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Review

Review: WRC FIA World Rally Championship

But is it rally any good?

Need For Speed Hot Pursuit. Test Drive Unlimited 2. F1 2010. Ferrari Race Challenge. Man Furismo Jive. We are currently in the process of being rained upon by driving games, so you could be forgiven for wondering if it was even necessary to release WRC FIA World Rally Championship at all. The good news is, this is Black Bean’s best driving game to date. The bad news is, that’s not exactly a groundbreaking achievement.

WRC is of course nothing like any of the other games mentioned, it’s also nothing like DiRT 2 so if you’re expecting that kind of adrenaline rush, look elsewhere. What we have here is a serious, slow-paced take on pure rally driving. There are no crazy race modes: this is rally, after rally, after rally. Therefore, if you like rally driving, you will probably love this game. If you like Split/Second, you’ll hate it.

Let’s start with the positives. This game is crammed with things to do. There is a very long campaign – The Road To WRC – as well as a separate campaign-ish mode where you play all the special stages and championship rounds of the real 2010 WRC according to the official calendar, which is also incredibly long. Two to four players can also sit down and set times in turn-based play with no restrictions on stage, rally or championship setup.

Finally, the online mode is excellent, and although everyone – up to 16 of you – drives in their own instance trying to set the best time, you can see the ghosts of the other players which makes it feel much more like a race and much less lonely. There are a decent variety of online modes with the obligatory ranking tables and XP/levelling, I had no problem finding a game and there was no lag during play.

The Road To WRC career mode is broken down into ten levels, each of which has six events. You have some leeway in the order you complete the events within a given level, with subsequent levels being unlocked by reaching a certain completion percentage.

Like Need For Speed Shift, there is a well-paced reward system with constant livery, colour, car, sponsor and event unlocks as you complete each event. The trophies are also very well-designed and paced, and will encourage you to play plenty of different game modes.

Let’s talk difficulty. This is a two-pronged affair: you can set the various driving assists, and you can change the AI difficulty independently via a slider, giving you many difficulty levels to choose from. There are three default combinations of settings when you start the game but you can tweak as you see fit, and there is no punishment for playing on an easier setting. This is a good thing, because playing with any combination of assists other than everything turned on will immediately thrust you into F1 2010 Expert mode levels of toughness.

With all assists on, you rarely need to brake although getting round the stage without crashing once is still a moderate challenge unless you drive carefully. Cut down on the traction control and brake assist and you are going to need every ounce of concentration to keep the car under control – so this should appeal to arcade and simulation fans alike. Similarly, with the AI on the easiest setting, it is ridiculously easy to win, even if you crash constantly, but on the hardest setting they are ruthless. Black Bean should be commended for this range of settings because it vastly broadens the appeal of the game.

Driving ‘alone’ constantly can be quite a lonely experience, so you should bear in mind that you will only see other cars on the track during online play. In offline play, you simply see the current times of the AI cars. This is though, naturally, par for the course with rally games.

True to form, between each special stage you can customise your car settings (downforce, suspension, all the usual suspects) and spend your allotted repair time choosing which bits of your car to repair, with each repair type costing a certain amount of time. Use too much and you receive a time penalty.

The driving physics themselves are.. a little strange. You get to drive over tarmac, gravel, dirt, ice and so on, with the car behaving differently on each surface, and differently from car to car as well of course. It seems awfully hard to do long drifts at speed, similarly the handbrake does not quite function as it does in other games. This isn’t really a criticism as the controls are perfectly fine and with no experience of drifting in a real rally car it’s hard to tell whether this is realistic or not, so this is more of an observation. If anyone here remembers the awful driving mechanics of V-Rally 3 on PS2, fear not, the controls in WRC are solid.

We played the game using a Logitech Driving Force GT Pro wheel – wheels of course being a must have for any serious driving game fan – and the control was excellent, however there was quite a large steering deadzone with the default settings. Fortunately there are many sliders you can use to tweak the wheel to your liking. The force feedback worked flawlessly.

