V-Rally 4 brings the classic back to life, and onto modern consoles. After the positive step forward Kylotonn and Bigben Interactive made with last year’s title WRC 7, I’ve come into V-Rally 4 with high hopes. So let’s see if they’ve managed to deliver.
V-Rally 4 sadly manages to miss the apex on more than one occasion. The bread and butter of the title is V-Rally mode, a mode designed to give the player the experience of building their career to become the most renowned racer on the planet. V-Rally mode features all of the title’s game types, Rally, V-Rally cross, Hillclimb, Buggy, and extreme-khana. The 5 game modes are presented as events around the globe, although you’ll quickly realize that the locations are not as plentiful as it might seem. The idea is that you build up your fleet of vehicles, different for each event, and build up your team of mechanics, engineers, and agents. If this sounds familiar, it should. It’s the premise of DiRT 4. This starts to highlight one of V-Rally 4’s greatest issues. It offers nothing that hasn’t been done before. Yes, it has more modes than the WRC titles, but they’re licensed releases. It should have more types of racing. What I loved most about WRC 7 was its progressive career mode. That has gone right out the window and taken the sense of achievement with it.
In V-Rally 4, you very quickly realize you’ve seen all the title has to offer. There isn’t a plentiful stock of stages to choose from, and after 5-6 events in each discipline, you realize it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. I’ll give each event its own round-up shortly, but first, let’s tackle the rest of V-Rally mode. Gaining new cars is as simple as getting out your wallet and buying it. The struggle comes in earning the funds to do so. Event’s don’t seem to scale their earnings as you progress, and are either small 10k affairs or big events with huge prize pools. There’s next to no middle ground. This means that attempting to build your roster of cars becomes rather imbalanced. especially considering the seemingly drawn from a hat nature of the prices.
The way in which you build your crew is a potluck of who happens to be available, and hoping they’re at the right level and specialize in what you’re after. It’s a very similar system to DiRT 4, and I hated it there too. Personally, I feel that Motorsport Manager is the title to do this best, offering you everyone, but not having everyone interested in you. This adds progression, making you work towards something, and removes the random nature of the system. Lastly, V-Rally 4 adds in sponsored challenges. These are nice little additions, but really seem to be an afterthought. There are some lengthy challenges that pay out absolute peanuts, while short ones pay a small fortune. Sadly V-Rally 4’s V-Rally mode failed to capture my attention in any way.
The core gameplay is, of course, V-Rally 4’s events, starting with the main basis, Rally. The Rally events are as you’d imagine. Closed stages with a co-driver, you against the clock. Simple, easy to execute. Or so you’d think. Sadly V-Rally 4 misses the mark here in quite a big way, and it’s got a lot to do with the game’s physics. WRC 7 was a step in the right direction, this feels like 4 steps backward. Steering is jerky, unprecise, and generally horrific. There’s little to no difference in the feeling of the cars on different surfaces, and feedback feels generally numb. The biggest control feedback I felt playing V-Rally 4 was the gearbox, and that’s really rather alarming. Front-wheel drive cars seem to drift, rear-wheel drive has way too much grip and 4-wheel drive seems to be a dull as ditchwater.
What make’s Rally even more of a chore to drive, is the agonizing pace notes. Not only does the performance lack the barked ferocity you’d expect, but there’s some awful effect thrown over the top that makes them nigh on impossible to hear. coupled with the fact that half the time, they’re WAY off the mark. Corners have either been called wrong or designed awfully. I’ll leave you to judge which way that falls.
The next major mode is V-Rally cross. Tenuous naming aside, the mode is quite simply rallycross, but with no sense of car balance. when I saw that cars had a division, for example, Rally 1, Rally 2, etc. I was expecting these to split the events. No such joy. So there I am, in the starter car for the event, a rear-wheel drive Renault, against 4-wheel drive Fords. It makes absolutely no sense, and begs the question, why are the divisions here in the first place? Other than the pointless handicap, it’s basic rallycross, with the same issues as Rally, the surfaces feel identical. The challenge of Rallycross has always been that transitional section, but sadly it just doesn’t exist here.
Buggy events in V-Rally 4 take a similar premise to V-Rally Cross. Unbalanced cars, on dirt tracks that feel numb. No joker lap this time, but jumps that seem to give the physics engine a migraine.
Hillclimb was a mode I was very excited for, especially after taking a strong interest in Pikes Peak for years. I loved the addition in DiRT Rally and was sad to see it go in DiRT 4. V-Rally 4 does not scratch that itch. All the event type really does is highlight just how far off the claims of ‘simulator’ are. While typically Hillclimb cars are not the most aero focused machines on the planet, they do have significant amounts of downforce compared to rally cars. There’s none of the aero effect present, with the downforce hitting the car and coming off again, and you’ll find yourself in a car with what looks like an inverted aircraft wing strapped to the back, getting the tail out at 220 km/h. Yes, it’s that far off the mark. You’ll also quickly notice that you can absolutely shaft your car into a wall as fast as you like, and drive away with minimal damage. A simulation, this is not.
Lastly, the copyright-avoiding Extreme-Khana. Nothing and I mean nothing, like Gymkhana. You might occasionally do a jump or a doughnut. Don’t hold your breath for a DiRT 3 resurgence. Extreme-Khana is essentially a time trial event on tight twisty circuits, with a few big jumps and doughnuts added in to appease the primal desire to be a daredevil. It really is all the mode has going for it. It’s a tenuous link at best, that like a lot of the title feels like a tacked-on oversight.
Graphically, V-Rally 4 leaves a lot to be desired. Considering the quality of recent racing titles, this just looks incomplete. Some areas look great, and then you’ll look at the tachometer in the car and it looks like a low-quality placeholder that never got replaced. It sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s no Forza title this. Hell, it’s not what we’ve come to expect from Kylotonn or Bigben Interactive, it’s a rather concerning drop in standards and quality. The Game’s UI looks like a haphazard attempt to revamp the classic style of old arcade racers, and it really shows how poorly that style has aged. The clean, considered style we’ve come to expect is replaced by needless splatter brushes and general clutter. It’s a real shame. The game looks dated, and it’s only just been released. Dare I say the early DiRt titles look about the same? Rain has no effect on your screen either. I found myself turning on the wipers for immersion over necessity.
Lastly, the sound. Not the weakest point of V-Rally 4, but by no means, it’s crowning achievement. Turbo sounds are nice and turbo performance is actually one of the few things the game simulates well. As mentioned before the co-driver is agonizingly awful, and it’s not helped by the fact the game seems to throw in tire noise like sprinkles on a cake. Slight turn? Tires screaming for help. There’s no real audio difference between surfaces, no change from clattering gravel to smooth tarmac, no dirt noise. It’s a very empty space. The engines sound nice, but nothing that we haven’t heard better elsewhere.
I wanted to love V-Rally 4. I can remember the older titles being one of my first racing experiences when I was younger. Sadly, like GM turning classic names into people carriers, the rebirth hasn’t gone too well. There’s nothing here that you can’t get elsewhere, and none of it is better here than there. Even hardcore rally fans will struggle with this one.
V-Rally 4 is available now on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. The title is set to launch on Steam September 25, and Nintendo Switch in December.