(Some of) the rally games reviewed

Colin McRae Rally 3 is one of the first non-child video games I remember. You can imagine a 7-year-old me going full throttle with Focus in Australia SS1, crashing all the time. After all these years, I decided to finally beat this series and briefly review each game. However, one day I discovered this YouTube playlist and that made me extend this list to other fully 3D games from series I've never played before.
List is incomplete, entries will be added after beating each game.

Network Q RAC Rally Championship (1996)

Played on: DOSBox-X

Let me start with a tip: you can only change your gearbox once.
The first fully 3D game I found on the playlist. It's a late DOS game that uses VESA, so the graphics aren't spectacular, but I knew what I was signing for.
There are 3 main single-player modes: time trial, which is self-explanatory, arcade and championship. Arcade is garbage. You can't tweak your car and I think it defaults to tarmac tires. I lost on a snow stage and I expect these might've been the reason. The opponents in this mode are poorly programmed, way too easy and they can only block you from overtaking. Please don't use the arcade modes.
In the championship mode, you participate in the entire 1996 edition of UK rally. Granted, the average speed is twice as high as achieved by the real drivers at the time, but it still means you participate in 28 stages, the longest one taking almost 20 minutes, for a total of 3 hours of gameplay.
The main annoyance about the tracks (besides being pretty boring, but it somehow didn't bother me) was their width. Consider the following screenshot from MobyGames (HTTPS):

Screenshot showing huge, inaccessible roadsides

Only the tarmac part can be driven on, while this darker grass is blocked by the invisible walls. Because most people are used to cutting corners on every occassion in other games, this makes you crash a lot more than necessary.
Besides that, there are some snow stages taking place between non-snow ones, sometimes minutes (according to a schedule shown by the game) after you started the previous non-snow stage. It isn't at all realistic, but I can allow that for the sake of increased variety. Other 3 surfaces are tarmac, mud and gravel. Your car gets muddy or snowy after some time on these surfaces, which is quite nice for a 1996 game. During rain, you can experience thunders.
While not visually, your car can (if enabled) take damage. During service zones, you have limited time (between 10 and 45 minutes) for repairs, so your car, most likely, won't ever be in mint condition. As well, according to the rules of the real rally, you can only switch your gearbox once during the entire event.
Gearbox is the only thing I really noticed was getting damaged. Once damaged enough, you'll be put on a neutral gear at random, forcing you to put the gear back. This is, naturally, annoying, so I replaced the gearbox after stage 9. On stage 21, my gearbox was so broken I lost the fifth gear. Subaru Impreza, which I chose for the rally, has 6 gears and you can only shift one gear at the time, so effectively I had only 4 gears out of 6… And I couldn't replace the gearbox again, leaving me with three choices: rewind, modify the savefile or make the remaining gears much longer. I managed to finish first with the third option, which made me feel like I accomplished something, fighting with my car and with the opponents. I never experienced this after Colin 2.0 – rather, I was frustrated I didn't win, because I knew you can easily win if you don't make any mistakes.
As for sound, the co-pilot's scale is easy, medium, hard, hairpin and one "easy" corner can be much sharper than the other. Cockpit camera is pretty unusable because of the sounds of broken parts, but I didn't use it at all anyway since the steering wheel has a limited amount of textures. I didn't expect anything more, but these two are the reasons why I drove with the behind camera. Music is a few forgettable CD tracks.
Overall, I enjoyed this game a lot despite its age and I can't recommend it enough.

X-Miles addon (1997)

This addon introduces 10 new, fake tracks. Not constrained by the real stages, these ones have more variety, including a desert stage. More importantly, you can now ride on some of the roadsides. It's a shame I can't ride these in a form of a small championship.

International Rally Championship (1997)

Played on: Windows 95 (DOSBox-X)

Sequel to RAC Rally Championship, this time on Windows, with 16-bit graphics, 3 more cars and 15 tracks you can reverse or mirror – you can even generate new ones in a track editor!
The tracks and physics are much more arcade. Some of the tracks in the "simulation" mode (which replaces championship in the previous game) are circuits and you can lose 100 km/h while drifting only to regain the speed two seconds later. I actually gave up playing after a single stage because I didn't see any point continuing.
Oh, and the new co-pilot doesn't say commands as clearly as the previous one.

Colin McRae Rally (1998)

Played on: Windows ≥ 7? Not sure

First game in the CMR series. I don't remember much from this game since I'm typing this while beating 2005. What I do remember is driving school, which is always a bit annoying in every racing game, and trees not being transparent, which is very likely an issue with modern systems.
I listened to the game theme while writing this and it's a good track, but I have no recollection of listening to it before.
The corner scale is 6-1, the opposite of what the later games implemented.

