Codemasters and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Game

Old news is exciting, and Codemasters’ release of Colin McRae Rally HD is something that we should probably take a look at, because it’s the lowest you can sink as a developer.2615476-4200889790-ss_94The Codemasters of Old were known for landmark Playstation titles in the late 1990’s, putting out a series of fantastic simcade tarmac racers with ToCA Touring Cars (later evolving into Pro Race Driver/GRID), and an equally astounding selection of games that forced you to play in the dirt with the Colin McRae Rally series. For a lot of Europeans, these two sets of games got people into auto racing. The McRae titles were released at the height of the McRae/Mäkinen duels of late 1990’s WRC, and the ToCA titles dropped during the golden years of the British Touring Car Championship.

But the landscape of video games changed in a way Codemasters wasn’t entirely prepared for. Forced with adapting to the confusing, often contradicting demands of customers and trends within the industry, the ToCA series evolved into a story-driven jack-of-all-trades racer, rally titles no longer carried the Colin McRae namesake or appealed to hardcore WRC fans, and the newly-acquired F1 license lead to a string of games only marginally better than each of it’s predecessors. By the time 2013 had ended, Codemasters were forced to use a generic demolition derby game with the DiRT name and a GRID sequel that had been stuck in development hell as their two most prominent recent releases.

In the background, mobile games had become increasingly popular among casual gamers, with the average smart phone able to produce a gaming experience a step above the pricey Playstation Portable a decade earlier. To cash in on this new trend, Codemasters quickly built a generic Colin McRae Rally title within the Unity engine and released it during the summer of 2013 for three dollars. I personally dislike mobile gaming altogether, but there’s an audience for it, and they didn’t mind it.

Yet, after this release, the situation over at Codemasters became even more dire as we progressed into 2014. The lack of success from GRID: Autosport meant the team needed something, anything, to keep the cash flow coming so the studio could stay afloat, and ToyBox Turbos, an unlicensed Micro Machines game designed around the original titles that built up the initial reputation of the studio prior to the Playstation simcade era of ToCA and Colin McRae, failed to catch on.

Codemasters believed the solution to the studio’s woes was to port Colin McRae Rally HD, a mobile phone game with four cars and a mere handful of tracks, to the PC, and deliberately mislead people about what was included in the title in order to earn some quick cash. At the time, Steam did not have any sort of refund policy, and the immensely damaged reputation that would inevitably result from this move was seen as a necessary evil to keep the studio afloat.

What followed was sheer outrage. The game was advertised on Steam as an HD Remaster based on content from Colin McRae Rally 2.0. To most people, the description sounded as if Codemasters released a high definition mod for Colin McRae Rally 2.0, regarded by longtime fans as the best game in the series, omitting some of the cars and tracks due to the obvious licensing issues that have risen in the fourteen years since CMR 2.0 had been released.

adIn reality, it was a poor port of a mobile game they sold for three dollars the previous summer:

Fans were rightfully pissed, and loaded the game’s storefront page with negative reviews, until Codemasters began offering refunds, something completely optional as Steam’s refund policy was still several months away from being implemented.

reviewsIs this the shadiest move ever pulled by a professional game development studio? Probably.

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9 thoughts on “Codemasters and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Game

  1. It’s a real shame.

    Besides having fun with the Colin McRae series, I got COUNTLESS hours out of Race Driver 2 and Race Driver 3 online. The single player was meh, but they were great titles for online. DTM and the V8 Supercars were far and away the most popular cars to drive, and there was always great racing to be had. The leader of the team I was on even made a working hotlap recorder for RD2, and the community dove right in.

    I look at what Codemasters has on offer now and I can’t even believe it’s the same company.

    For me it all ended when the RD series gave way to GRID. I know a lot of people loved that game, but for me it never measured up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A bit of nostalgia I guess. GRID is 7 years old.

      IMO the PS2 era was already poor, especially on the rally side. CMR3, 4 and 5 are basically the same game and I didn’t really like how the RD series started the trend of the useless as shit race engineer.

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  2. Generic masters are digging themselves a hole and have been for a while now, i don’t think people are going to put up with it much longer, especially with how bad F1 2015 is, yes they will probably patch it and make it “playable” but thats about it, the core of the game is missing too many features

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  3. Although I really have a terrible dislike for codemasters atm, I tried dirt rally at a friend recently and I grudgingly have to admit that it was damn good.

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  4. I bought it soon after launch on steam fully aware it will gonna be bad (and that it is mobile port, not HD remake, in fact I didn’t know some people were fooled), but still hated it. I wrote a devastating review, which steam was showing on top of the list in my language, criticizing difficulty (or rather, lack of) and ugly deserted scenery. But then I find launching the game again and again, until after 17 hours all championships appeared completed. Tracks became harder, opponents too, enforcing careful damage management. It was fun.
    I replayed CMR 2.0 just to check, and tracks in CMR “mobile” actually are better looking and as much realistic and difficult. But car physics are dumbed down indeed.
    Finally, it’s a fun liitle arcade rally game.

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    1. “Physics are dumbed down” is a serious understatement when it comes to CMR Remastered. There’s pretty much nothing that could be called “car physics”. It’s just a box on wheels that moves in a way that sort of, kinda, reminds you of driving a car.

      And as for the “better looking”…a lot of that is just marginally better textures (some of them) and some cheap effects.

      I’ve made a comparison with the original CMR 2 highlighting (or trying to, at least) when the CMR Remaster atrocity came out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWIWzrobsvM

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  5. To be fair, WRC got real shitty and nobody cared about it anymore. It would’ve made no sense to appeal to hardcore WRC fans because Sebastian Loeb’s Traveling Circus had no fans.

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  6. Why when talking about Codemasters games everybody forgot to talk about FUEL?

    While I liked this game, it was a big fail.

    Like

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