Blast from the past: Hands-on with GeneRally 2’s demo

Curious Chicken Games’ GeneRally 2 has a demo out now on Steam. We offer our opinion on the successor to 2002’s GeneRally.
A blast from the past: Hands-on with GeneRally 2’s demo

2002’s GeneRally was a top-down racing pioneer. Developed by Finnish brothers Hannu and Jukka Räbinä, the game was an internet PvP sensation well before online racing became ubiquitous.

Players shared custom tracks and race replays via dial-up internet thanks to GeneRally’s tiny file sizes. Replays were merged and released by competition administrators, showing the top six fastest players on the track at the same time.

It wasn’t quite the online racing scene we know today but was certainly a precursor to its popularity and competitiveness.

GeneRally is a simple game, featuring cartoony graphics and a top-down perspective of the action. The camera is fixed too, zooming out so players can always see the entirety of the circuit. The game had a powerful track editor too, giving it a near-limitless lifespan.

A sequel was mooted in 2014, with a $20,000 Kickstarter program failing to meet its goal. This seemingly led to the death of the project, until its sudden re-emergence last year under the guidance of Curious Chicken Games.

A demo of an early is available to play now on PC via Steam, and we’ve tested it to offer up our opinion on GeneRally’s much-anticipated sequel.

A blast from the past: Hands-on with GeneRally 2’s demo
Five buttons, ok? You got that?!

Generally old-school

The demo consists of three tracks and just one car, with limited access to the game’s Track Editor. The lone vehicle right now is a four-wheel drive rally car, which can be steered around asphalt, mud and snow-covered circuits against up to seven AI cars.

Races are restricted to three laps, with the action flowing along smoothly (slow-down and lag from earlier versions of GeneRally 2 were not present when I tried the demo). Controls are simple; you can either use the keyboard’s WASD keys to accelerate, brake and turn, or a gamepad’s left and right triggers and analogue stick.

Add in another button to reset your car and that’s your lot. It’s a refreshing change of complexity compared to most other racing games on the market – there’s no MGU-K mapping to worry about here.

The racing is also simplified: just be quicker than your opponents! This isn’t an onerous task at all, since the AI is fairly slow in the demo. Fortunately, this doesn’t detract from the feel of GeneRally 2. Handling is weighty and predictable for the most part, with slides satisfyingly controlled with a dab of opposite lock.

Elevation changes present a bigger challenge, however, as the car reacts – or overreacts in this case – to jumps. Once you get your head around this you naturally alter your line and throttle application to compensate and it’s great fun again, even if these three initial tracks lack a little pizzazz.

I sampled the limited Track Editor too, creating a monstrosity of a track replete with a land-locked boat operating as track furniture. The circuit creation tools are easy to understand and will likely see the same volume of intricate track designs from the game’s passionate community. They’ll certainly be better than my shoddy effort…

A blast from the past: Hands-on with GeneRally 2’s demo
Better than a Tilke-drome at least…

The Ori-Gene of the Species

GeneRally 2 owes its existence to games like Slicks ‘n’ Slide, Super Cars and, of course, Micro Machines. However, modern racers such as Circuit Superstars show there’s still a demand for top-down racing games (OK, Circuit Superstars has a more isometric viewpoint, but you get my drift).

And just like Original Fire Games’ surprise hit GeneRally 2 is set to contain simulation gameplay mechanics. These include pit stops (already present in GeneRally), tyre wear, damage and changeable weather, with proper online multiplayer planned for the full release. (No replay merging required this time!)

Steam Deck verification and Steam Workshop functionality will be added too, with the ability to import tracks from GeneRally and a photo mode also under consideration for v1.0. However, the game will first enter an undetermined period of Steam Early Access, scheduled for ‘Spring 2023’.

A blast from the past: Hands-on with GeneRally 2’s demo
Unleash your inner (miniature) Colin McRae

The GeneRally 2 demo is a promising first look at what we can expect from the full game. It focuses on fast-paced racing with simple controls and intuitive handling, which will surely delight the legions of GeneRally fans hankering after a hit of early-noughties nostalgia.

The demo for GeneRally 2 is available to download from Steam now.

We’ll hopefully have more news on GeneRally 2 in the near future. Meanwhile, what do you think about the game’s tortured development path? Let us know in the comments below.

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