- Format: Xbox One (version reviewed), PC, PS4
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: pqube
- Developer: Milestone S.r.l.
- Players: 1 (offline) and online multiplayer
- Site: http://sebastienloebrallyevo.com
- Game disc provided by the publisher
There have been racing games for about as long as there have been games of any kind. Nowadays, they tend to be split into two categories; (a) tedious “cool” racers full of characters that middle-aged executives think young people like, and (b) simulators that aim to look and feel as realistic as possible. Sébastien Loeb Rally Evo is however a rally game (as the name indeed hints at), and therefore stands out from the crowd by default. Rally titles are still surprisingly few and far between. It’s closer to the realistic side of things as you might expect, but it doesn’t get a free pass just because it doesn’t have a lot of comparable competition. Is it a good rally game?
Given that there’s no PS3 or 360 version of this, you may be surprised (and disappointed) to learn that it looks like a PS3 or 360 title. Middling graphics on a game exclusive to the most powerful consoles is usually a warning sign of a shoddy game. While there’s clearly a limited budget at work here, though, there is absolutely no doubt that Milestone have worked extremely hard to squeeze every last penny’s worth out of it.
One of the main points where rally games differ from other racers is that there’s no consistency of road surface, and that’s certainly the case here. The WRC license may be held by another company, but that doesn’t hold this game back at all. Not only are there a variety of surfaces to thunder over (and basically, anything but dry tarmac will see you wrestling with the car if you’re trying for the best time you can), the tracks themselves have been recreated as carefully as possible; “scanned”, in fact, if the press release is to be believed. Although very few of us at CG are professional rally drivers, it’s clear to us that these routes are like real roads; humps and bumps that aren’t meant to be taken at speed, inappropiately steep corners, frustratingly narrow sections of track, trees that jump in front of you… well, that’s how it seemed sometimes, anyway.
Whichever car you’re driving, most of the time it’ll sound like an irritated lawnmower. It won’t feel like one though, and the more powerful the car (of which there are many, all licensed, with optional damage), the more noticeable the difference. The gulf between the piddly thing you get to begin with and the powerful beasts at the top end of the scale is immense. Roaring down a track in the most powerful cars, against the clock and through a tight and unforgiving course, is a tense and thrilling experience.
Turn all the assists off, and if you’re anything less than an actual rally driver, you’re going to struggle. You can even fiddle with a load of intimidating tuning options before each race; if you’re a petrolhead and you don’t mind unfriendly terrain, you’ll be in heaven here. Ignoring all the tuning completely and ramping all the assists up in a terrified panic is a perfectly valid option, but you’ll still find yourself challenged more than in most car games. Turning on the racing line is a great way to learn the tracks, but is absolutely not a guarantee of success.
You may well associate rally games with racing through the wilderness without any sign of another automobile, and that’s certainly the case most of the time here. There are also rallycross events however, which if you don’t know basically means racing against other cars in specially designed tracks. The game remains tough as ever here, but that also means that emerging victorious is all the more satisfying. There’s an online mode… but, playing it previous to release, we found it literally impossible to find anybody to play with.
Besides the career mode, where you aim to join Sébastien Loeb himself, there are ‘Loeb Events’ and the ‘Loeb Experience’. Supported by mini interviews with the man himself found elsewhere in the game, each one of these events gives you a specific car and track combo to recreate a highlight or important event of his career. It’s a great idea, and adds gigantic dollops of appeal for Sébastien Loeb fans; but you don’t need to be a fan to appreciate the extra content.
As seems to be the law when designing a racing game nowadays, there’s a rewind feature which allows you to undo any mistakes. Purists may baulk and splutter at the idea, but it’s not compulsory and will be welcomed by many. The length of time you can rewind is limited however and, even worse, there’s a significant delay of several seconds between each use of the feature. What this means in practical terms is that, sometimes, you’ll find that you’ve crashed or made a mistake in some way that you can’t undo. It’s easy to say “git gud”, but the whole point of a rewind feature is to bypass any and every such event should you so wish.
We encountered a few frame rate blips, but these represented less than one percent of our time with the game, and each time lasted only a second or so. Of more concern were the two occasions, on two different tracks, where we somehow managed to crash so spectacularly that our car landed on its side. The problem was that it’s not possible to right your car when this happens, and for some reason the game’s reset-to-track mechanic never kicked in. The aforementioned rewind issues also meant that it was impossible for us to recover sufficiently from one of these.
Technical issues aside, this is a good choice for general racing fans looking for a challenge as well as rally enthusiasts and the Loeb fanbase in particular. We’ll update the review if multiplayer populates, works properly, and adds to the experience significantly; but at the moment that, along with a lack of offline multiplayer, is one of the few things holding this back from shifting gears between ‘good’ and ‘great’.