When I saw that V-Rally was making a return, 16 years since the last one in the franchise, I was excited. I love arcade-style racing games and recently we have been receiving racing games that are more simulation or in-depth than your old-school pick up and play arcadey feeling ones. Then I found out that Kylotonn Games were the developers of choice, a development team who have put out a few really solid games recently such as TT Isle of Man and the WRC franchise.
However, not everything comes together like a well-oiled machine as there are certainly some aspects of V-Rally 4 that should be addressed to improve the overall user experience.
After a brief tutorial/introduction to the game, you’re taken directly to the main menu, from here you have access to V-Rally Mode, Quick Game and Multiplayer. Let’s take a look at each mode and see just how well the game holds up, starting with…
This is the main ‘campaign’ of V-Rally and the place you’ll spend the majority of your time. The first impression to me was “Is this Payday 2?” You’re presented with a world map with various races and tournaments which pop up as they become available. Your goal in V-Rally 4 is to take on new higher-ranked races and emerge the victor in order to gain money, earn bigger contracts, and purchase more powerful cars so you can take on more races. Outside of that, the story is quite vague about what you have to do other than becoming the champion of each of the Rally, Buggy, Hillclimb, Extreme-Khana and V-Rally Cross disciplines via completing a number of events within each of the categories. There is no set structure to the events, no indication on how well you’re doing, no licenses to work towards, and no ‘story’ as far as I could see.
Within V-Rally Mode, you don’t only have to use the map for picking your next event, you use it to recruit new members of staff, search for new car dealers, and even participate in timed online events. For me, the whole thing got rather confusing and overly complicated for its own good. You hire new crew members, who you pay a salary for every 7 days, in order to boost your vehicles resilience and research in certain areas such as the bodywork and gearbox etc… You also hire an agent to provide certain benefits like reducing the cost of cars or new parts, or even bringing in new sponsorship deals more often. I dabbled with this for a while but I couldn’t get my head around it as the help screen wasn’t that in-depth and it offered no support after the initial “this is what it is” screen.
In regards to the car dealerships and the online challenges, I bought a few cars but they are all rather expensive, and considering you’re paying out wages every seven days, your best option is to basically scrap all of your employees until you’ve saved up for a decent car and then go on a recruitment drive. The online challenges are a neat aspect though. I’ve seen some racing games offer one of two challenges a week which you have to wait until they finish before you can try out a new one. In V-Rally 4, there appears to be a bunch of events going on which you can participate in – each one advising what your ranking is and how long is left on each event. So this offers a bit of extra replayability for those who wish to participate in events to win more money.
That brings me back to the main crux of the V-Rally Mode, which I’ve mentioned a few times… Money. Not only do your staff take money off you for being there but you also need to pay for the majority of the events in order to participate in them, sometimes barely winning enough at the end of the event to cover the costs and the price of your staff. Seriously, for a period it was like I was only earning enough to cover the costs when I really needed to save up to buy a new car. This mechanic, which may sound good on paper, as it makes it more realistic that you need to pay for the things and people you use in order to succeed, doesn’t really work within the game as it makes it a grind to obtain new cars or upgrades.
On a positive note though, the car design section within the V-Rally Mode is rather fun and in-depth. You can literally spraypaint your purchased vehicles in whatever way you wish. If you want to colour half the car in green, half in red and place white polka-dots all over it, go right ahead! This isn’t like other games where you pick a ‘part’ and then the colour, you literally have a spraypaint tool and you go around spraying to your heart’s content. There are also a number of decals you can purchase with in-game currency for you to slap on your vehicle as well as various painting tools which can be changed to any colour before you paint. I had a car with what can only be described as roadkill splatter on its bonnet and a car with pink polka-dots. I spent quite a long time messing around with my various vehicles in this section.
What I found quite interesting is that your designs and colours within this mode also bleeds through into the other modes as well. I’m not sure if people online see your car in its colourful new design, but you certainly can as long as you pick the same car in the other modes.
Another positive about the V-Rally mode is the number of choices you have in regards to what race to do next. Sure, the various different world-map marker options are a bit cumbersome and should really just be a list, but you are given a decent choice of what you want to do next, usually with a few easy and a few more difficult options. Also, if you don’t have the relevant vehicle then you can be instantly taken to the shop to browse the ones which are relevant for the particular race you wish to participate in, even though you probably won’t be able to afford it!
Do I have to describe this for you? Surprisingly, there is a lot of content to V-Rally 4 when it’s all opened up for you to pick what you want to do. You’re given the infamous would map along with all the multi-coloured markers, each one representing a certain discipline. There are 22 different regions for you to race in, places like England, Malaysia, Siberia, and Monument Valley. Each region has up to five tracks within them (some only have one), as well as five levels of difficulty and various ‘conditions’. Conditions are different for each region, with options such as different times of the day and different weather effects. You can even just hit square and have a random setup for you to play on if you don’t feel like manually choosing what track and condition you want.
