Racing games are the standard that new consoles are judged by. There is no other genre that can really show off the graphical prowess of a new system. Enter Rallisport Challenge, a first party title from Microsoft Game Studios. The game blew people away with scenery like no other game before it. Shame about the slippery controls though. Now we have the sequel that betters the original in practically every regard. Yes, even the graphics. Rallisport Challenge 2 offers up a wide variety of play modes, including much anticipated X-Box Live support. The career mode challenges players in various forms of racing from rally (duh), hill climb, rally cross, ice racing, and the wild crossover. Each of the 90+ courses (some simply do branch off in various areas so the number is not exact) will make an appearance through your career. You'll start in the amateur class and work your way up, unlocking various tracks and cars along the way. Should you not feel like jumping into a career mode, you can jump into any one of the various game modes mentioned above, but only unlocked courses and cars will be available. You can also challenge other players via split screen (2-4) or go all out with the system link (up to 16). X-Box Live support includes tournaments and season play through the XSN service. Playing the first game and then plopping this game in reveals a revelation: The original has some of the slipperiest controls of all time. Most people may not have realized then (I didn't), but playing this new version proves it. The controls are so much tighter, that anyone can pick this game up and play it even if they know nothing about cars (I don't). Taking tight corners still requires skill (as does powersliding), but playing through the amateur ranks should teach you everything you need to know. Thankfully, it is not completely necessary to tweak your car. Car nuts will most likely have a bit more fun (and an easier time on the track) once they have their settings down, but those of us who don't know how to use a clutch will be just fine. The options for tweaking your cars are a bit limited as well, but this is a series that leans toward the arcade style of play anyway. Rallisport really pushes the hardware and really makes a case as to why a next generation of consoles is not needed next year. From the giant forests to the spiraling mountains, everything is modeled with care. The real-time reflection of background objects on the cars is flawless and the lighting easily eclipses that of the first game. Weather effects are jaw dropping, as are the particle effects. This is also a perfect HDTV showcase game. The cars themselves take severe damage and every mistake you made will show through at the finish line. Taking on other cars also provides plenty of opportunity for fantastic damage, though the cars occasionally have flighty physics resembling pinballs more than 1,000 pound super cars. The game's graphics may be the some of the best ever, but the music is not. The grating techno music never seems appropriate and can kill your concentration. Thankfully, the custom soundtrack option the X-Box is so well known for can be used here during the races, though not on the initial menu (not a problem since your only there for seconds at a time). Your co-driver comes through nice and clear however, offering up sound advice on upcoming hazards. The full 5.1 Surround support really livens things up as well. The rain effect is particularly special. This is a series that will likely be with us for some time. Those who prefer deeper sims will likely be more happy with the latest edition of the Colin McRae series (bargain priced at $19.99 which is a steal), but those of us who just want to hit the track and win a few races will be better off staying right here. Your hardware will certainly receive a workout and it will likely take quite some time until the career mode is completely finished and everything has been unlocked. This is a must own for racing fans.