Long has it been since the days of Nintendo systems being a shoo-in for multiplatform support. As a result, many genres have become rarities on Nintendo’s hardware. This is especially true for racing sims. Minus a handful of Wii titles, there hasn’t been anything of much value since the GameCube era. But finally, that’s changed. The folks over at Kylotonn have somehow managed to deliver V-Rally 4 on the Switch. While it took a few extra months to release, this has turned out to be a feature-for-feature port that’s exceeded my expectations.
I already took an extensive look at V-Rally 4 on PC when it first released back in September. As a result, I was pleasantly surprised when I booted up the Switch edition to find that everything remained intact.
V-Rally 4 includes five different racing disciplines: Rally, V-Rally Cross, Buggy, Extreme-Khana, and Hillclimb. Rally races are time trials along cramped, winding, mostly off-road tracks. V-Rally Cross races are on closed circuits with a mixture of off-road and paved sections. Buggy races are also on closed circuits and are the toughest out of the bunch due to the harsh track design. Extreme-Khana races will have you drifting around tight corners and roundabouts in closed tracks that are built to test cornering abilities. Finally, Hillclimb offers the most extreme sense of speed as you pilot a souped-up racer along twisting mountain pathways at high altitudes.
Each of these disciplines offers a unique racing experience. The driving feels different not only due to the unique vehicles that belong to each category but also due to the terrain changes. Driving on gravel or snow is far more difficult than on tarmac, and that effect has been preserved here in the Switch version. But there is a big catch: The Switch’s controllers were definitely not designed for this.
Simplistic arcade racers are built around the whole mechanic of “pressing gas to go fast.” The Joy-Con and Pro Controller handle that very well. But in a realistic racer like this, they’re more of a liability. This is due to the lack of analog triggers. V-Rally 4 is not an easy game by any means, and it will basically force you to learn how to drive as cautiously and nimbly as possible. Yet that’s pretty much impossible to do with the digital triggers of the Switch’s controllers. As a result, it’s been a struggle to find a good balance. The best method seems to be tapping the triggers to simulate gradual inputs. Sometimes, even simply letting go of the gas for several seconds has worked. This doesn’t feel anywhere near as natural as what I’m used to on PC, but that’s no fault of the game itself. Still, this has lead to many frustrating situations, leading me to become well acquainted with the restart button. Really, it’s made me realize how great the “rewind” feature is in other racing games, and I wish one were present here.
What’s truly frustrating about messing up is that each race affects your bank account. Every bump and scratch adds more to your maintenance bill at the end of every race. So, placing last with heavy damage can sometimes result in you losing money at the end of every race. This is a cutthroat experience that’s exacerbated by the shortcomings of the Switch’s controllers, but this is just something you’ll have to learn to live with.
Just like with the controls, Kylotonn had to make some sacrifices to the presentation. In docked mode, V-Rally 4 doesn’t look half bad. Unsurprisingly, it’s a lot grainier than the PC version, and special visual effects like intense lighting have been very simplified. Yet environments and car models still look really good. The biggest issue is a very obvious “LOD sphere.” As you drive, shadows and object details will be drawn in just a few feet ahead of you. It’s a bit jarring at first, but gradually you get used to it.
Handheld mode is a whole other story. The resolution is definitely below 720p, thus resulting in a very blurry image. Many scenery objects and shadows are also omitted. Still, the most important thing is that the frame rate manages to hold up. It usually stays in the 30FPS range across both modes, but can sometimes drop into the 20s on more complex tracks, particularly in the Buggy races. But this is all to be expected. I’m just happy this is still the same game as what’s on the other platforms, even if it doesn’t look as good.
Despite the sacrifices, V-Rally 4 is still the most detailed racing game on Switch for the time being. It’s difficult but remains a lot of fun. With GRID also on the way, perhaps the racing sim genre is making a real return to Nintendo platforms.
Release Date: Dec. 13, 2018 (Europe), Feb. 5, 2019 (North America)
No. of Players: 1-4 playersCategory: Racing, Simulation
Publisher: BigBen Interactive
A review code was provided by the publisher.