It’s a little known secret that I love racing games. Not just any kind of racer though, but the rare breed that strikes a balance between simulation and arcade action. Tokyo Xtreme Racer and Sega Rally for the Dreamcast are two examples. Race, upgrade, race some more. Realistic as I want it to be, with consequences for driving off the road but not so real that I get bogged down in minutae.
The other day, while casting about for something to play, I stumbled across Xpand Rally for the PC, available on Steam for $9.95.
What a bargain. (Read on for screenshots and details!)
It’s a rock-solid arcade rally game with some great maps and a fun career mode. You start off with a tiny front-wheel-drive Eurocar and, as you start coming to grips with the action, you can start making some significant improvements to the engine, turbo, transmission, suspension, body, etc etc. Racing is as easy as selecting an appropriate ride height, putting the right wheels on and hitting the circuit.
It’s a lot like a console game, with a friendly game pad and no need for any complicated keyboard commands.
There are a vew caveats, but none so serious they take away from the joy of this ten dollar game. Techland, the game’s developer, has created a fun game with a solid engine and lots of expandability. You can make your own maps, with the included 3D track editor. It’s messy and complicated like any 3D modelling, so I won’t mess with it, but the tools are there. And despite not having any licensed cars, Xpand Rally allows you to import new models and cars and get the licensed cars of your dreams into the game.
The game doesn’t annoy you with in-game music, the engine sounds are not as grating as many other games, and the visual effects are restrained but enjoyable. There’s a thriving community forum over on the Xpand Rally site, I think. Most of the links are broken and the forum is completely hosed.