I wanted to start with this game because it's a perfect example of why I want to start this blog. V Rally 4 is free for the month of May with Xbox Live Gold, making it incredibly accessible for even the most casual gamer. I'm writing this to let you know whether its worth spending your hard earned free time on or not, before you even start the download (Spoiler Alert: It's not).
V Rally 4 is free, but is it worth your time?
I'll review V Rally 4 in three areas: Gameplay, Visuals, and Mechanics. Starting with
There are 5 different modes to play on. These include head to head races (called V rally mode), regular rally racing, hill climbs, buggy races, and "Extreme Khana". Each mode requires specific cars that must be bought with funds won from other races. Judging by how every achievement outside of the two starting modes (V Rally or regular rally), is a rare achievement on Xbox, most players do not even play long enough to unlock these modes. Why is that? Because the gameplay is repetitive and lacks direction. There is no clear progression system and the game doesn't make it clear why you are racing. When I started, I assumed some championships would appear with a glide path of how to get to them, but it doesn't work that way. You do single races, then 2-4 race tournaments, and so on until eventually you're the world champion. There never seems to be a reason to keep racing, except for getting enough money to pay your crew and get new cars. Additionally, the races are in the same regions for each mode so you very quickly start to do the same map, over and over again.
V Rally 4 is what you should expect from a modern rally game. It clearly wasn't a high budget game that shocked anyone, but it's no visual slouch either. Some of the more interesting visual aspects are the Day-Night cycle that means that you do nighttime racing with headlights as your only source of illumination. Dust and dirt kicks up fairly realistically around you when you cruise down back roads. The only thing I felt was lacking visually, was that there is no driver avatar in the car. It's a small detail but it makes it feel weird when you don't see anyone in your car as you're driving it. Because of this, first person view consists of a wheel turning by itself. Overall, it's a pretty game to look at, but nothing spectacular.
Fairly standard graphics for a racing game
This is another area where V Rally 4 falls flat. Racing is hard in this game. That's not a bad thing, but it is something to be aware of. you will need to take time to learn how to drive well. The cars in each mode drive very differently and they each need to be learned, making each mode another time commitment. There are also mechanics in the game that are downright impossible to overcome, mostly because the game is trying to walk the line between being an arcade racer and a sim and failing. You have to use your race earnings to pay your employees and buy new cars, but the AI is so inconsistent that you are just as likely to lose money on a race as you are to win. Couple this with having just bought a new car to try out a new game mode, along with the steep learning curve, and suddenly you're broke and having to fire employees. This whole process just doesn't feel fully developed and thought out, and makes the game less of an enjoyable experience and more of a slog.
Overall, this game is ruined by its lack of direction and lackluster gameplay. I don't recommend that you spend much, if any, time on it, and I certainly would never spend money on it. Even though it's nice to look at and challenging to master, it isn't fun enough of a game to be worth overcoming the steep learning curve. If you're trying to play a cheap rally game, I'd look into getting a used copy of DIRT. or even an older Forza game. These provide much more direction and make you feel more rewarded for playing.