This week, Codemasters release Dirt Rally on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, so I thought it would be a good idea to go back to where the series started, in 1998. Colin McRae Rally set a new benchmark for console racing titles, and the series has been strong ever since.
Featuring only 8 cars at the start of the game, including all of the official rally drivers of its time including Colin himself, rest in peace, the game saw players taking part in rally championships that had us racing over various terrains in different locations around the globe.
The game was very much an arcade game with a strong sense of simulation. Not to the same standards set more recently by Project CARS and iRacer however. Car setups pre-race and damage that affected your car both cosmetically and mechanically too, which would hinder your speed and control of the car.
The game featured seven official stages of the World Rally Championship, and another location that didn’t make it into the official championship. While the locations were all the official locations, the tracks themselves were fictional.
The racing action featured a voiced co-driver, who would shout out directions and warnings such as hill-crests, sharp turns, pools of water and other rally related banter. The game’s graphics were pretty decent at the time, but they certainly haven’t aged well in the slightest. Looking similar to TOCA Touring Cars, Colin McRae Rally was built on the same engine and released a year after Touring Cars.
The game didn’t feature any music during the races, with full driver focus being placed on the co-driver’s directions. It did however feature a multiplayer mode that allowed up to 8 players to connect and race via a LAN setup.
Since the release of Colin McRae Rally, the series has grown and expanded. The game has five titles under the Colin McRae Rally title, which then became Colin McRae: Dirt in 2007. After his death in 2007, Dirt 2 was made in his honour, and after that, the series dropped his name entirely going forward.
Dirt Showdown came in 2011 and in December 2015, Dirt Rally came to PC. It will launch on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One this coming week, and look a lot different to what the original Colin McRae Rally looked like all those years ago. Let’s have another Touring Cars one day, Codemasters.