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Daily iPad App: Colin McRae Rally fails to live up to its heritage

When it comes to racing games, Codemasters is one of the most respected developers around, so when one of the company's earliest racing properties -- the iconic Colin McRae Rally, circa 1998 -- hit the App Store, it could have meant great things for iPad gamers. Unfortunately, that is simply not the case. What we are left with is a stripped-down rally racer that not only fails to impress in terms of modern gaming, but also fall short of evoking the pleasant nostalgia of the original Colin McRae Rally.

As the title would suggest, Rally is a rally racing title, sticking you in the cockpit of high-powered off-road racing vehicles and asking you to best preset times on tracks ranging from Australia to Greece. Unfortunately, the progression is slow and, if you're hoping to simply hop in and play, you'll be left with just one destination and one vehicle to choose from.

You can play the championship mode to unlock additional locales and racing machines, but -- and I can't emphasize this issue enough -- there is a devastating bug that crashes the game as you are in the process of unlocking some of the very first vehicles. After about a half dozen attempts, and shutting off every single other app on my device, along with applying "airplane mode," I was finally able to progress past this section. A cursory glance at the title's App Store reviews reveals that I'm not the only one with this issue, though others don't appear to have been as lucky as I was in eventually moving past it.

As this bug will most likely be addressed in short order, let's move on to the parts of the game that won't be fixed so easily. Top of the list is the visuals. Compared to titles like Real Racing 3 or even some of the recent Need for Speed titles on iOS, Rally looks downright ugly. Just about everything in the game aside from the ground and the vehicles themselves are rendered entirely in two dimensions. This includes every tree, bush and tuft of grass on the track. It ultimately just makes the entire experience feel fake and cheap.

The knee-jerk argument for this outdated visual style is that the game is based on the original Colin McRae Rally from 1998. That's a fine point, except for the fact that this iteration of the game falls short of even the original title from 15 years ago. For example, the first-person driving mode which was featured in the original title is completely absent from the "new" iOS version.

The controls are another sticking point, as the game offers just barebones tap- or tilt-steering options. Not only that, but the tap steering feels a tad too sensitive, while the tilt steering is actually less responsive than you'd probably like it to be. It's nearly impossible to get a good feel for the actual driving.

Combine all this with bland and boring menus, zero bonus content after you've bested the championship mode and no option to customize the vehicles themselves -- even with new paint jobs, and you've got a hard sell at US$4.99.

Overall, Colin McRae Rally is a disappointing entry into the iOS gaming scene, and comes off feeling like a game that should have debuted for the iPhone 3G rather than the iPhone 5 and top-of-the-line iPads. There are simply too many better racing games on the iPad to bother with this one.

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