Did you know that game starved PlayStation Vita owners can get their hands on not one but two new racing games? Probably not, because I scoured half of London and then a fair chunk of the Internet before managing to locate a copy of MUD – FIM Motocross World Championship and WRC 3.
When the carts were finally in my hands I suggested to the boss we do a head to head feature on the games. “Write it like they’re racing each other and every fault sees the other one overtake, stretch a lead, etc,” replied Peter, completely forgetting that I don’t drive, don’t watch racing on TV or for that matter play many racing games. My ability to critique cars stops at the quality of the stereo, so don’t expect piles of technical information. However, I can at least give you an idea of which is the better game, so let’s line them up on the starting grid and wave the flag to get this race started!
MUD is out of the gate first, loading in a respectable time with the logo of the developers, Milestone, flashing up before before some utterly ear bleeding death metal starts pouring through the headphones accompanied by a short video intro. I like most types of music but this seems to be noisy for the sake of it. The menu system is quick to navigate and offers a choice of playing a single race, championship mode or online.
WRC3 loads up by first flashing up the developers logo which is… oh… Milestone as well. That should make things interesting. Rather than blasting straight into the game a title sequence featuring a rather sultry voice begins to play, encouraging you to be the best of the best and become a rally champ. The Vita version of WRC3 is lacking some of features in the full console version, most notably the Road to Glory career mode, but still offers a single race, a full rally or multiplayer and, once again, the menus are simple to navigate.
One thing to note is that – as far as I can ascertain – both games make no attempt to use the touch screen or motion controls. There may be some small nod to making the game more ‘Vita’ but I could not find it and as there is no manual (and indeed, no tutorials) I was driving blind.
Race update: Despite being slower off the block, WRC3 takes the lead as the in game music does not make you want to kill kittens.
MUD unsurprisingly features muddy tracks in various locals ranging from Spain to the USA, all of which zip by at a decent speed. The track in Brazil is particularly colourful with ruined temples and tropical rain forests to race through.
On the other side we have WRC 3 and trees. Lots of trees. To be fair this is a rally game so you expect it to feature a fair chunk of countryside but there’s a lot of trees. Having said that, it does look lush and and the tree free areas are particularly nice. I was pleasantly surprised when one race emerged from a forest to zoom along the coast, complete with sea lapping in.
MUD gives you a huge number of riders and bikes to play with, although they are all pretty similar, whilst WRC3 has eleven cars (a sizable reduction from the PS3 version), each looking exquisite and featuring full damage modelling. Bumpers bend, panels split and bonnets crunch – or at least they do when I am trying to play.
You may notice the odd glaring untextured area or rather geometric mountain, but when polygons are flying around the screen at a solid 30fps an occasional low res graphic isn’t all the obvious, particularly on a screen the size of the Vita’s.
Race Update: WRC forges ahead, looking gorgeous with its damage modelling, but then disaster strikes and it begins to fall back thanks to excessive tree-ness. MUD takes the opportunity to narrow the lead and show off some neat effects whilst thrilling hill top plummets bring the two racers almost head to head.
Maybe it’s me being a bit of an audiophile but has anybody else noticed that the Vita versions of console titles seem to sacrifice sound quality? Lego Batman is one of the culprits; the sound effects are obviously recorded at a lower bit rate. WRC3 seems to suffer the same problem, as what should be a throaty roaring rally car is reduced to sounding like a bee in a jam jar.
Then there’s the strange case of automatic gender reassignment surgery, where choosing one of the pairs of female drivers still results in the instructions from your co-driver being delivered by a gruff sounding man. However, once you are ‘in the zone’ and racing through the forests the bee buzzing and transsexualism are barely noticeable and do little to distract from the game.
MUD’s motorbikes sound more realistic and there are plenty of slushy sound effects as you race through the, erm, mud, but the soundtrack is pretty atrocious.
Race Update: WRC3 has a burst of speed and once again takes the lead with its bumblebee engine zinging through the headphones at top volume. MUD falls further back as it tortures anyone who plays it with constant noisy metal tunes.
My first race in MUD went as follows: Start, crash, reset, crash, reset, crash, reset, corner, crash, reset, slide off jump, reset, crash, reset. In comparison my first race in WRC3 went like this: Start, smash into a tree, reverse, corner, smash into wall, reverse, crash into hairpin, reverse, smash back bumper off, corner, smash, reverse.
This is why I don’t play racing games.
