The GRiGaroons have been hitting Rally hard in the past two months. We’re time attacking the Championship mode in a borderline obsessive frenzy (for me at least) and it’s taken us places.
Because when you go this deep into a game you find the serious, hidden treasure. Some of it’s gameplay, some of it’s nostalgia, some of it’s pure, existential epiphany. And it’s all revealed below for your very-much wish fulfilment!
Number ONE. No game understands mud like Sega Rally.
And that’s a BIG claim. Because mud IS rally. It’s the USP. It’s the raison d’etre. It’s what makes the IRL sport exciting and what makes the rally game mechanics so deeply satisfying. And no racer does mud like Sega Rally. Its slides are aggressive, its racing lines link and weave through multiple corners, and its slippiest, most uncontrollable sections still demand a precise, wall-hugging drift even as the car is desperate to slam across the track. It’s a genius not matched at the time, or since. Fact.
Number TWOOOOOOO. You probably weren’t as good as you remember…
This is a cold reality all retro players must face: the game seems harder now that I’m old than back in the 90s. And, in a retro-cruelty double whammy, YouTube and Twitch have made it crystal clear how incredibly far off the pace I’ve always been. I always fancied my Sega Rally skills back in my yoof but it turns out my 25 years of gameplay have elevated me only one notch: to the rank of Semi-Noob. It’s time to look in the mirror, old man – and, dear reader, you probably need to ask some tough questions, too…
Numero TROIS: Track Design is EVERYTHING
A disclaimer: nothing makes me more cross than Gran Turismo. I know I’m shouting at the tide, I know it’s sold gajillions, I know it broke new ground yaddy yadda. But for me, it was the advent of style over substance and I humbly suggest the endless, gruelling tarmac of its fun-starved raceways are a tragic metaphor for the soulless content that mega-powered consoles have brought us so many times since. You’re entitled to love it but, I’m sorry, it’s just not fun.
You know what is fun? The intricately-designed, free-flowing, genius of Sega Rally‘s triple-header (but not Lakeside. @#!$ you Lakeside!) Rally‘s main three tracks are at once instantly playable but endlessly challenging: every playthrough is different, every corner has character, every track has a million different strategies. And, after a while, you start to see something that only the very elite games have: craft. You reveal the time, thought, and soul that went into making these courses work at every level from the beginner to expert and how everything is so precisely thought out to ensure you enjoy it. It’s artistry, it’s craftsmanship, and it’s genius. It really is.
Item No. 4 (b) in the GRiG Regional Council Meeting February Agenda: Saturns don’t like being endlessly reset
Look, I’m not immune to a rage quit. And all the above is great but it does mean I restart about fifty times before getting through a Championship run. And sadly, so far this year I’ve put one Saturn in the repair shop and my backup is sounding ropey, refusing to play the music, and groaning like a banshee with a migraine. Rally is kind of to blame, so either I need either to git gud or get a third machine…
Number 5 Is Alive! And also, the 2nd gen Saturn pad is awesome
I love the second gen Saturn pad almost as much as Rally. And wonder of wonders, after two months of gaming, I love the RetroBit wireless version almost as much as the OG. Consider this a plug – it’s a gem.
Grab A Snickers, Grab A Twix, This Final Point is Number Six! And baby, it’s deep.
Because, rage-quits aside, I’ve found a new resilience in this run at Rally. I’m not a completionist, a 100%-er, or even particularly bothered about getting to the end of a title as long as it’s fun – but, somewhere in this Championship challenge, I’ve realised the joy that’s found in committing to a game. Taking the time to explore it – to understand it – is hugely satisfying. I still don’t go for the masochism fetish that says you’re not a gamer unless you overcome the superhard mode but I do now get why a pain barrier is necessary in a game. And it’s not a blockade to bash your head against: it’s a finishing line to run through, triumphantly, gloriously, with every little bit of hard-won progress.
(I’m still quite shit at Sega Rally, though.)