STAFF REVIEW of V-Rally 4 (Xbox One)

Thursday, October 4, 2018.
by Brent Roberts

V-Rally 4 Box art It's no secret that I'm in LOVE with rally racing, as I have followed the WRC for over 20 years like an addict. I regard it as some of, if not, THE most difficult driving in the world. While others take to tracks to pass each other on smooth tarmac, nothing will put hair on your chest faster than doing 90mph on a narrow gravel path where on one side you have a mountain face and the other side is a drop of a couple hundred feet. Recently I had a chance to review the latest V-Rally 4 game by developer Kylotonn and hoped that this would be a rally game that went toe to toe with such icons in the genre as DiRT. Given that the last V-Rally game was over 15 years ago, how does it stack up in today's world? Grab a helmet.

Shifting into first, we see that V-Rally 4 is quite anemic when it comes to its game modes. You have the V-Rally mode which is regarded as your campaign mode. Your other options are quick race mode and multiplayer. For the sake of this review I'm going to primarily focus on the V-Rally mode. Your campaign is actually broken up into various styles, and while it may seem to possess a wild bounty of options, in reality there are only two basic styles of racing; against the clock or against opponents. Your basic rally race will consist of you taking your car through fictional courses (more on this later) and trying to beat the time set by your opponents.

The hill climb rally function is the same thing, except you're literally going up a seemingly massive mountain side road with tons of hairpins and steep cliff drop-offs. Kylotonn has included a mode that is called the Extreme Khana, which is heavily focused on taking your car and drifting it like crazy throughout developed centers. Now, if we shift our focus to the other racing style we have two practices, Buggy and Rally Cross. These both involve you on a shortened track competing in lap-based races where the only difference between the two is that one involves Buggy vehicles and the other does not.

So, it's safe to say that Kylotonn has done a great job trying to incorporate a fresh new take on how rally racing should go. This concept is also found within the races themselves. They have opted to do away with the traditional WRC courses that we have come to expect. Instead, they have created fresh new courses placed all over the globe that are designed to keep your grip on your controller tight for hours and your body leaning into every single turn. This is mainly due to the fact that the game's driving physics are not the best to be found.

You do have an option to adjust your handling of your car before a race, but you don't get to experience it to decide if your changes will benefit you in any way until you get into the actual race itself. For its defense, you can customize a ton of settings within your car from suspension, brakes, and more, and through the game's upgrade system (more on that later) you can improve your car's handling ability to some extent. Make no mistake, V-Rally 4 delivers a driving experience comparable to using the Force while driving a car, and with little to no hand holding or any form of driver assistant or rewind feature, other than a repositioning button (for when you go flying off the track). The learning curve for V-Rally 4's gameplay is about as steep as the cliff you're going to drive off of.

What this means is that you will crash... a lot. You will come in last... a lot. You will become frustrated beyond belief. However, if you stick with it, there will come a time when your frustrations give way to your newly developed driving style, and you'll start to see improvement, and this is how V-Rally 4 will keep you hooked. However, there is a problem as well, because when you're trying to drive, your only form of a map comes from your co-driver who is supposed to give you notes on the upcoming sections of the track. You have no mini map, so the notes become absolutely essential, and sometimes your co-driver either delays in their instruction or they will get an attitude and dump a bunch of instructions in your lap to make you not only remember them all, but also force you figure them out as you're driving along in this poorly controlled vehicle.

These types of issues are massive dings in the game, but to help V-Rally gain some points back there is more to the career than just pick a race and go. Now you must manage your own team from multiple points and perspectives. First off, you'll be hiring an agent to help you unlock other courses to compete in around the world. This is where you'll also notice that as you progress there will be races that require you to pay a fee to get into to a race event. As you get a better agent, their cost to you per week goes up as well. This is a trend you'll see with the rest of your employees.

I say employees because you'll also be tasked to hire engineers to develop new additions and performance upgrades to your vehicle. You are also required to hire a maintenance crew. As you navigate your rally stages, your vehicle will become damaged, so it will be up to you to repair the car at your own expense. The better the mechanics you have, the more money they cost you to repair your car, but the cost to repair your car goes down. So, think of it as a balance of finances. You'll spend a certain amount of your accumulated cash per week on your entire staff and also must manage your expenses for your upgrades and repair work. Think of this aspect like being your own boss, but without all the paperwork, W-2 forms and HR harassment videos.

Now, there is one thing that V-Rally does and does very well, and that is make the stages of each course look BEAUTIFUL. This game does look jaw droppingly gorgeous, and even though the tracks are fictional, the scenery is quite amazing. From the multicolored flower filled fields in Japan, to Monument Valley’s rock structures that erupt from the sandy grounds, this is V-Rally's strong point, and it shows it well. However, this also means that the audio is beyond reprehensible. First off, the noises of the engines are flat and unrealistic in their delivery and performance, but while that is bad, nothing compares to the horrible music they have in the actual game itself. Imagine one bad hip-hop track (and I mean like phenomenally bad) that is stuck on an endless loop cycle. I personally wish there was as much effort put into the audio of the game as there was applied to the visual aspect, but I'm not Kylotonn.

The last gripe I have with the game is the lack of cars. While yes, rally racing doesn't have a lot of manufacturers, the number of cars that you can choose from is incredibly thin. Several reasons could be considered for this to be the case, such as not being able to get actual cars to render and model to just being lazy. But when you can't have a classic Subaru Vs. Mitsubishi rally rivalry, I'm already going to be docking it a point.

This type of stuff seems to be my biggest frustration with this game. Every time it takes a step forward in its production value, it seems like something happens resulting in the game taking two steps backwards, and you're left feeling a sense of disappointment. Limited car selection, poor audio, challenging driving mechanics that that feel like a blind folded staffer was the model, really hit this game hard. There seems to be more focus on trying to make the tracks look pretty rather than make a great driving experience, and this is why I would pass on the $59.99 price tag. Saying that breaks my heart, but in reality, V-Rally 4 maybe shouldn't have come back yet?

Overall: 7.2 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 4.0 / 10


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