Richard Burns Rally: 20 Years Of Rally Heaven


Richard Burns Rally turns 20 at the start of July. With a title that has had such a monumental impact on the world of rallying in sim racing, what better way to look back at where the title started before the mods came into play...

Richard Burns Rally was born out of the ambition of then WRC star Richard Burns to try and beat out Colin McRae's series of rally video games. Released in 2004, just before 'Colin Mcrae Rally 04', the game received mixed reviews. On the title's 20th anniversary, here is the story of Richard Burns Rally and the man behind it all.

Who was Richard Burns?​

Some of the younger sim racers might not have heard of Richard Burns as a person before. He is one of the most iconic names in the world of rallying. Burns would win the 2001 World Rally Championship with his beloved Subaru team before, after a few more years of hard-fought competition, would sadly pass away.

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Richard Burns, Rally Finland 2001. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Pasi Piesanen

On November 25th, 2005, four years to the day of his only WRC championship win, Burns passed away after being in a coma for multiple days following a late-stage brain tumor discovery. Burns will always be remembered for being a fierce competitor and his friendly nature to those who knew him.

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Casual Players vs Sim Racers​

Burns' lasting legacy is not only his name in the WRC record books, but also the rally sim bearing his name. When it released, the level of simulation scared a lot of the more casual player base and even led to GameRadar stating that “unless you're really, really into rally games, it's simply too unfriendly to be any fun.”

So Richard Burns Rally was too unfriendly for your average casual racing game player. But what about those who were really, really into rally games?

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Richard Burns' Subaru Impreza WRX

What made Richard Burns Rally's handling so unapproachable for the more casual user base was how well-designed it was. It shot itself in the foot with its technology unfortunately, alienating the large majority of users just on a keyboard. To this day, many consider RBR to be the most realistic rally sim out there.

Colin McRae's rally series was easily playable with a keyboard and the console versions were also much more optimised for the controllers of the time. This was before steering wheels and pedal sets were commonplace in racing games, or at least not at a level of quality that would be considered decent today.

In an interview with GameReactor Eero Piitulainen, Physics Lead at developer Warthog Sweden, reminisced about how frustrating it was to see the ratings come in from game reviewers who completely missed the point of Richard Burns Rally.

"For me, the commercial part was largely unimportant. I remember that I didn't really care about that, but rather just wanted to get as close to reality as possible. But of course... It was very, very difficult and I remember Sci not really understanding that we were simulating reality closer and more faithfully realistic than any other game. "

Besides the driving physics, Richard Burns Rally did not offer too much besides the physics engine. No career mode, no multiplayer and crucially, no real progression. It was just a rally sim with eight cars and 36 stages across 8 locations in its base form.

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Richard Burns Rally base game car list.

Richard Burns Rally was not just a PC release as of course, the title was also released on the original Xbox and the PlayStation 2. Both versions are very similar to the PC version, with the only differences appearing to be slightly better graphics on PC and that the two patches that came out for the title only applied to the PC version.

The latter released throughout 2004 and fixed a whole host of small bugs and texture problems. No new content was part of the patches.

Mods​

Why Let's address the elephant in the room... mods. Richard Burns Rally is alive and kicking today thanks to an army of an incredibly dedicated team of modders and their community. The scope of the community dedication to Richard Burns Rally is quite simply astronomical.

There are thousands of user-made stages available, thousands of rally cars ranging from the 50s and 60s right up to the modern WRC equipment, all in a game from 2004.

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A selection of 2023 online rallies were available for anyone to join.

It is not just the stages and cars, however. The physics have received an enormous update to keep them as realistic and punishing as they ever were, but capable on modern hardware. It is a match made in heaven provided by the community.

The co-driver calls were set up as Richard Burns had them himself. You would hear 'easy left' and 'tight right' as opposed to the more conventional '6 left' and '2 right' calls, for example. This can all be changed around to your liking with the custom pace note editor though, or you can download pace note packs that do all the heavy lifting for you.