As always, there are some problems. For one thing, the presentation is awful. Just awful. While the menu music is unobtrusive enough, the menus themselves are dull and bland, using black, white and green for the most part. The backgrounds are low res and not animated. It makes the whole thing feel completely soulless. Worse still is that the in-game graphics are pretty shoddy. The cars are low on polygon count, the pop-in is moderate-to-severe in places with bushes appearing randomly for example, and the overall scenery is barely above PS2 graphical standards.

Whilst there are plenty of titles, even recent titles like Sports Champions, with mediocre graphics that are great fun to play, in WRC’s case, the poor graphics actually hurt your enjoyment. We have come to expect so much more than this, graphically, even in run-of-the-mill titles. In WRC’s defence, there are absolutely tons of special stages and what scenery there is is very varied, so you won’t be seeing the same thing over and over.

There are two interior views which is a very nice touch that can enhance gameplay, but the interiors are not representative of the actual cars themselves. The cars get nice and dirty but damage modeling is minimal to non-existent.

Another major gripe is that nothing is explained. This is fine if you’ve watched a bit of rally on TV, but if you don’t know the difference between N4 and S2000 cars, or what the green and red lines mean on the left side of the screen while driving, the game isn’t going to tell you. It also amazed me what counted as a clean section: you can crash three times and still be told you did a clean section.

A couple of nice touches: you can choose whether your co-driver has a male or female voice. You can have three career profiles at once. If you quit out of a long event half-way through, your progress is saved.

Pros:

  • Long campaigns, lots of stages, tons to do
  • Online modes work great

Cons:

  • Significantly marred by terrible graphics and presentation
  • Offline multi-player is turn-based only

At first, playing WRC was a slog. In truth, the more I played it, the more I liked it – once you get used to its quirks and nuances. There are a lot of nice touches and thoughtful features, spoiled by the presentation. Ultimately though, while I couldn’t recommend WRC to just anyone, it is a solid but slightly soulless game and has the official WRC license, which if you have at least a passing interest in rally games makes this the only realistic choice.

Just don’t expected to become a rally fan if you aren’t already.

Score: 7/10

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20 Comments
  1. Daywalker
    Member
    Since: Jan 2010

    Great review. I think i’ll stick to Dirt 3 when its out. This game just doesn’t do it for me.

    Comment posted on 21/10/2010 at 09:11.
  2. Crazy_Del
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    I was on this last night and couldn’t believe I have been playing for 3hrs straight o_0
    It wasn’t the campaign it was online I don’t think I had that much fun competing and beating time sectors since DiRT (The 1st one) lol. (I just got a trophy last night for winning 1st five times on special rally) Proud of it myself lol.
    I think the game itself is great and freezbug has mentioned that he completed the career 100%. I take my hat off to him.
    Looking forward to play with freezbug and Moakesice and others if they have the game for some multiplayer.

    Comment posted on 21/10/2010 at 09:14.
    • Moakesice
      Member
      Since: Jan 2009

      I agree with what you`ve said Crazy_Del, im looking forward to playing online which should be this weekend (we`ll sort something out between the 2 of us)

      Comment posted on 21/10/2010 at 09:32.
  3. philbert8
    The Frankie Boyle Of TSA
    Since: Sep 2010

    Good review. The presentation is awful, a bit like a rally game of yesteryear. The demo didn’t do it for me, the control felt to loose, I’m still into Dirt2 and Shift so I’ll stick with these for now.

    Comment posted on 21/10/2010 at 09:35.
    • maneorix
      Member
      Since: Oct 2008

      And by too loose, the cars are harder to drive – and less arcadey? But of course that just a personal preference, which you’re entitled to :). I think it’s good to have a bit of variation, just got this in the mailbox today, and I’ll probably spend all night playing it!

