Just how many Es can you replace with Xes for the title of a video game? Late to the trend of replacing Es with Xes in the title is Xpand Rally Xtreme, a realistic racer that has you competing in off-road rallies and tweaking your car between events. There’s a lot of realism here, car damage affects performance and your driver can get injured bad enough that it will end the event. As real as it is, its still fun, easy to play, challenging and a focused experience. Every turn matters, every ding on your vehicle matters. When your co-pilot announces rocks inside, there are major rocks to mess up your car.
I’ll start with the negatives and you can compare to see if you find them enough to scare you away. The first is this is a race the clock game that has you racing a ghost rather than against real competition. The game is all about your skill to shave seconds off your time through improving yours and your car’s performance rather than playing dirty and wrecking the competition. Other than that, the big negative is a freeze frame split second pause at many junctures through each race. Even with a modern computer that can handle today’s games, this decade old game still flinches and freezes here and there. The load times are long, even when loading cars in the dealership to look at.
You can set the driving to be manual or automatic for the lazy like me. There’s a setting for realistic or arcade, the latter of which gives you trolley controls of forward and reverse rather than the former which forces you to brake, then throw your vehicle into reverse before you can back up. All of these styles play well and you have a respawn button if you stray too far off the beaten path. To add to the realism or arcade fun, there are several different camera angles. Chase, close chase, bumper, hood and even the driver’s seat.
Xpand Rally Xtreme takes place in Asian countries like Malasia, China and Japan across a few different areas. The career has you participating in blocks of events. Ranking bronze, silver or gold in eight car competition unlocks the next set of events. The events consist of typical races against a ghost, time trials, one-on-one races on closed circuit courses that start one of you at the beginning and the other halfway through the track. There’s even a boss fight, which is just a fancy way of saying there’s only enough for first place against a single ghost car.
The tracks look beautiful and have a glow about them all depending on your graphical settings. You’ll tear across dirt, gravel, sand, water and even tarmac or pavement for each event. Areas feel lush with vegetation and I prefer racing in these areas to those with cold concrete covering everything. It just feels more diverse driving over bridges or along coastlines. I say diverse, but the sad thing is racing three events back to back in the same area feels like a bit much. The courses change routes, but that’s about it. They do their best to block off areas with barricades, so by the time you’re out of each set of three events, you’ll be ready to leave. Each course has a few details to make the environment feel more alive such as animals running in the distance or men in red shirts scurrying across the track. If you hit these guys, you respawn with wasted time as punishment. Its tough to even hit them.
The events are meaty enough to get some time investment into them, usually around four to six minutes for the early portion of the game. Terrible drivers will soon feel the bumps and bruises of having a door torn off and having to compensate with your car pulling to one side or the other. Its tough to start losing parts though, because with trees and tape, those make for tough targets to bash into. Its a lot easier to lose parts in races that have walls everywhere.
Each of these races gives you cash to spend and the first thing that you’ll do is repair your vehicle. Damage is real and it’ll cost you, but the choice is yours what to repair and a parentage of just how damaged something is. While everything can be repaired, its the tires that need to be completely replaced. Do you wait until you’re at sixty percent or wait for eighty?
You need to be wise with your tires and you’re given stats on each course how much is tarmac and how much of it is gravel. In fact the game warns you if you’re using the wrong type of tire, but the decision is always up to you. It can be a bit click heavy to go through the menus to get where you need to go and then return back.
These parts all have specifics. I’d normally call them stats, but these are specific numbers and details that you need to look into when tweaking your vehicle. I just go for the more expensive, the better it is approach. There’s just too much here for me, but its here if I want it.
You can visit a dealer in the menu that will sell you new vehicles. Some events require specific vehicles that you’ll need to buy. Every past event can still be played for more cash, so you will have to grind your way up to earn enough money to purchase a new vehicle or just start selling parts.
With everything said, this is a deep game, but more than just the car mechanics. There are a deep set of options. The controls let you rebind keys for everything but the pause menu. You can use a controller with your directional pad or analog stick and even control the dead zone. I went for controlling with the direction pad rather than messing with the dead zone. The only problem here is if you have 360 triggers for your forward and reverse, they are also your up and down in the menu. Otherwise you can always just use the mouse.
You can set to have your co pilot warn you, along with icons of upcoming turns and even how far ahead they tell you what’s coming. There are even performance settings for the ribbon tape physics. There’s always a certain something to being told the direction rather than checking a mini map. It keeps your eyes on the action. If you want to turn off the ghost car, the choice is yours. Xpand Rally Xtreme lets you play the way you want to and I’m happy for that.
For anyone that wants it, there’s online multiplayer and even LAN support, but with this game being so old, the multiplayer has been dead years ago. There’s no split screen either. Heck since you’re the only car on the trail, I wonder how they pull off multiplayer. Seeing ghosts of your friends or just seeing their time through each checkpoint.
At a mere $5 this decade old game is worth a risk for anyone that enjoys realistic racing. There are performance issues that make it a tough recommendation, but the game is still an enjoyable challenge for a cheap price.