Rally Championship Xtreme

I don't wish to sound socially irresponsible, but driving fast is good fun, provided it is done in the safety of your own home on your PC.

Rally Championship Xtreme, a game so extreme it's not even spelled correctly, breaks all the rules about driving, and the only way you're going to be any good at it is by doing the same. Forget everything your driving instructor told you, and don't worry about the mirrors and signals - just manoeuvre, and be quick about it.

And there's more. As if trying to keep an incredibly fast and nervous car on a narrow and bumpy track isn't hard enough, you'll have to listen carefully to the seemingly meaningless tosh your co-driver shouts at you if you want to know what's around the next corner.

Unless you have mastered the art of keeping these cars under control, the pace notes are going to be about as much help to you as a hot cup of coffee between your knees. Then again, at least you have someone to shout at when you barrel roll your vehicle into a loch (even if it isn't their fault, as they gave you plenty of warning about the approaching hairpin bend).

Rally Championship Xtreme certainly isn't for learner drivers.

It took me longer than an elephant's gestation period to get through the first rally, which is as it should be. If you lose patience easily with a game then you might find this a little frustrating, but this game can be rewarding if you persevere. Watching the action replays is fun, although I'd prefer it if you could choose the camera angle for yourself. You get all sorts of random shots, varying between great bumper-cam footage to shots of the driver driving and the co-driver staring at his notes, looking disturbingly like a corpse strapped into the passenger seat.

You can play this game over a LAN (local area network) or even on the Internet, but I personally wouldn't dream of trying to compete against anyone on the Web for fear of being shown up by someone half my age who has far too much time on their hands to practise their handbrake turns and Scandinavian flicks. Unlike some of the other rally games on the market, this game only gives you the option to drive the stages against the clock like a real rally. It's not for you if you want bumper-to-bumper action.

Crashes can be pretty spectacular and the realistic car damage gives this game an edge over many others in this genre. There are some nice touches in Rally Championship Xtreme, too - the backgrounds are superbly detailed and, if you have time to look at the sky or if you accidentally point your car in that direction, you might notice a hang glider or two as well. If you want to pretend to be Richard Burns you will have a job finding a game you'll enjoy more than this one.

Publisher: Actualize.

Developer: Warthog Entertainment Software.

URL: www.rallychampionshipxtreme.com.

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