Track: The Rally ++
Garage Setting: 1700 med tires/soft suspension
Lap time: 2:59
It's interesting that one of the goals of the Expo 2003 is to draw more people into the world of track making and here we find a track that reminds us of exactly why we held the <a href="http://cownap.com/~mtmg/contests/expo2000/" target="_blank">Expo 2000</a>. The <a href="http://forum.mtm2.com/viewtopic.php?t=1389&highlight=straight" target="_blank">seeds</a> for that bit of fun were described, "We've all seen tracks that have unbearably boring straight sections of unchanging flat terrain, but we've also seen some amazingly fun straights as well, and probably without even realizing it." Now I'm not saying The Rally ++ is unbearable in any way, shape or form, because it's not, but, by the same token, the straight section off the start line pushes the limits of what's acceptable in a long, uneventful straight-a-way. To Tarres' credit, there is a construction area, hills and trees on both sides, a couple intersections, and the large, white structure containing train sections on the left, which will probably draw your attention away from the road, causing you to miss the cut across the lawn en route to checkpoint 1. Still, we wouldn't want it any flatter, and we certainly wouldn't want it any longer than it is. And, yes, though revisiting Expo 2000 was not a scheduled stop for Expo 2003, it certainly never hurts to be reminded what it's all about.
The Rally++ is sort of a train yard, junkyard, construction type of setting in which the industrial atmosphere struggles, and probably loses its fight to overpower the fertile greenery of the surrounding area. The combination of stock and custom textures and models provides diverse driving conditions along an ever changing, always interesting course. And while "Tarres Junkyard" occupies the central portion of the track around which the rest of the course is built, it doubles as a Monster Truck playground in which you can spend considerable time trouncing everything in sight.
Now, before we tell you how much we enjoyed this track, we should probably detail its shortcomings, and there are a few of them. For starters, some checkpoint markers are misnumbered. Most checkpoints are generic, nondescript models that do the job adequately. But the few that are numbered are out of sequence and with the incorrect checkpoint values. The physical marker for checkpoint three (labeled one) doesn't stretch completely across the road, however, it'll trip as it should at any point across the road without having to pass thru the marker. Additionally, checkpoints 4, 5, and 6 will trip just slightly to the left or right of marker poles. The issue here is consistency; they should all possess the same characteristics, and on Rally++, they do not. Lastly, there's nothing necessarily wrong with using different types of checkpoints, but it's easier on the racer, especially on a track this size, to stick to one type of marker. It gives you a consistent landmark to key in on
Next would be a few texture misalignments and blending blemishes. Here
at checkpoint 5 (the checkpoint, not the label) hard-edged seams and in some spots complete tiles are visibly missing. The double lines indicate where he omitted blending the two texture types together, as you see in this photo
. The same thing can be seen here
in this photo taken just before checkpoint 12. This picture
here illustrates where he could have omitted the dark mud texture altogether and simply blended the paved road texture with the dirt texture. Finally, this photo
was taken near the finish line and shows road markings that are improperly aligned. Picky, you say? Yes, but those are the types of visual flaws that do in fact make a difference when assessing a track's overall merit.
Moving on to the underground, conceptually it was a pretty good idea to put in, however, quite frankly the workmanship leaves much to be desired. The road is too wide for the tunnel and the pavement rides up the sides of the walls (also note where we circled where the dividing line is improperly aligned). The solution would be either to use a narrower road or to simply widen the tunnel. Tarres has put in a deliberate shortcut that bypasses the tunnel entirely, so he may have felt there was no need to polish up an area that would see very little traffic. And that may be true, however, we should emphasize that if something is worth doing, then it's probably worth doing right. It could be argued equally strongly that if you don't plan on using it, why put it in at all, or if you do include it, and the fix is easy, then why not take the few moments to fix it up so it looks good no matter which route a driver takes.
Speaking of deliberate shortcuts, this track has about seven un/intentional shortcuts, and this is where the fun really begins. The beauty of Tarres' track design is in the variety of routes one can take to get to same point, and it's a characteristic of this track that exist throughout, immediately after you pass through checkpoint 1. The fact is it'll take quite a few laps to figure out which one you want to use. Some are easy to figure out, however the shorts with multiple options require some margin of trial and error to determine which is best… or best for your style of driving. On top of that, there are an assortment of obstacles and challenges that could trip you up. One judge, who shall remain nameless (Phineus), got so involved in the track he all but forgot about providing input for the review and became obsessed with seeing how low he could get his lap time lol. We're happy to report he's better now. Course, we had a pretty tough time prying the controller out of his hands, but thanks to "sharp shootin legwon" (one of our judges) with his handy-dandy tranquilizer gun, Phin was harmlessly sedated, which made things quite a bit easier lol.
Getting back to Rally++, one could argue that a great deal of the track is wasted due to all the shortcuts, and unless you spend considerable time trying to figure them out, you'll never be competitive on Rally++. Such an argument certainly makes sense when you compare laps times using the shortcuts (2:59) to lap times without using the shortcuts (4:15). In the end, then, despite this track's imperfections (and shortcuts if they're not your cup of tea), it's a fun one to race, and will certainly eat up hours of your time.