Some games are winners, some are losers, others fall in between. Sadly WRC, The Official World Rally Championship Game is one of those that has fallen in the gap. It is far from being a bad game, but it isn’t good enough to be considered a top-class quality release.
The DiRT titles have been the highlights of off-track racing games over the past few years. While they may not appeal to die-hard rally fans with traditional rallying being just one small part of the larger whole, they have undeniably been top class racing games.
It is a shame that WRC fails to scale the heights of DiRT, it has so much going for it with the official licence of the World Rally Championship and the associated J-WRC, P-WRC and S-WRC classes. Perhaps the biggest missed opportunity is in the lack of stages, in the real WRC, each rally has around 20 stages in total, several of which will be reverse runs through the original stage. The problem with the game is that there are only 6 stages for each rally, often half of which are reverse runs.
This leads to a lot repetition, especially in the Road to the WRC mode. Here you have various tiers of events to compete in before you can tackle to full WRC calendar. It is a sound game mode with many different combinations of events and cars to buy and customise. However, in the early tiers you will often race on the same group of stages time and time again. There is one French stage which I must have raced 10 times before I got to the fourth tier of events. It really takes away from the game when you start to learn like the back of your hand so early in the career mode.
It would have hlped if the stages felt different depending on the road surface, I would expect to feel a massive difference in car handling going from tarmac to dry dusty gravel to wet muddy gravel to snow. It may be that I am using a 360 pad not a gaming wheel, but the different road types feel too similar.
On the brighter side of things the cars do feel drastically different and are one of the best aspects of the game. As you work your way through the different car classes in career mode you will notice that Milestone have done some good work. Taking the leap from a Citroen C2 R2 in the J-WRC class to a monster like the Citroen C4 in the WRC class is quite something. The difference in power and cornering ability really sets the different cars apart.
The cars themselves are quite good looking and some of the damage effects are decent enough, but all too often I found myself thinking that surely after hitting that massive stone on the side of a German stage at considerable speed my rally should be over. At times you will notice your engine faltering after beating it up too much or the steering feeling a bit wayward, but other times you will wonder why the damage model is so hit and miss.
Despite the problems and the annoying as sin co-drivers the game is fun to play, it just doesn’t meet the potential that is there. If this turns into a yearly title I think that it can improve a fair bit, as it is WRC just sits in the middle.