      Comment posted on 21/10/2010 at 12:44.
  4. Moakesice
    Member
    Since: Jan 2009

    Good review as ive read others and they`ve slated it, i agree with the most part but i have loved the sport of WRC for years (prob 20 odd years now) and since the WRC games have been out on the PS2 i loved them, and this is no exception, i think its going to be a Marmite kind of game for the most as people are used to the arcadey type of off road racing that the Dirt series provides, dont get me wrong i love the Dirt series but ive been waiting for another WRC game since that last one, so in my opinion it gets a thumbs up! :-)

    Comment posted on 21/10/2010 at 09:45.
  5. freezebug2
    Member
    Since: Dec 2008

    Excellent job Katy, your review is absolutely spot on and I agree with every point that you have made, pro or con. As Del mentioned I completed the career to 100% and at times it was a lonely affair, so I was constantly upping the difficulty slider so that it seemed like I had some competition. The latter end of career when the WRC cars are unlocked to race is when the game really came alive for me and driving through the Sweden Rally or UK Sweet Lamb stage was a thrill. Online is really where it’s at though as you say, with 16 player’s regularly in a lobby without any lag or disconnects (rarely).

    Comment posted on 21/10/2010 at 09:48.
    • freezebug2
      Member
      Since: Dec 2008

      Oh, and I laughed at your reference to the big one “Man Furismo Jive”, which will probably be released before GT5.

      Comment posted on 21/10/2010 at 10:11.
  6. cc_star
    Team TSA: Writer
    Since: Forever

    Sorry Katy, I only read as far as ‘if you like Split/Second you’ll hate this’ tells me every single thing I need to know.

    Think I’ll even delete the demo I haven’t played yet

    Comment posted on 21/10/2010 at 10:01.
    • Kronik76
      Member
      Since: Jun 2009

      I’m a huge fan of Split/Second, but I also like many other types of driving game. To come out with a statement like ‘if you like Split/Second you’ll hate this’ seems quite ridiculous to me. I’m quite sure I wouldn’t hate WRC.
      To delete a demo based on the fact that someone is telling you it’s not Split/Second-esque (which I’m quite sure you would have known anyway) doesn’t seem very level headed, or indeed open minded.

      Comment posted on 21/10/2010 at 11:42.
      • DJ-Katy
        Member
        Since: Apr 2009

        Gotta agree with Kronik, I liked Split/Second alot, perhaps I should’ve written ‘if you prefer arcade-style racers’ – you should try the demo cc_star and judge for yourself.

        Comment posted on 21/10/2010 at 14:01.
  7. TSBonyman
    Member
    Since: Dec 2009

    When i played the demo i could see there was some potential in this but the visuals just put me right off. Colin McRae 3 on PS2 looked better imo.

    Comment posted on 21/10/2010 at 10:13.
  8. Tuffcub
    On the naughty step.
    Since: Dec 2008

    ‘Man Furismo Jive’ sounds like something I get up to at the weekends.

    Comment posted on 21/10/2010 at 10:17.
  9. 3shirts
    Member
    Since: Aug 2008

    As a fan of simulation racing games and WRC I found the demo quite good fun. I also really like the idea of online races. Proper rally is all about beating the clock so focussing on that but while adding the ghost cars so you feel more like you are actually racing real people is cool. Rally stages are way too tight to have side by side racing anyway. Perhaps a rental before I decide on a purchase, especially since GT5’s rally mode might be as much WRC as really need.

    Comment posted on 21/10/2010 at 10:19.
    • BadBoyBoogie
      Let There Be Rock
      Since: Mar 2009

      I was thinking the same thing about giving it a rent first to see what I really thought of it. I used to love the old WRC games on the PS2, but when I tried the demo for this, I wasn’t overly impressed.

      Comment posted on 21/10/2010 at 11:57.
      • cam the man
        Member
        Since: May 2009

        I wasn’t impressed with the demo at first but after a few stages got into it.
        With F1 2010 just released and GT5 out soon (we hope), I’m going to wait until I have some spare gaming time before buying.
        Good review.

        Comment posted on 21/10/2010 at 13:49.
  10. Spotter5
    Member
    Since: Forever

    I have recently come back to rallying (thanks Kimi! :) ) and this game, based on the demo will be great for me, have it on my Christmas list. I love proper racing so the graphics (which I thought were good, not GT5 level but good) and menus are just there to get you to the racing. Would be nice to play with proper menus for once instead of the (nice but eventually boring) F1 2010 way of doing things.

    Comment posted on 21/10/2010 at 10:29.

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