Colin McRae Rally is a classic (some would even say "legendary") racing game. So when gamers saw a game claiming to be a "remastered for HD" version of it pop up on Steam, they were ecstatic. Then they got an unpleasant surprise.
As players quickly discovered, Colin McRae Rally on Steam is not a graphically updated version of a 1998 PC and PlayStation One classic, nor is it a new take on Colin McRae Rally 2.0, which its Steam page claims it's "based on content" from. On the upside, getting the raw end of this particular deal only cost buyers $6.99, but much to their chagrin they got a none-too-pretty port of a mobile game for their troubles.
And yet, the Steam page is littered with signage like:
"COLIN MCRAE RALLY – THE CLASSIC RALLY EXPERIENCE RACES ONTO PC"
"From the developers of the multi-million selling franchise and based on content from the 90% Metacritic rated Colin McRae Rally 2.0, Colin McRae Rally for Windows PC features THIRTY amazing rally stages with a combined distance of over 130km."
Noticeable omissions from this version (relative to the classics)? Car customization, nuanced physics and car handling, many cars and stages, and menus that have any business being on non-mobile platforms—among other things.
Here's the thing, though: I wouldn't venture so far as to say this is false advertising. Nowhere on the page does it flat-out say, "This is an HD update of the classic Colin McRae games you know, love, and dream of every time you lay your head to rest on the engine-themed pillow in your rally-car-shaped bed each night." Instead, it merely claims to be an HD remaster of something. Technically speaking, the clues to what this game actually is are all there. You just have to know to look for them: between the lines.
That strikes me as distressingly disingenuous. Is it false advertising, though? A slimy, sizzling oil slick of a lie? No. Not exactly.
That hasn't stopped a lot of gamers from feeling misled. Steam's forums, especially, are abuzz with outrage. When the game's store listing first went up, they said things like this:
But then people got their hands on it and quickly changed their tunes:
It wasn't just the Steam forums either. People were also quite surprised on monolithic gaming forum NeoGAF:
Popular YouTuber Nerd³, meanwhile, had some rather pointed words to place right in front of the game's flagging tires.
So it's all kind of a hot mess. Here's the problem, though: while this new Colin McRae Rally may not hold a candle to the classics, it's not a terrible game. Yeah, people came in expecting something else thanks to terribly vague advertising, but taken on its own merits the game is merely mediocre, with a price tag to match.
Some players are even digging it:
Meanwhile, one of the game's developers at least tried to clear things up on NeoGAF while handing out free copies of the game:
So here we are, in a murky gray area where it's tough to know exactly how to feel or react.
I've reached out to publisher Codemasters for comment on both the situation and whether or not they'll alter the Steam page to more accurately reflect what this version of Colin McRae contains, but they've yet to reply. I'll update this post accordingly when or if they do.
Update: Codemasters has changed the game's Steam page to read: "From the developers of the multi-million selling franchise and based on content from the 90% Metacritic rated Colin McRae Rally 2.0, Colin McRae Rally for Windows PC features all the tracks and cars from last year's top selling mobile title with THIRTY amazing rally stages with a combined distance of over 130km." Still kinda icky and unclear, but at least now it mentions the mobile game. That's something.
Update 2: Codemasters is now offering refunds on the Steam version of Colin McRae Rally until August 19th. Read how to take advantage of the offer here.