This mobile take on the Colin McRae Rally series immediately raises two questions before you even go hands-on with it. First of all, how on earth can you transfer the twitchier controls of a rally racer to touchscreens? Secondly, will - gulp - Codemasters take what seems like the inevitable free-to-play route given the success of Real Racing 3?
The game is based on the PSone title Colin McRae Rally 2.0, albeit with a little freshening up of the visuals. There's more fluidity to the framerate, and less of the jagged polygons you might be dreading given its origins. But in real terms, this is the real rally racing deal - long stretches of agonizingly winding roads, even longer tournaments that require you to stay at the peak of your form to bag the top podium spot, tense twists and turns, and plenty of cars to unlock.
There are two methods for taking control of your rally car of choice. In the default mode, on-screen braking and acceleration pedals are combined with left and right steering icons, and this system is implemented far more capably than in the average mobile racing game. The other method of control replaces the steering icons with tilt-based controls - a nice addition, but almost worthless in reality, given how hard it makes taking competitive control of every vehicle. It takes time to become accustomed to the default mode, but it's undoubtedly the way to play the game.
Surprisingly competent though the controls are, there's inevitably something missing from the experience. Without the crucial physicality of a controller - not to mention the kind of force feedback we only really notice these days when it's gone - you lose that critical, heart-in-mouth experience of riding a rally road, every bit as much as driving over it.
One welcome absence though is the sort of in-app purchasing shenanigans that so often take the shine off mobile racing games. Once you've paid your your $4.99, you're free to get stuck into the content of Colin McRae Rally at your leisure. Your heart will sink the first time you see a list of repair timers, but these represent nothing more than gameplay mechanics - you can only repair so many vehicle systems between stages, so stop hitting those trees in other words.
With the tools Codemasters has at its disposal here, the developer's delivered a mobile rally experience that's about as good as it gets - albeit one where a lack of true multiplayer seems like a bit of a missed opportunity. Even if the framerate wobbles a little, even on the latest Apple hardware, it still delivers a fun enough rally experience.
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