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Top Gear Rally – N64

Top Gear Rally – N64

featuredPlatform: Nintendo 64

Developer: Boss Game Studios

Publisher: Midway Games

Release Date (NA): October 1997

Genre: Racing

Nerd Rating: 7.75 out of 10

Reviewed by Dovahkyle

front view replayLet me just say my brother and I would spend as long as my Mom would let us browsing N64 titles at the local Blockbuster. We didn’t get to rent games often, so when we did, we had to make sure it was going to be worth it. I would pick three or four and so would my brother, then we would start the process of elimination until we decided on the one. Top Gear Rally was that game on one of these occasions, and even though it has a two-player option, we would spend our game time trading off on the championships so we could earn some sweet rides.

I think we probably spent just as much time in the paint shop, customizing our cars, as we did in the actual racing portion of the game. Customization was not commonplace in this era of gaming; we were psyched just to have real 3-d games, so this level of interaction was mind blowing. With the game only allowing one custom car per memory pak, we were erasing and making new ones all the time. Top Gear Rally started just slow enough to let us get a good handle on the controls (acceleration, brake, and handling), then it gradually picked up the pace until we were racing like the pros. I will never forget this game, and after fifteen years, I was astonished that I still remembered where all the shortcuts in each track were located, and I was actually winning!

nerd bacon carAll of the pics (besides the cover art at the top) are screenshots I took from my Project64 emulator, as old games with sequels are seemingly difficult to locate true shots, I figured this was the best way for me to play (and my family could still watch Netflix on the TV) and get some great in-game pics. I swear if I didn’t have work and school today I would’ve continued on into the night. I had forgotten how much I truly enjoy a good racing game, and rally racing is one of my all time favorite kinds of racing.

Gameplay

Eat my rubber, let’s burn some dust here

This is no short circuit, quick lap, racing game. This is rally racing in its truest form. With laps exceeding two and a half minutes on some tracks, these are true, enduro type, all-terrain races. The game starts with a mode selection screen where the player can enjoy championships (which are run in seasons), arcade, time attack and practice, let’s not forget the paint shop:

  • Logo Championship Championship – This is the only way to earn new and faster cars, the championships are raced in seasons, each composed of multiple races. After Season 1 (two races), seasons becomes longer and more difficult (track weather, speed of cars, and mirror tracks). With each new season, a new pair of cars is unlocked. One of them usually has a higher top speed, while the other is geared towards acceleration.
  • Logo Arcade

Arcade – This mode allows two players to go head-to-head in a race against each other on tracks that have been unlocked on Championship.

 

 

  • Logo Time AttackTime Attack – This is a one player mode that allows the player to load “Ghost” cars from the memory pak, the “Ghost” car is essentially the player’s best time that he/she saved on a track. So the player is actually racing him/herself. This is really fun and extremely challenging as the player grows in racing prowess.

 

  • Logo PracticePractice – Simply a mode to allow the player to examine the tracks (mainly for shortcuts), practice with different cars (find their strengths and weaknesses) and just train as a racer to get comfortable with new tracks and cars.

 

 

  • Logo Paint ShopPaint Shop – Cars that have been unlocked in Championship mode can be completely customized, just like MS Paint on the PC, the player can literally draw on the car and color it any way he/she so chooses.

 

winner first seasonThe cars in Top Gear Rally are modeled after real vehicles, with a lack of actual names (I’m guessing due to legal reasons). As I mentioned earlier, each completed season awards two new vehicles (except for the fifth). Here are the cars and their associated seasons:

 

 

  • Season I: Type-LD (Lancia Delta) & Type-ES (Escort Cosworth)
  • Season II: Type-CE (Toyota Celica) & Type-IP (Isuzu P)
  • Season III: Type-M3 (BMW M3) & Type-SP (Toyota Supra)
  • Season IV: Type-NS (Nissan GTIR) & Type-RS (Ford RS 200)
  • Season V: Type-PS (Porsche)
  • Mirror Season: The Amazing Milk Truck & The Helmet Car

jungle rainOne of my favorites in the whole game is the M3, which to me, has a perfect balance of speed and control. As the tracks may seem easy peasy in the beginning, the same tracks can prove difficult when all the cars are going 120mph instead of 80. As the season races progress, the tracks can possess different weather effects. The Jungle track (one of my favorites) is a lot more difficult when it’s raining and field/distance of view becomes diminished. The Strip mine (my other favorite) can prove insane when it’s below zero and there’s a blizzard to contend with. All patterns of weather will have a direct effect on handling, traction, and braking, so being roundly skilled with all types of vehicles really helps.