One more note on the modding side of Richard Burns Rally, the online capabilities are quite frankly staggering. Compared to DiRT Rally 2 and EA Sports WRC, it more than holds its own with rallies taking place over multiple days with thousands of players taking part every day. The big event each year is the Sim Rally Masters. This is certainly one to look out for as a lot of famous faces within sim racing often take to the stages.

There is no doubt: The modding side of Richard Burns Rally is what has kept this title alive. Sound familiar? Assetto Corsa is another example for this, of course. In RBR's case, the base game is fairly uninspiring from a content point of view, but remember this game came out in 2004. Despite the negative reviews of it being too user un-friendly, the base game has a charm around how simple it is, and the modding aspect can get very overwhelming.

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If you are interested in a guide for how to get up and running in Richard Burns Rally, head over to the OverTake Youtube channel and make sure to watch our 'How to get started' video!

So, is Richard Burns Rally the standout rally game without mods? Not compared to the modded versions. But twenty years on it does still have that imposing physics engine and is worth trying without all of the user-created stages and cars first. The mods and stages are all excellent, but sometimes it is good to remember the game that you are playing and where it all started - especially because such an iconic rally driver is attached to the game.

Have you played the 20-year-old rally sim? Let us know your favorite Richard Burns Rally memories and what you love about the game on Twitter @OverTake_gg or down in the comments below!
About author
Connor Minniss
Website Content Editor & Motorsport Photographer aiming to bring you the best of the best within the world of sim racing.

Comments

I only hear good things about this game. Minus graphics perhaps. Will have to try it sometime, especially it’s free AFAIK.
 
I only hear good things about this game. Minus graphics perhaps. Will have to try it sometime, especially it’s free AFAIK.
By nowadays standards, it's a PITA to get and setup. But if you are into rally and serious racing games, there is simply nothing like it and has no competition on what it does.

There are other good sims that have some rallying. There are games simulating rally in a light-hearted way. But serious full blown rally sim? Only one, and unless BeamNG or AC manage to introduce proper rally rules somehow, RBR will continue to be alone.
 
The only and true ever sim rally game. Still today is unbeatable and it will be forever in my opinion because we rally purists are few compared to the circuit and road racing mass...
 
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Fantastic article Connor:)

I do remember having the RBR vanilla Sim on my PC many moons ago but at that stage there were so many updates and downloads to make it up to date I decided not to continue with it:(...and at that stage 'Dirt Rally' came out.
 
By nowadays standards, it's a PITA to get and setup. But if you are into rally and serious racing games, there is simply nothing like it and has no competition on what it does.

There are other good sims that have some rallying. There are games simulating rally in a light-hearted way. But serious full blown rally sim? Only one, and unless BeamNG or AC manage to introduce proper rally rules somehow, RBR will continue to be alone.
Honestly I felt like it was a PITA when I started playing the modded game (back in 2012 or so) with the French mod (Rallyesim). But after some years away from the game due to Rallyesim not updating so yearly as it did at first, I decied to switch to the Hungarian mod (Rallysimfans) and... It's just so easy to get it set up and, well, to do almost everything, it's just great really.
 
I might have to try this. It may be a PITA, but I still run NR2003 (gotta have my Modifieds!), so I can probably manage. I like to tinker. And on days that I don't feel like tinkering, there's ACC, AMS2, and others. RBR sounds like it's worth doing some tinkering.
 
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With rallysimfans plugin it becomes even more unique. I am glad I finally managed to get through all the setting up and tinkering, because after that I have been playing from time to time for few years and online rally with all the realistic rules is whole other experience.
 
There was one big difference in the releases. PS2 version for the JP market had a mode that no other release had, because it was finished last and they had time to implement the mode. The mode was "Arcade physics" and you indeed had the choice to switch between the sim physics we all know and love and the arcade physics for your average player. But as the PC release was first in line, they didn't have time to fully develop it yet, so it only is in the PS2 release for Japan.

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Rbr is fantastic! I'm also looking forward to the day the ol' so cringe trend of pointing at nothing thumbnails dies off
 
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RBR was one steep learning curve for me... had to ease up all that toil with some Mulligatawny soup sometimes... :coffee:
 
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I think it's worth adding that RBR is one of the better-looking sim in VR today, especially if you like clarity (like e.g. in iracing)
 

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