Xpand Rally Xtreme is a sorta sequel to Xtreme Rally, which is surprisingly realistic, yet saddled with a strange "campaign" engine with "car upgrades" cribbed from far more "arcade" titles that distracts from its realistic car handling and decent terrain engine, ending up with a "neither fish nor fowl" that's neither hardcore nor arcade, and really satisfies neither camp.
Driving sims generally comes in three flavors: pure arcade (turn and burn rubber) such as NFS Most Wanted, hardcore sim (rFactor), or semi-hardcore (WRC games, GRID series). Xpand Rally Xtreme (and its predecessor Xtreme Rally) tries to bridge the arcade and semi-hardcore with choice between arcade and simulation modes, but the "campaign" makes little sense as you have to win money and apply money to repairs and upgrades. Upgrading a rally car, hmmm...
Lack of full controller support (i.e. choose menus with controller) makes actually playing less than pleasurable as one must reach for mouse. it also will not auto-detect my standard Xbox360 controller and I had to map inputs manually.
There are no real cars. The car physical models are based on the real cars, and you can recognize the cars. However, the names are changed as not to offend the original owners (i.e. Ford = Cord) and minor body work changed as well. Additional car types are introduced in this game instead of just rally cars, grouped into roughly 4 classes.
The rally courses and events are quite decent and long enough (though none of them are super-long). And the cars do handle realistically as they slide and straighten or react to handbrake turns. Driving model is quite good. On the other hand, the setups that you'd expect for rally games, like front vs. rear rollbar, , suspension settings, etc. are hidden via a LOT of icons and such, when they are there at all. And this is in simulation mode.
Furthermore, you start with a budget. Yes, a budget, 35000, to buy one of the 4 starting cars (approx 33000 or 34000). And you get to upgrade parts like suspension, tires, engine, and so on. For a moment I thought I was playing Flatout, as they involve the same sort of parts: regular shocks, sports shocks, pro shocks, racing shocks, for example.
You may win thousands per race, but you will have to pay to repair the damages, and if you don't finish near the top (1st or 2nd) your winnings may barely pay for the damages, leaving you going nowhere. Furthermore, the idea of upgrading your car in rally, where everybody should be nearly equal, is a bit "hmmmm....".
I wish I can enjoy it a bit more, as I do enjoy rally games, but this game is a bit on the "weird" side.