The traditional form of rally driving in the World Rally Championship has lost of a lot of its’ mainstream appeal since the days of Colin McRae and Richard Burns, especially here in Britain. This demise in popularity can be observed with the changing dynamics of rally games, the original Colin McRae Rally was a true to form rally game with a focus on traditional point-to-point stages, the series continued in this vein until DiRT first appeared. Since then, classic rally driving has become a small time factor in racing games. That was until the release of WRC last year, a game which now has a sequel, the aptly named WRC 2.
If you read my review of last years game you might not be holding out much hope for WRC 2, and for the most part you shouldn’t, the new title fails to really get to grips with the problems that the first game in the series had. That is namely a lack of ‘feel’ from the cars.
This year I was playing the Xbox 360 version and within moments of starting my first race I had a bad feeling, or rather a lack of feeling. There was no rumble feedback in the controller. A quick look at the options and I noticed that I had to turn vibration on. It is criminal for a racing game these days not to have vibration turned on by default, it adds so much more to the game, especially on a rally game where you are racing across rough gravel and mud for large parts of the game.
More troubling, after turning vibration on, it was woefully lacking in providing feedback. In a game like DiRT you instantly know what road surface you are on based on the level of vibration. In WRC 2 you can complete a stage with the only awareness that you have changed road surface based on what you see. I expect to feel a massive change in grip levels when transferring from gravel to tarmac, but it doesn’t happen.
Ignoring the problems with the vibration and you come across uninspired handling in the cars. I don’t know whether developers Milestone are trying to achieve a realistic feel to the driving model, but simply put, the majority of the cars feel bland and boring to drive. If you take a simulation racer like RACE 07 from SimBin, the cars feel very much alive and challenging to drive. It is a shame that the driving model is so uninspired in WRC 2, the front-wheel drive cars are especially poor with massive amounts of understeer. Handling does improve slightly with the four-wheel drive machines, and these certainly feel much improved over the first WRC title, but compared to the DiRT series even these can be very boring to drive.
If you played last years version, you will find yourself racing along some very familiar stages. I realise that when you have the same events to cover as last year that there will be repetition in the stages, but when you look at each country having six or seven stages, of which half of them are reversed tracks, you quickly find things becoming stale. I wish Milestone had been able to add new stages to the countries that we saw last year.
The new ‘Urban Rally’ along the streets of Berlin is a welcome addition and adds some variety to proceedings, but it stands out like a sore thumb being the only event of its’ type in the game. More Urban stages are promised to appear as DLC, the reality is though that they should be released with the game to add an Urban Championship.
For those of you after some longevity to your game, the Road to the WRC mode has been expanded with some new additions, the categories on offer have been tweaked to match up with the current official events run by the FIA and you are now able to hire staff to bring in sponsorship offers and to research improvements to your cars. They provide amusing side shows to the racing, but don’t expect much depth to them beyond hiring better qualified staff to earn better sponsors and higher level research and development options.
If you are looking for a game which focuses on classic rally driving, then WRC 2 is your only option unless you want to go back to the first DiRT or an earlier Colin McRae Rally title. Sadly, while there have been minor improvements over last years edition, when the driving is still fairly mundane and you routinely come across the same stages to race on, it is hard to recommend this at full price over last years edition.
There is so much potential in the official World Rally Championship licence, I really want to see it being pushed to the limits with more stages and a greater sense of team management in the early days of your career. For now though, unless you are a hardcore rally fan looking for a bit more, I have to recommend you look elsewhere for your action.
Verdict – Off Target
Platforms Available – PC, 360, PS3.
Platform Reviewed – 360
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