WRC Generations sees KT Racing’s tenure with the World Rally Championship license end on a high. It’s the culmination of almost a decade’s work, iterating and refining their take on the motorsport, but with this final entry spiced up by a new generation of cars and a new form of multiplayer racing leagues.
As the old saying goes, there’s nothing to fear but fear itself. WRC Generations (and rallying games in general) would beg to differ. There’s nothing quite like the constantly building tension of hurtling down a fast, gently sweeping road, where the slightest misjudgement will take hundreds of metres to correct, where any kind of contact with walls, fences, snowbanks or the free air off the side of a hill/cliff will completely alter the complexion of an attempt. There are several stretches in the brand-new Rally Sweden that race across relatively flat plains, weaving toward and around electricity pylons, between bridges and alongside lakes, and they have me petrified. Don’t even talk to me about jumps, where your control is ripped away for a second or two and the landing can feel like a coin flip for survival.
Give me a tight and twisty section any day of the week, where I barely have time to think about things as left leads into right, into tighter right, back to left, as the road rises and falls, swerves. I can handle those (even if I’ll often make a mistake here and there).
WRC Generations has a fantastic blend of these kinds of challenges across the 21 locations featured in the game (only a handful are missing from the series’ history) and 165 stages. That number is perhaps a little misleading. There are short shakedown tests that will take just a couple minutes, there are intermediate 6-9km stretches that will challenge you over 4-6 minutes, and then there are the longer epic stages that will grab you and not let go for 15 minutes or more. Coming out the other side of these with a car that’s in relatively good shape will feel like a victory, regardless of the time you post.
That 165 stage count can feel a bit misleading, though. Each rally has been created with a single long epic stage that’s then split up into smaller stages, with only the 1:1 real-world super special stages coming alongside. That stage count is effectively doubled by being able to race them in reverse, as well. It breeds a lot of familiarity as you go through a rally event, seeing the same track and landmarks multiple times, and that can breed contempt for the majority of rallies that have been kept in from previous games.
Still, with so many rallies in the game, so many stages, and variables through weather and time of day, it’s hard to complain too much. KT Racing has also made changes to older stages. Tour de Corse is the prime example here, side-by-side with its last appearance in WRC 8 showing how KT Racing has tweaked the one stage that they’ve revived, removing tiresome sections, changing up the scenery, and altering the flow of the stage.
You’re given plenty of control as you race, the game catering well to both controller and full racing wheel setups. Whether it’s on grippy asphalt or loose gravel and dirt and soft snow, the handling model rewards deft use of the car’s weight to shift the rear end and sweep through corners. It’s the slower turns that might catch you out with braking zones that can feel longer than a cruise ship’s, and hairpins where handbrake turns will be required – truth be told, I’ve never really got the hang of these in rally games, so it’s 50:50 whether I’ll get a good turn through the corner or end up facing the wrong way.
In addition to the current cars, there’s a bevvy of classics that include every winner from the WRC’s 50 years, but the most exciting is the new hybrid Rally1 cars that throw in electrical energy harvesting and deployment. These cars are heavier than last year’s, making them feel a touch more grounded, but there’s a ferocious acceleration as last year’s engines are boosted with the hybrid deployment. KT Racing have replicated the real-world regulations here, so there are three levels of energy deployment that you can select – the highest deployment is great when you have grippy asphalt, but leads to more wheel spin when on gravel and snow – and in the second-to-second driving there are limits on when energy is used, based around heavy braking and second-long lifts. It’s maybe not an earth-shattering change, but does add a new variable to consider when selecting tyres and making setup changes.
One thing that hasn’t changed appreciably is the car sounds. They still have more in common with a lawnmower or dog-scaring hoover than they do with the fearsome roar of a high-end racing machine. The audio is better if you’re racing in with a follow cam, instead of a cockpit of bonnet cams, and there is a distinction between the different classes and vehicles, but it’s quite inexplicable why they can’t capture the full-throated roar they need.
It’s also fair to say that the KT Engine is showing its age, in tandem with some of the older rallies still featured in the game being a clear step behind the newer creations, even with updates to lighting and scenery. WRC Generations still targets the same 1080p30 on PS4, and does a competent is fairly utilitarian job of pulling it off – the worst effect here is the low-resolution screen space reflections on large bodies of water, which add a really distracting shimmer. On PS5, you have a choice between 4K and 60fps, with the latter absolutely being the one to go for – sadly there’s no 120Hz support, which is a surprising step backwards from WRC 10.
The ever-popular career mode has remained consistent, giving you control of a team, and letting you work through a tech tree that’s more straightforward than the sprawl of options would suggest. The main courses on the calendar are the multi-day rally events with their selection of stages, tyre choices, and timed repairs, but you can hop into historic races, timed challenges, and have to manage the needs of your crew for rest and training. We’ve seen it before, and there’s still the limitation that you can only start off with WRC2 at best, but it’s a solid offering.
More interesting is the asynchronous multiplayer Leagues, which joins the returning Quickplay and Clubs options online. This gives daily and weekly challenges, having you set times on single stages and full rally events, competing with a group of 30 other players that you’ve been matched with through a qualification week. It’s an interesting way to set a foundation for a long-term legacy, though one we can only view in the short term. Our qualifying runs went well, but the first few days have shown that there are plenty of people in our division that haven’t then set daily times, leaving them on zero points. This should normalise over time, but a better system might only count your best six or nine daily runs from across the week, so as not to punish people who can’t play every day.