Colin McRae Rally races onto iOS

The PlayStation classic offers a nostalgic trip through three countries' worth of dirt and dust in four legendary cars.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
2 min read
Colin McRae Rally looks pretty on iOS, especially on Retina-enhanced screens.
Colin McRae Rally looks pretty on iOS, especially on Retina-enhanced screens. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Codemasters' Colin McRae Rally holds a special place in the pantheon of racing games, earning legions of fans for its realistic simulation of breakneck rally racing.

If you're among those fans, or you just like a good high-speed race against the clock, you'll be glad to know Colin McRae Rally is now available for iOS.

CMR is all about off-road sprints, where you're effectively trying to beat the clock in order to unlock additional cars and stages. The game has 30 of the latter but only four cars, and in championship mode you must repeatedly finish "first" (again, based on time) in order to unlock anything other than the Ford Focus.

The stages take place in Australia, Greece, and Corsica, which give you a blend of asphalt, dirt, or both. Obviously your car will handle differently depending on the type of road, which is part of the challenge.

I played CMR on both an iPhone 4S and an iPad 3. Unsurprisingly, the latter afforded a much better experience; racing games and small screens are a poor match, in my humble opinion.

But even on an iPad, the game can prove frustrating owing to control issues, same as with most other racing sims. I found tilt steering nearly impossible to master, especially for power-slides, which are half the fun in a game like this. Things got better when I switched to onscreen steering controls, but I found them oversensitive: Just getting my car to go straight proved difficult. Some assist options would be welcome, even at the expense of some realism.

Because it's inherently a single-player game, there's no multiplayer here, so the only real replay value is beating your own times (though it does include GameCenter support, so you can endeavor to beat others' times as well).

I'll be honest: this kind of racing usually bores me to tears. I like lots of opponents, massive jumps, demolition-derby-style damage, and, if possible, roof-mounted machine guns. (Oh, how I miss you, Interstate '76!)

That said, Colin McRae does employ dynamic damage, showing crumpled fenders, broken glass, and the like. Plus, it definitely improves on its PlayStation-era visuals (the game first appeared in 1999, after all), and offers some great sound effects and voice-over work. And I'll admit that once I got accustomed to the controls, I had fun playing.

Ultimately, this should appeal to folks who have fond memories of the original or anyone who enjoys beat-the-clock off-road racing. Colin McRae Rally for iOS costs $4.99. If you've played it, share your review in the comments.