KT Racing’s WRC series is perhaps the perfect example of a good yearly franchise. Since picking up the WRC license and releasing WRC 5 in 2015, each year’s game has made significant steps forward, reacting to the desires of the rally game fanbase and expanding to become a really good all-around ‘simcade’ rally racer. It took them a few games for them to really find what they wanted their game to be, but this is now a more mature series that’s at the top of its game.
WRC 10 is a special entry in the series, coming out in September and primed to celebrate the upcoming 50th anniversary of the World Rally Championship in 2022. Yes, it’s a few months early, but WRC 10 will be the game that’s on the market through most of 2022, so it does make a small amount of sense.
The last few games have seen Kylotonn add more and more historical content to the game, in the form of some of the legendary cars of years gone past, but WRC 10 is going far further than just having more cars. I mean, there will be more classic cars – 22 in total – but they’re now being used through a WRC History Mode filled with thematic challenges inspired by the racing championship’s long list of epic moments.
To help with that, there are six historical rallies in the game at launch, including Acropolis (Greece), San Remo (Italy), Germany and Argentina. The first two of those are brand new for the game, but all of the historic rallies are being given a makeover to match the different eras of rallying. San Remo is playable in 1981, 1997 and 1998 versions, the sides of its mountainous winding tarmac roads changing with spectators keeping to increasingly strict safety rules. As Kylotonn expand the number of historical rallies to twelve through post-launch content, you’ll see some more modern-day rallies given a similar treatment.
And what of the challenges? There will be over twenty challenges divided up into five categories – First Years, Group B, Group A, WRC, Modern WRC – each one focussing on a special car, particularly challenging weather conditions or an astonishing performance from one of the sport’s legends. Just think of Walter Röhrl’s epic drive through a very foggy Portuguese rally, where he gained 4 minutes over the rest of the field.
We got to go hands-on with the game’s Steam Next Fest demo early – which will be available from tomorrow, Wednesday 16th June, and then see many of the demos delisted on 22nd June. While a lot of the glitz and glamour of WRC 10 will surround the historical content, the demo instead focusses on the here and now, letting those who download it sample a mid-length stage from Estonia, Croatia and Spain, three of the four new 2021 rallies that will be in the game.
There’s some great contrast here. Croatia’s 6km-long Granjci stage is entirely asphalt, but it’s run across roads that are far from pristine. They’re pitted with potholes and scattered patchwork to keep the surface driveable. Starting the Riudecanyes stage in Spain is a stark contrast in looks, if not the kinds of grip you can expect from your WRC car. There are fewer bumps and shudders through a gamepad’s rumble (or haptics if you plug in a DualSense), but the smoother roads are comparably grippy. My favourite section by far comes having run up the hills and into a town built around a castle; descending from this peak sees you racing down an exceedingly tight and winding section that’s anything but smooth, and is just a real thrill.
Finally, there’s Elva, an 8.35km stage across Estonia’s smooth and winding gravel roads. It’s a lot of fun to sweep through the countryside of this stage, nipping through a heavily wooded area and then around lone farmhouses.
Modern WRC cars are just fun to drive in WRC 10, as I plugged in a standard Xbox One controller and left the game’s setting as standard – ABS on, TC off, with semi-automatic transmission. Kylotonn touts a new suspension model, modelling of the ground effect from the car’s undercarriage and diffuser for added realism, and tuned the car driving behaviour to be just that bit more realistic and precise. We’ll hold judgement on the realism angle for now, but WRC 10 feels every bit like it meets the goal of added precision and control. Even without adding further assists that will hopefully make the game more welcoming for newcomers and novices, playing on a gamepad felt accessible, fluid and fast – OK, I’m still 20 seconds off the pace of our former racing game guru Tom Lord, but I felt fast.
Through the rest of the game, it’s a similarly considered approach to evolving and growing this series. The career has been enhanced with calendar management and new positions in your team to juggle, there’s enhanced skill trees, and historical events have been introduced as well. You can also play with the new livery editor, using a brand logo and creating stickers out of shapes in the new sticker editor. If you want to spend the time, you’ll be able to create some great.
The post-launch support will follow in the footsteps of previous games. New stages, new cars, new anniversary events, new features will be sprinkled across a few updates. There will also be an updated calendar that will more closely match the real world Covid-affected championship that has ended up being raced. Greece will be upgraded to the modern-day as it returns to the championship and get more stages post-launch, after its late addition to the 2021 season, though Sweden will remain as an equivalent to the snow Finnish rally that was actually run. The updated calendar will be patched into the game, but for any career that is being run, you’ll be able to finish your season and then adopt the new calendar for the next.
WRC 10 is stuffed to the gills with content, both new and old, evolving and growing what has become a real highlight of the racing game genre. Make sure to check out the demo this week, if you have a capable PC, and mark your calendars for its September release.