Another handy feature is the option to see the online leaderboards from this setup screen as well just by hitting Triangle. Online seems to be woven into every aspect of V-Rally 4, even in the non-online modes, which is a nice touch as it should help to keep the game fresh and give you something to strive for whilst also keeping you entertained and engaged.
Finally, once you’ve got your track sorted it’s time to pick your vehicle. In Quick Game, you have access to all of the cars with all of their upgrades already installed. I found this is a great place to actually test out a car before you buy it as you can crank everything up and see how it handles (more on that later). Obviously, you can only use certain vehicles for each race – so no buggies in a Rally race. However, as I said above, if you do pick a car you already own, it will be painted however you designed it in the V-Rally Mode, which is a nice touch. One option which is missing though is the option to actually remove your livery and use the default should you wish too – also, you can’t have multiple liveries as far as I could see, which seems to be an option you would have thought would have been present.
I would go as far as saying that the Quick Game mode is the best way to play V-Rally 4 as you have access to everything and all the modified cars, this actually makes controlling them a lot easier and the Extreme-Khana discipline just feels spot on in terms of control and playability. It’s like the game was designed for that mode and then the rest of the game was added around it without adjusting the gameplay and mechanics accordingly.
Here’s where things get a little interesting. When you pick ‘Multiplayer’, you’re given the choice of either Split Screen or Online Multiplayer. Personally, I was expecting online but I wasn’t expecting V-Rally 4 to also support Split Screen. As such, I tried out both modes. Split Screen is basically Quick Game mode but with two players. You get the same map with 22 open events which you can pick from as well as whatever track and condition that tickles your fancy. After you pick your vehicle it asks for the second player to press Cross and then away you go!
The online side is a little different. You can join a Quick Game which will either put you with someone else or you can create your own game based on any of the above track selectors like in Quick Game and Split Screen modes. Alternatively, you can join or host a Lobby for any of the disciplines and just wait for people to join who wish to play then jump right in with them. The issue I had with online is that it’s empty at the moment. I tried a quick game and it suggested I created my own room – I did and I waited for 25 minutes but nobody joined. Also, the lobbies were all empty too. So, I’m not sure if it’s restricting regions from joining together or if nobody was playing it at the same time as me?
Either way, this and other racing games would actually benefit from the new Cross-play, if they were to implement it, as all platform versions are the same and there isn’t any clear advantage of one over the other.
Okay, so at a glance, other than the confusing Payday 2 map and the requirement to pay for a load of things, V-Rally 4 doesn’t sound that bad, right?! Well, this is where we have to talk about the elephant in the room – the actual racing side of the game, which is the same across all three modes and really needs to be tweaked by the developers. Did you ever play Mario Kart on the SNES or N64, or maybe Diddy Kong Racing? Do you remember ice levels and how the slightest movement would have you spinning off and losing the race due to factors out of your control that caused you to slide right into a wall? Welcome to V-Rally 4…
Before racing, you have the option to tweak your tires and pretty much every part of your vehicle in order to adjust yourself to the current terrain. This is helped by the handy percentage meter at the top which tells you how much of the race will be on tarmac, gravel, dirt etc… You can either manually adjust everything or pick from the presets for each type – something which is auto-selected based on the highest percentage of coverage. However, no matter how much fiddling you do, you’ll still be sliding all over the place, spinning around, flying off the track, and knocking yourself into a position where you can’t possibly catch up.
V-Rally 4 is one of those ‘brake more than accelerate’ games. You’ll be breaking a while before you turn, breaking so you’re not going to fast, breaking if you’re about to press left or right, and breaking if an opponent gets close to the ass-end of your car, if not, then expect to slip and slide like a toddler on a patch of ice! However, I found that when you invest in a much better car, get the upgrades and have the patience to get to grips with the floaty controls, it’s playable, just not very enjoyable as you can’t zip around corners like you would in your usual arcade racer. Not only that, as you smash into things, your vehicle becomes damaged and you must spend ‘time’ fixing it between tracks in a multi-track race or have the repairs deducted from your overall winnings if it’s just one track.
Another thing that annoys me and makes playing V-Rally 4 rather difficult is it’s A.I. My preference is playing the race types where the opponents are there with you in the race, as the CPU can’t cheat that way. In those, with the difficulty dialled down a little (to compensate for sliding around) I can generally come first or second. In the races where it’s an actual rally and you all go one at a time – well, you’re simply playing against their times which they supposedly achieved – I usually come in the bottom few. Now, in some of those I’ve performed great, not gone off the track once and finished strong – only to find out that the CPU, on a low level, finished the track 10-20 seconds before me… How? It feels very unbalanced and I imagine my choice of car and upgrades which were available at the time is probably why they are lightning-fast and I’m as slow as a snail.
