Harley-Davidson: Race to the Rally REVIEW

Harley-Davidson: Race to the Rally Review (PS2)

Harley-Davidson is easily one of the most recognizable names, companies and brands in America – and the world. Seeing the Harley name and logo on a product means something very special to many people. It says that you are getting the best of the best. The company is reportedly very careful about how and where they license their name and image. People spend tens of thousands of dollars to ride a Harley. They pay for the name, because they know the quality that they are going to receive.

Or so I thought.

In 2006, I played over 100 new games on just about every console that is on the market. From sports games, adventure titles and simulations to text-based, card games and even my kid’s educational games, every week I was playing something new. But it took till the very end of December for a game to distinguish itself as the worst game that I’ve played this year. Harley Davidson Race to the Rally has grabbed that not so coveted title.

As skeptical as I was about this title when I received it, I was actually expecting to be surprised. Activision has had an amazing year. Between the Tony Hawk series, Call of Duty, the new Marvel titles and even some sleeper games like Greg Hastings’ Paintball, Activision, to me, was having one of the most consistent years of any developer out there. I figured that with Activision’s track record and the Harley-Davidson stamp of approval, this game might just shock me. And, well, it did. But in the way I had hoped.

In an attempt to not be too tough, let me give you the two things that are good about this game. They might not be enough to sway you towards a purchase, but to each his/her own. First of all, the bike models do look and sound pretty accurate. While I’m not a rider myself, I have been exposed to enough Harley-Davidson’s in my life to tell the difference. The bikes look good and do, for the most part, give off that unique Harley rumble that you can hear coming from a mile away.

The other thing that I am going to mark on the “pro” side is that this title is actually being released under the Activision Value label, which means you’ll find it for $29.99 or less at most retailers. Unfortunately, I think that the price point is not going to be the deciding factor for most people unless you got that $30 gift card from Grandma that you absolutely have to spend on a game after the holidays. Harley fans will likely grab it regardless of cost.

Unfortunately, the rest of the game was below average or worse.

The games main Tour Mode centers on your quest to get to the big rally in Sturgis, South Dakota via a series of “races” in a checkpoint style. Here’s issue #1 - are Harley-Davidson’s really what one would equate with a racing bike? Isn’t one of the major selling points to a Harley that laid back, cruising attitude? Sure, you can get your bike well up over 120mph, but how often do you usually do it? Harley-Davidson Race to the Rally just seemed like an illogical concept from the beginning.

You’ll race through the country including a jaunt of historic Route 66, but the game never seems to get exciting. There is no real sense of speed. No real challenge. And, perhaps most depressing, there’s no real fun to be found. You’ll just kind of putz along through generic repeating scenery. That is, if you can stomach the awfully choppy frame-rate issues that persist throughout the title. They’ve made no real effort to convey any sense of speed or drama. It just does not feel like racing.

The gameplay itself can’t seem to decide what title it wants to fashion itself after. There are completely over-the-top Burnout-style crash sequences that, while amusing, are so far removed from reality and inconsistent in their appearance that they immediately lose their appeal. The collision detection seems so out of whack that it’s hard to not laugh at times. Sometimes your bike will literally just stop. And not when you do something silly like use the brakes or in some other way attempt to stop. Instead of going into a crash animation, you’ll just simply stop. There is a combat system a la the old Road Rash series where you can actually kick other riders off of their hogs, but it seems pointless and out of place.

I know you’re skeptical. I understand that the worst game of the year is a pretty heavy label to place on a game. Others may say, “What do you want for $30?” Well, here’s what people have to remember. If Harley-Davidson was looking to release a game as a marketing tool, they need to realize that other companies are doing it better and cheaper. Burger King jumped into the gaming world and moved a ton of units at $4.00 a piece. I could grab all three BK games and “fries with that” and still walk out spending at least $10 less - and have a better experience - than I did with Harley-Davidson Race to the Rally.

Harley-Davidson: Race to the Rally Score
out of 10