WRC FIA World Rally Championship: review


  • Format: PS3 (version reviewed), 360, PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Black Bean Games
  • Developer: Milestone
  • Players: 1 – 4 offline (“Hot Seat”), 2 – 16 online
  • Site: http://www.wrcthegame.com/EN-us/index.html

Thanks to the ability to choose your co – driver’s sex, this is Driving With Spouse Simulator for one and all. “Take a left here, then a right.” Okay. “Slow down! We’re coming up to a sharp turn.” Uh – huh. “Watch out for that big puddle.” Yes dear.

Choosing your co – driver’s nationality makes no difference – our male Ugandan cohort still sounds like the British bloke who narrates Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer – but this is soon forgiven in the wealth of authenticity afforded by the license. As this is an official WRC game you get all the official cars, all the official drivers (in name, at least), all the official sponsors and, of course, all the official rallies. You get access to cars from J-WRC, P-WRC, S-WRC, and, er, WRC. The B-WRC cars option is kept behind a picture of a padlock, with the game gleefully telling you that they are available for download separately. Ooh, cheeky.

What will grab your attention sooner and with more force than the license, however, is the presentation; which is very poor. Menus and customisation screens are bare – bones, workmanlike affairs. As for the in – game graphics… no expense spent. This doesn’t look so much like a run – of – the mill PS3 game as it does an impressive PS2 game. Everything’s a little too blocky, and there’s often pop – up in the distance. Sound fares little better; the cars sound not like carefully maintained rally demons, but like enthusiastic washing machines. On the upside whenever you have a particularly bad crash, the scream given by your co – driver at the moment of impact is unintentionally hilarious.

Talking of crashes – you will crash. Oh yes, you will crash. The game can hold your hand to varying extents when it comes to braking and sliding, should you so wish; but turn all the driving assists off and ramp the difficulty up to maximum, and this is nothing less than a hardcore rally simulator. In fact, unless the words ‘professional rally driver’ appear somewhere on your CV (in that order), we strongly advise against even trying to play the game like this. You’ll spin, slide, and crash more than George Michael racing his pink unicorn friend Jonathan home after an interesting night out.

All assists are turned off in these optional training races. Prepare to weep.

Once you’ve found your happy medium with the assists, or if you’re skilled/masochistic enough to snub them all, you can get stuck into the actual racing. You get a choice of perspectives, our one of choice being the superb driver’s – seat view. The fairly cheap looking graphics do at least move with silky smoothness, and at a fair old lick with the more powerful cars. In fact, you’ll rarely notice or care about the technical issues while you’re racing. This is largely due to the concentration that rally racing demands – each track is full of turns and hairpins, and just one mistake can cost you enough precious seconds to miss out on all available points. Thankfully the handling is nigh – on perfect; no matter how bad the crash, you’ll know that the mistake was yours.

You’ll often be forced to adapt your driving style from rally to rally too, as different terrains and road conditions make a huge difference to gameplay (racing a powerful car across a muddy track will make you cry). Snow, tarmac, arid deserts, gravel tracks… depending on your game options and class of car, WRC can offer the most challenging racing experience you’ll ever have come across. For this reason however, watching your standing climb in – game as you finish a particularly good run in a sector can be a real buzz. You’ll swear like a trooper when you crash after gaining half a second, and grin like an idiot when you make another two seconds back.

The meat of the singleplayer is ‘The Road to the WRC’, where you start out as an unknown and slowly make your way up to WRC level. Naturally, you can name your driver, team and car. So yes, you can call yourself Ivor Biggun and drive a car with the license plate W1LLY. Hours of fun there alone. As you’d expect, things get progressively tougher as you encounter the more difficult tracks and more powerful cars. You’ll eventually come up against monstrous championships consisting of up to 13 rallies (the official calendar), which can sometimes be more a test of endurance than anything else. If you want a break from the ‘story’, you can create your own championship or race any rally you like – with all official cars and teams available from the off.

It's rally difficult keeping a grip on this track. Snow joke. *gunshot*

Offline multiplayer is, disappointingly, basically just taking turns. Online, WRC is a strange beast. The poor presentation carries over from the offline modes, resulting in menus and lobbies that can initially be a little confusing. There’s XP and levelling up, but no matchmaking to ensure you play with people of similar skill. In fact, in our second race we found ourselves racing alongside the game’s world number two (he was better than us). You can keep the online races authentic by choosing not to see the other racers – or you can have them on the track with you as ghosts.

Amusing as it was to watch people make mistakes, these people didn’t stay racing for long. There is a lot of rage quitting in this game; it’s rare for a rally to finish with as many players as it started with. The only people to stay to the end of every rally tend to be those who are so good, mediocre players never see them after the first few seconds; their presence on the track thereafter is alluded to but never seen, like God’s.

WRC fans will get their money’s worth here, so long as they can forgive the Poundland presentation. It’s an enjoyable ride for everybody else too – provided they expect a rally experience and nothing more.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He’s the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you’ll find something he’s written in there.

Luke doesn’t have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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