Thankfully I located the brake button in both games and was soon zooming round the tracks with relatively few crashes. Despite coming from the same developer both games play very differently.
WRC3 is a simulation and you have to pay attention to your co-driver and your speed to complete the courses in in a decent time. The cars all handle as expected and it won’t be long before you are tapping the handbrake and sliding the vehicle round hairpins instead of juddering down to first gear and driving like a grandma on her weekly trip to Tesco.
MUD is more of a balls-out racer with some utterly ridiculous jumps and tracks. The spirit of Motorstorm is hidden somewhere in this game, which is no bad thing given the only Vita entry in the series features toy cars that I wasn’t overly fond of. After a few games it becomes easy to control the bike and the crashes peter out. To gain a speed boost you can ‘scrub’ by holding down X as you approach a jump and then keeping the button held long enough to perform a trick before you land.
Which game plays the best is hard to judge as they are so very different. MUD works well as you have AI opponents to race against giving you something tangible to beat, whilst WRC3 is more about skill and precision.
Race Update: MUD finds a burst of speed, races up a ramp and, with a press of X, performs a rather showy stunt as it flies across the bonnet of WRC3. WRC3 barely notices as it is busy consulting a map and working out the correct gear ratio for the next corner.
MUD features 14 different bikes, 84 riders (including stars such as Tony Cairoli, Steven Frossard, Ken Roczen, Jeffrey Herlings, Ryan Villopoto, Chad Reed and Ryan Dungey) and a 12 track soundtrack that will make you murder your grandparents.
In terms of races, it has the FIM MX1 and MX2 World Championships alongside the Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations and the Monster Energy Trick Battle Mode, as well as a world tour. Oh, and if you hadn’t noticed it also features a hell of a lot of product placement for a certain energy drink.
Although retailers would have you believing that the Vita version of WRC3 is identical to the console version, it simply isn’t. As previously mentioned the career mode has gone and the locations have been reduced from
six to thirteen thirteen to six, comprising of Rallye Monte-Carlo, Rallye de France – Alsace, RallyRACC - Rally de Espana, Acropolis Rally, ADAC Rallye Deutschland and Wales Rally GB. The good news is that Rally Guanajuato Mexico, Philips Rally Argentina and Vodafone Rally de Portugal will be added post release as free DLC.
On the plus side each location has multiple events, so there is still a sizeable amount of tracks and all of the official WRC, WRC Class 2 and WRC Class 3 cars are available to race. There are plenty of drivers to choose from, far too many trees, and no death metal.
Race Update: MUD storms ahead as the Vita version include all the tracks from the console version plus the Trickin’ Demons and UFO Stylish Safety Pack DLC. WRC3 has engine troubles as it cuts out some of the console content, but at least some of it will be available as free DLC.
As I mentioned it took me an age to track down the games as they don’t appear to be in stock at many retailers. This means the lobbies are rather sparsely populated, although I did manage to find a game every time I logged on to play.
MUD works much like the single player game but with real players rather than AI, although you can turn on AI players to fill up the starting grid. Matchmaking is simple and quick, with no problems cropping up whilst playing online beyond my own lack of skill.
WRC 3 has a simple lobby system which also happens to play a totally awesome electro wub-wub mix of Capella’s “U Got 2 Know”. Connection is smooth and easy and rather than race against other vehicles you race against real-time ghost versions of the other players. There seems to be a few more gamers playing WRC 3 at the moment and most lobbies filled up quickly and, as with all games, having human opponents to play against increases the fun factor by a huge percentage.
Both games allow you to host a race and give you plenty of options of tracks and settings.
Ultimately the difference between these two games is simple: WRC 3 is for those who like to tweak suspension levels and scrape fractions of seconds off their best race time, whereas MUD should be the choice of those who like their racing games to be less about the tyre pressure and more about the stunts.
Both games are solid graphically, and there wasn’t any noticeable slowdown whilst playing. The multiplayer code seemed to work well on both sides as well.
However, this is a race and I’m going to have to declare a winner. Speeding across the finish line in first place is MUD – FIM Motocross World Championship, pipping WRC 3 to the post thanks to the amount of content it has on offer, which should keep you engaged for a long time. If, like me, you were horribly disappointed by the official Vita Motorstorm game MUD makes a very pleasant replacement.
WRC comes in a very close second though, losing traction at the last moment due to its limited content. However, it does look gorgeous though, especially the trees.