Colin McRae Rally is one of those gaming franchises which just seems to have become THE rally title that all others aim to be, and for good reason because the various versions released over the years have largely been excellent. So it's great news for rally fans that it's now available for the PlayStation Portable.
There's absolutely no doubt that the visual splendour of the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of Colin McRae have been expertly ported to the PSP's small screen, and this is obvious from the moment your car becomes visible on screen at the start point of the stage, with the camera panning around revealing a glinting car and your name on the rear side windows alongside that of the co-driver.
It's here though that you'll start to wonder if it's all gone horribly wrong - steering can be controlled with either the direction pad buttons or the analogue nub, and it's much more responsive with the latter, but you'd be forgiven for thinking it's almost too responsive with the car veering left and right as if it's out of control. Fortunately this ability to change direction quickly does soon become second nature and you'll find that it works excellently allowing you to react quickly to kinks in the road and your car getting thrown off course by bumps.
Once you've mastered driving from the default viewpoint it's obvious that you'll want to try out the in car view, and what a stunner it is due to how hugely realistic and satisfying the drivers-eye-view feels - it's particularly well suited to the small wide PSP screen, which itself is of windscreen-like proportions. When you've got less view of what's coming up ahead there's no doubt that the co-drivers pace notes become invaluable, especially if you're not going to smash into trees (bringing down a shower of leaves with it) or simply turn the wrong way and lose yet more vital time.
As with the fullsize console versions you get mud splattered on the windscreen as you go off course or are driving through the non-tarmac stages, whilst extreme weather conditions such as falling snow builds up on the screen, and rain hammers down on the glass in spots before beading off to the side, whilst the windscreen wipers try and keep the view clear, leaving streaks across the glass for a split second just like real rain.
One of the key attractions to the PSP version of Colin McRae Rally is that it's so well suited for short spurts of racing, and the Challenges mode offers just this, with the ability to do single races with a random car and stage selectable at the start of each - a feature sorely missing from Codemasters' other excellent PSP launch title Toca Race Driver 2
A full rally championship and career mode is there for anyone who wants to spend a couple of hours working their way through each and every stage of the world locations, although you'll want to put some practice in before attempting this or you could find reaching the service point to fix damage sustained to your car becomes a necessity more than a nicety.
Damage is well represented, and sees mechanical failures cropping up if you don't treat the car with respect, meaning a worn gearbox soon leads to an overheating engine which sees steam pouring out from under the bonnet, and if you're really unlucky you'll find the engine cuts out, giving you little more hope than to limp home to the finish line at minimal speeds.
One aspect which does need to be mentioned is the strangely large size of the gamesave, at just over 4MB it's going to take up a hefty chunk of the measly 32MB memorystick duo which comes with the PSP Value Pack, meaning you're almost certainly going to want to buy a bigger card if you're nearing capacity due to having other game saves, music and video files - but then, sure you'd already bought a nice big 1GB card for all those?
The only real disappointment could come in the fact that all of the cars and stages are exactly the same as those on the Xbox and PS2 version, meaning for anyone who has already played it on those formats there's really nothing particularly new. Despite this slight worry, Colin McRae Rally 2005 Plus is still an absolutely essential purchase and simply must find a place in every PSP owners collection - buy it, now!Overall score: 9 out of 10
Recommended Price: £34.99
Available: September 1st 2005Buy Colin McRae Rally 2005 for the PlayStation Portable from Amazon