Home > Uncategorized > Chronological Game Reviews – Colin McRae Rally 2 / Fur Fighters

Chronological Game Reviews – Colin McRae Rally 2 / Fur Fighters

September 8, 2016 Leave a comment Go to comments

In this week’s update we’re going to look at two less-appreciated video games from 2000. Not much else to say beyond that, so let’s just get on with it!

Colin McRae Rally 2.0
Publisher: Codemasters | Developer: Codemasters | Released: June 3, 2000 (EU)
Original System: PlayStation
Played on: PS2/3 (original PS1 disc)

Goal: Beat Championship Mode

Actual Outcome: Came 4th in the Championship

The PS1 era was a funny time for me. As well as genres that still interest me to this day, I also loved racing games and always wanted the new ones whenever they arrived. A particular favourite was the Colin McRae series of rally games, which we’ve touched on when I looked back on the first game. And yes, I had several of them, as evidenced by the second one popping up here.

It’s also incredibly difficult to review this on account of it being largely the same thing as the first game. It’s a semi-realistic while also semi-arcade rally game where you race against time not opponents, but your times determine your ranking against opponents who also run the stages, just like the real thing.

Colin McRae Rally 2.0 does so little different to the first that it makes me wonder why they bothered. Of course, the new stages add some new variety, and in those pre-DLC days this was the only way to provide new stages, but these new areas don’t feel as interesting as those in the first game. While the previous title featured a ton of memorable areas that buried themselves somewhere in my brain despite the years, no such nostalgic memories emerged during 2.0.

This less-interesting stage design is also backed up with a more minimalist menu design that gets a little too clinical for my liking. The original game’s pit, which presented itself as a display on a screen in a garage, felt livelier and more representative, while 2.0 features your car sitting in a grey void while all the menu options look like a corporate PowerPoint. As such, the game feels less gritty and a little far from the spirit of the motorsport.

That said, the lack of innovation in the gameplay is no bad thing. The game is still a great bit of knockabout fun, just like the original. It doesn’t innovate partly because there wasn’t much to change about the real sport, but also because the original game just…worked. There were no severe issues to the first game that I could object to, and altering that drastically could have spoiled the fun.

There is one major change though, but it’s one that’s very welcome. While the first game’s navigator informed you about upcoming corners by ranking them by severity, it was often hard to gauge what the numbers meant. A 1 could often be taken at full-speed, and a 5 was practically 90 degrees or more, but in between it felt like guesswork. 2.0 shakes that off by instead having the numbers represent a suggested gear – 1 is a sharp turn so slow right down, while 5 is top speed – so while it takes some adjustment to reverse the meaning of the numbers, once it’s in your head it feels a lot more intuitive.

Colin McRae Rally 2.0 is a fine game, but the problem is that it all feels a bit pointless when the first game also exists. It feels very much like a way to drive around new tracks, but doesn’t feel essential in the same way the first one did.

Fur Fighters: Viggo’s Revenge
Publisher: Acclaim | Developer: Bizarre Creations | Released: June 23, 2000 (Dreamcast release, EU)
Original System: Dreamcast
Played on: PS2

Goal: Find all the little babies and defeat General Viggo

Actual Outcome: Saved all the babies!

So this is a weird one that probably isn’t all that well-remembered. Hell, I can’t even remember where I heard of it in the early days of the PS2, where it was later ported from the Dreamcast. It’s also a game that’s probably not going to see much of resurgence as both publisher and developer no longer exist and it’s not clear where the rights lie anymore.

But Fur Fighters is certainly a game worth looking at, as it’s a bit of a forgotten gem. It’s a third-person shooter title which used early cel-shading techniques to its full advantage, presenting a cartoony cast of characters in a slightly silly world heavily inspired by pop culture. You play a six-person team known as the Fur Fighters, who work to battle the evil General Viggo. Each member of the Fur Fighters is an animal and you must use each one in every level, using their unique abilities to progress.

The team is led by Roofus, a dog whose special skill is digging in specific locations to reach new areas. Rico is a penguin whose special skill is swimming underwater, as the other team members can merely doggypaddle. Bungalow is a confused kangaroo who can jump higher than the other team members. Chang is a red panda whose small size allows him to enter vents and other inaccessible areas. Juliette is a cat who can use her claws to climb specific surfaces. And finally, there’s Tweek, a baby dragon who can glide and certainly didn’t have his entire concept swiped liberally from Spyro.

You move through levels switching between these characters at teleport points in order to rescue the team babies and shut down Viggo’s schemes, which range from taking over New York to using a space station to do…something. His schemes are never really explained but allow the team to travel to a range of locations – the aforementioned New York and space locations, a woodland area where a dam is being built, an ancient temple that leads to a spooky dimension known only as “The Bad Place”, a world ruled by gigantic dinosaurs, and finally Viggo’s ship base.

The game is a lot of fun, with a highly responsive control system making combat a lot of fun as you battle crowds of stupid bears (they are literally called “Stupid Bears” in-game) to move through fairly large levels. This shooter gameplay is balanced with puzzles and challenges that require brainpower as well as the team’s unique abilities. Whether you’re challenged to rescue a baby trapped in a dynamite warehouse (meaning you can’t shoot), or dismantling modern art sculptures to make new routes, Fur Fighters consistently surprises with its level design.

Graphically, the game is gorgeous and holds up well today, as many cel-shaded games tend to do, favouring bold character designs over realism. The designs of the characters have a weird angular cartooniness to them that veers away from cute but never leans into terrifying. There are also some cool touches like the amount of gore flying around, but the twist is that the characters are all living stuffed toys, so the gore is all clouds of fluff rather than blood. This particular design choice also culminates in a rather clever Shining shoutout in a later level that I always smile about when I remember it (if you’ve seen The Shining, you can probably guess what happens).

There are some small issues with Fur Fighters, however. Since twin-stick shooter controls were still in their infancy at the time, they’re reversed from what we’d expect today, with character movement on the right stick and the left stick controlling aiming, so this can take some getting used to, while some level design choices can be a little awkward, with some of the jumping sections getting a little bit frustrating.

There’s also something a little cringeworthy in the game’s reliance on pop culture jokes to sustain its humour. The presence of a xenomorph boss who gets replaced by a lawyer threatening to kill you over copyright infringement is worthy of an eye roll (especially as the resulting “boss” is little more than a bullet sponge version of a standard enemy), and the reversal of the Blofeld and his white cat through Viggo and his pet “Blofeld” is mildly amusing the first time you see it, but they keep using it and it becomes a little tired.

But outside of this, the game is charming, and it’s a shame it never took off, as there is a hugely enjoyable action adventure meets third-person shooter here.

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