions ahead. This sort of thing usually drives me nuts but here it's kept fairly simple and accessible. Other components include a time trial mode for practicing and a closed circuit game with 6 different tracks. Of course like any good racer there are extras to unlock, plus another first for the GBA is the ability to choose to view the action from behind or inside the car. As is the case with most GBA racers you can link up with a friend and go head to head on any of the games courses which is where the real replay value comes in and also the only place you might get a challenge of some type (see bad). The controls are easy to master and nicely implemented. I didn't even miss the analogue control you come to expect with rally games because the physics have been made very digital friendly.
The BadWhen they brought the PSX style graphics to the GBA I really wouldn't have objected if they left the god awful music that plagues PSX racing games behind. Sadly the music is the typical PSX racing game crap that you want to turn off after about two seconds, luckily it isn't on during gameplay. During the Rally Cross mode the opponents cars suffer from Ridge Racer syndrome in that they aimlessly cruise around the track in impossible fashions and if they crash into the back of you then you slow down just as much as if you crash into them. What's worse is that they sail on by as though nothings happened. I also noticed that in this mode the other cars were visible through walls which was a little poor and due to the fact that the car sprites are at above and behind angles, you can't choose the 'in car' view in this mode. The game is also a tad on the easy side. Did I say a tad? I meant the game's very easy. Stupidly easy one might say. I've managed to sail through a large number of races and unlock all of the cars without ever losing a single race which is a pretty annoying, meaning the only challenges you might get are from head to head with your buddies or trying to beat your ghost in time trial. There is also a bit of clipping with the 3d when you turn a hard corner and the camera ends up slightly outside game boundries but this is acceptable considering the wonders the team has performed in getting the advance to do 3d this well in the first place.