One unusual feature, which I’m not sure is in real-life events, is the Joker lane. Basically, in the screenshots on here, you’ll see the track along with a red or green section. You must take that route at least once during your race otherwise you get a time penalty at the end. This is interesting as the Joker usually takes a little longer but seeing as everyone has to take it at any point, it doesn’t impact your place in the race, it just acts as a thing you must do. I found that aspect quite fun and I don’t recall seeing that in any previous games.
V-Rally 4 doesn’t actually look that bad, in fact, it looks pretty damn good. Damage is visually represented in-game with actual dents and bumps all over your car at the point of impact, there are a lot of particle effects that don’t affect performance and each of the cars are really well-textured and modelled – even with my silly paint jobs! Even the environments look really stunning at times, early morning races have the sunrise on the horizon as it shines through the foliage, late-night races are pitch back with only your headlights for guidance (which can be a pain), and wet and windy events offer a lot of screen space reflections and water effects. Visually I can’t falter V-Rally 4, it’s just a shame it doesn’t have a photo mode! This is the kind of game that could really benefit from one.
Audio-wise, the game is fine. The engines all sound meaty and loud, with the vocal instructions on what to do next are at a decent enough level, unlike another game I’ve played recently where all they do is shout at you and not to you. The menu music isn’t to my taste though, it has a NFS Underground vibe to it (I’ll always remember that song) yet it just gets annoying after a while. I guess you’re just not supposed to spend a long time on the menus. However, when you have so much choice and things to customise, you can’t help but spend a long time there.
V-Rally 4 leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth yet I can’t seem to stop coming back for more – a bit like Brussel Sprouts. From the outside looking in, there are a lot of events to unlock, plenty of content for solo or multiplayer (online or local) races, a decent amount of customisations for your vehicles, and even a team-building strategy if you wish to invest in it (in time, patience, and in-game currency). However, the controlling of the vehicles really puts me off. Many times I would start a race, which had cost me around 5k to enter, only to end up spinning all over the place. After about four or five restarts I would give up and return to the map screen only to lose my entrance fee and have to go back to doing a few smaller races to try and get my money back. Then the team would take all the money for their wages and I would rage quit and load up another game instead.
I feel V-Rally 4 is a ‘confused’ game. It doesn’t know if it wants to be a simulation or an arcade game. If the developers had chosen one of those from the beginning and customised each and every mode accordingly, I feel we would have had a great successor in the franchise. As it is though, Simulation fans will like the amount of customisation of the vehicles but not enjoy the mission select screen and the actual racing, and Arcade fans will enjoy certain aspects of the racing and the ability to jump into various races, but not the fact they have to tweak things for every race and pray it all works as expected. As such, I’m finding it hard to decide who to recommend this too, if I would recommend it at all. Personally, I’ve started to have fun as I’ve progressed and bought things, but the first three or four hours are a bit of a drag as you get to grips with the lack of grip and try to make some money.
V-Rally 4 is suffering from a mid-life crisis and appears to be confused with what it wants to be. As an Arcade racer, there is too many adjustments and options you must go through in order to tweak your vehicle, as a simulator there isn’t enough depth and customisations to satisfy you. In terms of content, 22 regions with up to five tracks per region and a variety of weather and time options is a lot of content to keep you occupied for hours, not to mention it’s online and local split-screen multiplayer. However, until you obtain the best cars with all their upgrades, you’ll be spending more time getting accustomed to the slippy nature of each vehicle than actually enjoying yourself.
It’s a shame as there is a lot of potential as the game looks great, there is a decent amount of content, and there are some really interesting disciplines within the game. It’s just, a racing game is all about it’s handling of the vehicles and V-Rally 4 just doesn’t seem to offer the level of control we would expect from a modern-day racing game, be it an arcade or simulation game.
- - Graphically, V-Rally 4 looks great and contains impressive car damage
- - Lots of regions and tracks to choose from as well as a bunch of vehicles
- - Can get quite involved if you opt to utilise the team management
- - The Extreme-Khana mode is quite impressive in Quick Game with all car enhancements
- - The in-game vehicle controls are too floaty, it feels like you're on ice
- - It's confused as to whether it wants to be an arcade game or a simulation game
- - The music in the menu is a bit annoying after a few repeats
- - Everything costs money, new cars, upgrades, team wages, entering a race... yet you don't make enough to cover it all sometimes
- - The game can be fun, but it requires a lot of patience and dedication to obtain the best vehicles and upgrades first