Colin McRae Rally 2.0 (2000)

Played on: Windows 98, 2000, 10, Wine

First of all, people remember the intro video with its iconic music. I like it as well, but, probably because of the childhood bias, it isn't my favourite. I enjoy the menu and service zone music.
Most importantly, this game is actually challenging. When I tried my best on expert in Finland, I was losing to AI. As such, I'll need to return to this game someday.

Colin McRae Rally 3 (2002)

Played on: Windows XP

Here it is: the childhood game™. I love the music track from menu (which is actually the only music in the entire game). The cutscenes, while repetitive, are a nice addition, same for the service zone that feels like you're actually there. The tank, unlockable with a code, is a silly gimmick that I find quite funny.
What I clearly dislike is not having a car choice in championship mode, which makes me not drive any other vehicle more than once. The championship itself caused me a few restarts in the last year to get the perfect score, but it wasn't anything too bad.
I haven't mentioned co-drivers yet. Nicky Grist is fantastic in every game and I won't repeat myself in every other title. Polish co-driver, ✝ Janusz Kulig, is a pretty nice voice, but I have no idea why he screams when the road changes to tarmac XD

Colin McRae Rally 04 (2003)

Played on: Windows XP

This game is a downgrade in terms of atmosphere. All the cutscenes from 3 are gone, service zone is your car colored with some staff and stuff colourless as if it isn't there. Speedometer is only in MPH for some dumb reason, thankfully that was a one-time goof.
However, there are also some good things: there are now 6 (or rather 4, 2 of which twice) championship series, so you now know how 6 cars drive instead of just one. During these series, you'll try some challenges like braking in a certain zone or destroying your suspension.
What is not as good is that this game, on all difficulties, is too easy for me. I need to crash 3 or 4 times during a stage in order not to finish first, I can easily get -20s on a 3-minute stage.
In Polish version, there are six voices. Both Nicky Grist and Derek Ringer are available. Derek is very clearly Scottish, his accent distracts me completely.
As for Polish voices, one of them is a joke voice and gets boring after some time. "Default Pilot" (or rather Jarosław Boberek) screams too much in my opinion. Martyna Wojciechowska is fine, but Krzysztof Hołowczyc, the legend of car GPSes, takes the number one spot for me.

Colin McRae Rally 2005 (2004)

Played on: Wine

2005 annoys me.
On one hand, there are many important improvements:

On the other hand, this game needed some more development time:

I mentioned being able to drive all the cars during the career mode, here are the notable ones, mostly negatively:

For some reason, championship mode has only 6 rallies out of 9 and each has 6 SSs out of 8. Quite a strange decision in my opinion, especially compared to 3.
As for the voices, this time my favourite Polish voice is "Polish Pilot" (again, Jarosław Boberek), he doesn't scream in this game. Leszek Kuzaj is a bit too enthusiastic in the USA stages. The joke voice this time is called "The real blondie…" 2004 was a different time.
For unknown reasons, Kuzaj and Boberek don't mention splits in instructions while Grist and blondie, of all co-drivers, do.

Colin McRae: DiRT (2007)

Played on: Windows 10

With the exception of DiRT 3, I haven't played the games starting with this one before writing this.
I played with Visual Overhaul Mod except for Sim-Lite.
I started with the Polish version, but patches make the UI in English. This wasn't an issue for me as you can see by the language of this text. I changed to full English anyway because I couldn't stand the Polish narrator.
The most-left map, usually the first player sees, is empty and looks like a downgrade, even though it was made for the next generation of consoles. Once you get into the better tracks, you can feel the visual upgrades. The countries that appeared in previous games don't look exactly the same as before. When you take a HUD-less screenshot of any track from a PS2 Colin, you can immediately tell what country it is just by looking at the road for example. Vegetation seems more realistic. Cockpits have working HUDs now and I love playing with that camera.
Damage system got some improvements. Now the game shows you when a part of your car has ≤25% durability left and, when you pause, you can check what's broken in your vehicle. In the service zone, repairing some parts makes the other being repaired in shorter time, so you juggle a bit with the order during these. Unlike the previous games, that had only (super) special stages, this game expands beyond simply rally (hence it was removed from the title). We have:

Except for CORR, I enjoy all of these categories and they provide more variety to the game.
OpenAL sound has some volume problems in crossovers, mostly noticeable when both sides of a track cross. Co-pilot this time is… honestly I don't even know who, manual lists a couple of people who made some voice lines. He's alright, but I miss Nicky. It's a bit annoying that the order is now reverse, it used to be "6 right," now it's "right 6;" he forgot what a hairpin is. There's a good change about him, though: the corners are announced way earlier than in previous games, so you won't get punished for being too fast.

Ranking so far

RAC (1996) > CMR3 > CMR4 > CMR2.0 > CMR2005 > CMR

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