Besides weather to worry about, the player can choose multiple options for the car before racing. Sometimes knowing the weather and track beforehand can directly affect which vehicle and options should be chosen. The options go beyond automatic or manual, suspension, steering, and tires will all play a part in whether or not the player will successfully complete a race (that means win). Some tracks will have tight corners and a lot of bumps while others will have smoother roads and longer runs, so picking the car with the highest top speed is not always the answer…not that it can’t be done (because I’ve done it), but I’m just pointing out that there are more strategic ways to win.

Controls

Let’s get around these egg timers

jumping replayI love the handling in this game! I can’t say it enough. I haven’t played this title in 15 years, and it took no time at all for me to pick it up right where I left off, tapping the control stick to the left with a combination of letting off the gas and tapping the acceleration, a touch of a brake pedal here and there, boom! There I was drifting around corners as if I had played this game every day of my life. The good old “C” buttons gives the player multiple viewpoints: 1st person, 3rd person, and driver seat with a rear view mirror. Because of the drifting aspects of the tracks, I had to use the 3rd person view, but every once and a while it’s nice to look into the rear-view just to make sure no one is getting too close.

After each race, the player can watch a replay of the entire round with the action camera (movie camera), with the perspective of people on the side of the road, or sometimes a hood camera looking back at the car (pretty entertaining at least), and one little tap of the “A” button will start it all over. The handling is quickly responsive to the controller’s signals; last-minute dives onto the beach or into a tunnel for a shortcut are very common among these rally races, so a good response time is essential.

Graphics/Sound

Mud on the tires, bugs on the windshield

third season carsWith extremely crisp looking cars and exotic sceneries, the races would become tedious if it weren’t for the constant changes in atmosphere. Even in a track called The Desert, you wouldn’t think it could really change enough to keep you on your toes, but it does! Some areas look like West Texas while others look like the Mojave, making the long races enjoyable. I wouldn’t realize how much I was really comfortable with a track until I would get stuck playing the mirror version, and wow was that a shocker. I still hate mirror tracks. There is just something not right about getting used to a track and then pow! Flipping it on you.

The sounds of the cars are pretty much the only enjoyable sounds in the game. My suggestion is to first go to the options and turn off the BGM (Back Ground Music) because it will drive you insane…It’s just generic bass and drum loops that make you want to drill a hole into your head. Just writing about it right now, I can hear that stinking repetitive nonsense in my head…ahhhh!

Replayability

Roads? Those are for wussies

passing replayWell I think it goes without saying, but after over a decade of not touching it, I still had a lot of fun. After playing modern titles like Burnout and Need for Speed, this game is not one I could play day after day. Where games like Mario Kart 64 are timeless classics that I could pop in any time and play for hours, I can’t say I could do the same with Top Gear Rally. Though a trendsetter in its heyday, it’s just not up to par with the classics. If two players is how you roll, then this title could have a lot more of a replay aspect than I’m giving it. Even as kids we really didn’t get into the head to head very often.

Overall

Rally racing…in a nutshell…for your enjoyment

I’ve never played a game quite like Top Gear Rally, where every race begins from the last place against 19 other opponents, and the entire race is a battle to get up to first before the end of the third lap. I still found myself doing the math in my head – “OK I’ve just completed the first lap, I’ve moved from twentieth to fifteenth, and at this pace I will finish in fifth…pick up the pace!“, then it’s on like Donkey Kong to hit every short cut and jump flawlessly and fight my way to first. Even as most racing games offer some level of customization, the MS Paint style of the Paint Shop in Top Gear Rally is something I still haven’t seen to this day. Maybe they could’ve figured out a way to store more than one car on a memory pak, but overall I love the racing style and vehicle customization and handling. If you want a great, long lap, rally game, give this one a shot. You won’t be disappointed.

*FS Rating System*

Gameplay: 8

Story: N/A

Controls: 9

Graphics/Sound: 8

Replayability: 6

Overall: 7.75

Written by Nerd Bacon

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3 Comments

  1. Pingback: Need for Speed Rivals - Xbox One - Nerd Bacon Reviews

  2. I own this game but can’t remember ever playing it. From your pictures, it looks a lot like San Francisco Rush, another Midway Games racing game!

     

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