I was curious to get this game having seen such mixed reviews, but I'm glad I did. At its current price, it is a bargain!
Yes, it's true the graphics are dated, but they look great in parts too. Some of the tracks, for example the British ones with wind turbines against grey skies, or the evocative snowy Sweden tracks, give a great sense of atmosphere. There are rough edges; some slightly lame trees, slow draw, and non-detailed textures in backgrounds - but the game plays fast and you hardly notice. And using the pause function during replays shows how smart it looks at times too.
The great thing is, the framerate is excellent. Aside from some minor sideways scroll judder when cornering occasionally, the smoothness converts to realism. Poor framerate spoils a racing sim, just try F1 2010! I'd rather sacrifice some detail for a smooth framerate - and this is indeed smooth.
The handling and physics are good, but it does take practice. Reading reviews by people who've struggled, my guess is they are keeping the throttle on full too much. You have to be sensible and use throttle and brake sensitively. When you do, it suddenly becomes very satisfying, as it is fiendishly and pleasingly difficult - much more a sim than the arcade-like Dirt series. It impressed me how taking the above measures made a lot of difference to the handling; there's some depth to this aspect. It feels gratifying to be careful with brake and accelerator, and find yourself finally staying on the track!
I'm using a Logitech wheel and pedals, which I find superb on many driving games. It plays very well on this, but there's no vibration, only wheel resistance. The game could do with some vibration to convert the feeling of rough surfaces.
Overall, if you like a sim game and have patience, this is a great starting point for 360 rallying. I note they're working on a follow-up for release on Oct 2011, which is great, as there is a lot they can improve on. For now though, this is a fun and challenging rally game, and one which I am enjoying more and more as I get the hang of it.
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