Colin McRae has long been the de facto racing game for the console arena when it comes to rally driving. Over the years a long string of versions has come and gone, and for the most part always an improvement on the last. The latest isn't about to break the rule and tweaks and fine-tunes the game even further, just when you thought that it might have reached its pinnacle.
The biggest change over previous versions is the career mode and rather than playing Colin McRae you play a new rookie learning the ropes with the aim of eventually challenging McRae in a final showdown. The options aren't linear, and you get to choose races and cars depending on your skill set along the way. Don't get us wrong, its nothing ground breaking, but it does give depth to the game a la Gran Turismo style. Win races and you earn points, earn enough and you can unlock more cars and tracks. There are 35 cars and 27 vehicles in all and while Codemasters admit that you'll have played over 50 per cent of the tracks in previous versions there is still plenty to learn and explore.
Gameplay is consistently good, and vehicles react depending on their power and performance. Race in a Subaru for example and you'll have to be well versed in the rally experience to keep it on the road, whereas the VW Polo that you're given at the beginning need little encouragement to keep on the track.
Just as before you will also have manage the state of your car, crash into too many trees and you won't make it through the stages, and with help from the graphics, that have also been given the usual yearly tweaking, the damage is displayed in glorious colours and shades.
To extenuate the damage even further motion blurring has been adopted to give that sense of speed and crowds now wave and cheer as you race past - certainly better than the cardboard cut outs of previous versions. Even more realistic barriers and taped off areas flap in the wind and react as you career into them at high speed.
Failing the career mode the game does offer other elements, most notably Xbox Live support for time trials. Aside from that there are the Challenges (Time Attack, Multiplayer and System Link) and Championship where you can race as Colin McRae to win not surprisingly the Championship.
So is it worth another yearly outlay for the title? Well it is more of the same, but then more of the good same. The tweaking of the vehicles, the graphics, and the tracks certainly makes a good offering. There is nothing ground breaking here that ensures you should drop everything and run to the shops, but if you are a rally fan this will certainly keep you busy for the next couple of months. If you want a challenge lasting longer than that though, the ultra-hardcore Richard Burns Rally is your next level if you tire of this