Colin McRae Rally 2005 may look dated on the N-Gage hardware, but playing it reveals a rally racing game as deep as anything on the home consoles. This is a meticulously detailed representation of a rough sport, and even without an analog stick, the precise controls necessary are included. Unless you don't enjoy the style of racing, there's no reason for this title not to find a spot in your portable gaming collection.
Offering a staggering amount of tracks, there's little missing from this racer. The championship mode is the anchor for single player gaming, taking players across a variety of countries and road surfaces. As is the norm, unlocking cars (all of which are licensed) is done by defeating other opponent's time records.
Adjustments are critical given the dangerous nature of the driving, and McRae 2005 offers plenty of customization. As not to leave non-rally fans out, the explanations for each change and why its necessary is always present. These are clear and understood, and make this portion of the game enjoyable. You're under a time constraint, so ensuring you use the one-hour (in game time) properly becomes another layer to the game, and this all before you start driving.
Given the solo style of racing, it's perfect for the N-Gage. With only a single car to process, the pop-up is minimal and the frame rate is steady. Roadside objects are hardly pretty, but they do their job. Each curve is easily seen early enough to prepare a drift (if needed), though the co-driver offers the usual assistance along with on-screen arrow prompts. You'll only be racing other vehicles in Bluetooth multi-player and one-on-one N-Gage Arena challenges.
It only takes a matter of minutes to understand how the controls work. A few changes to the default control scheme may be needed with the hand brakes out of place. After that, you'll forget you're using a d-pad.
A sense of speed is something not usually associated with rally racing. On those straight-aways though, McRae 2005 delivers. You'll know if you're going to fast without looking at the speedometer, and those approaching curves can be terrifying. Crashing reveals extensive damage modeling on the vehicles, and yes, it does affect control if it's bad enough. You'll feel a little extra pull from the weather too, impressive physics from such a tiny system.
To say the N-Gage needed software like this early is an understatement. Sadly, it was a few years too late and the system has long since left gamer's minds. For that hardcore set still playing, Colin McRae Rally 2005 is a necessary software investment.
(**** out of *****)