The rally racer was once a staple of the game release calendar but so many franchises have now fallen by the wayside, from the intense realism of Richard Burns Rally through to the fun-packed arcade handling of Sega Rally or V-Rally. The WRC series, holding the official license, has stuck around, though Kylotonn – or KT Racing as they are here – are the third developer to look after it, and after the early Evolution titles the name has drifted through the years under Milestone into Kylotonn’s hands. WRC 6 was the first edition solely for the current generation of consoles, and while WRC 7 continues to improve on its relatively solid base it still feels a step behind what Codemasters are achieving with the Dirt series.
Let’s start with the things that KT Racing have absolutely got right, and this year’s entry is the best looking WRC game thus far. These aren’t vehicle models that’ll have the guys at Turn 10 or Polyphony Digital worried, mainly because you can often still tell that they’re computer images, but they do look suitably impressive taken on their own merit. There are also some very nice lighting effects which add some real drama to a race depending on the time of day, and the tracks themselves are handsome and solidly built.
The game engine’s performance meanwhile is also a huge step up over last year, and on the whole you’re treated to a steady frame rate – albeit at a somewhat disappointing 30fps – and a complete lack of WRC 6’s rampant pop-in and screen tearing. You can still see where compromises are being made mind you, with track furniture, details and shadows fading, or sometimes popping, into view as you get closer to them. It’s not distracting like last year’s outing – I didn’t find my eyes being drawn to it, or that my head was pounding – but it is there.
As with WRC 6, and a number of other big racers, your choice of driving style dictates what assists you have on, though those in WRC 7 aren’t exactly extensive. Having said that, the handling model they’ve gone with this year is far more approachable than that of its predecessor, and there’s a pleasing weight to each vehicle, though personally speaking there’s not quite enough force feedback over the rougher terrain, using either a pad or a steering wheel.
Different terrains do feel distinct though, and WRC 7’s tracks feel much bumpier than in 6, while there’s a recognisable loss or gain of grip not only on dirt, gravel or snow, but in variations of these in different countries. There are times though where the car’s overall behaviour, especially when making contact with elements of the track, is still a little on the finicky side for a serious racer.
The career mode begins with a few teams looking for unknown talent, and perhaps unsurprisingly you’re the person to fill the vacancy. At this point you have to try and match your driving style to the team’s mentality, at least if you’re keen on keeping your teammate’s morale up. What this boils down to is choosing between teams who want to keep the car in one piece and those that don’t care as long as you’re at the front of the pack.
The fundamental underpinnings of the career mode are exactly the same as WRC 6, and you can work your way up from the Junior WRC and its less powerful cars, through to WRC 2 before making it to the true WRC. The courses throughout have been made narrower, and brought closer in line with the type of tracks that appear across the tour, while there are also the new Epic stages which are huge, ten minute plus tests of your concentration. They’re absolutely brutal.
It’s not all smooth sailing – clearly a chunk of the game is off-road – but in my time with it WRC 7 did crash out to the PlayStation’s blue screen of doom a couple of times, both when returning to a suspended game. As it’s at an early stage in the game’s release these sort of things have become almost expected, but hopefully KT Racing can put a stop to them sooner rather than later as otherwise they’ve turned in what feels like a technically solid release.
WRC 7 isn’t perhaps the most exciting racing game out there, but while it lacks some of the drama of Codemasters’ offerings, this is still a well put together and technically sound rally game. It’s also another positive step forwards for the series, which shows that there is absolutely the potential there to turn in something special.
Version Tested: PlayStation 4 Pro