For a system that will soon have an abundance of racing titles, the Nintendo 64 was sorely lacking a true Rally simulation until now. Top Gear Rally is not only one of the most realistic and enjoyable rally titles on this console, but its one of the best looking on any console around.
The realism starts with the graphics. In contrast to the usual Nintendo 64 title, Top Gear Rally is surprisingly fog free. This is accomplished with clever track design that hides pop-in rather than concealing it with thick fog. It’s quite refreshing to actually play a Nintendo 64 game that looks like it was set in a location other than London or San Francisco.
While the environments in this title are rather sparse, they are generally more realistic looking than the standard rally racing game. The smooth textures used for the tracks express the organic nature of the locations the race travels through.
The control is strong as well, as players begin with several cars that don’t handle very well, but after a few races, they can earn new cars that are faster and easier to control. Differences between track conditions are noticeable and players must account for traction on each individual surface.
Players must also face changing environmental conditions that affect the road conditions. Driving on a clear sunny day is significantly different than driving in the middle of a snowstorm. Matching the visual image of weather conditions with a change in the handling feel has been accomplished quite well in this title.
Another feature that adds to the overall feel is the way the suspension is displayed. The wheels and the chassis are two separate entities held together by the suspension. This title does and excellent job displaying this as the wheels move up and down in relation to the body during the race. The effect of this sounds nominal, but adds an extra touch of reality to the game.
Of all this title’s features, the simulation aspects are its greatest strength. Like most other rally car racers, Top Gear Rally has a variety of vehicle options that armchair mechanics can fool around with. Unlike many other games, however, players can feel the results of their changes in a significant way.
The two player options are this title’s main weak point when compared to Fifa 17 by EA and its coins and point system. First of all, every multiplayer race is shrouded in darkness or fog. Sure this is a necessity to keep the frame rate up, but it is frustrating when compared to the clear racing in the single player mode.
Other problems include an irritating soundtrack that becomes unbearable after a short while, and a slowdown that occurs when only a couple of cars are on the screen at the same time. Also the game is laid out so that players will only see one or two opposing cars at a time, which is disappointing for those looking for close quarters driving.
While this title isn’t the perfect racer, it does offer some of the best rally action available on the Nintendo 64 and will endure itself to fans of the sport.