Every so often the WRC series of games changes hands, from Evolution Studios on PS2 up to the recent Kylotonn, and now finds itself a new home with EA & Codemasters. Does the publishers deeper pockets and developers pedigree allow the series to take another step up the podium? Lets take a look.
There’s a lot packed into this one. With over 200 stages and over 70 cars, including the amusing Vauxhall Nova, you’ll fine plenty to keep you behind the wheel for a good while. Gone is the career mode of before, which seen you rising through the WRC ranks, to be replaced by something quite different. Now you have a team to keep afloat through entry into various weekly events, alongside a benefactor to butter up for funding. It can be a bit confusing at first how its laid out, but after a few weeks you should up to speed. Planning ahead is crucial as some events can run for multiple weeks, so looking 2 or even 3 weeks ahead is a must.
Outside of career there’s the usual champion mode that lets you pick a category and then play a full season of the WRC, as well as moments that act as challenges of sorts which updates regularly. Customisation will be a port of call eventually as it lets you customise your driver, you can even build your own car, with all the livery tools you will likely need to give the cars a new, or old, lick of paint. New customisations are unlocked by levelling up in what seems to be a typical seasonal live service way (complete with VIP passes) Luckily its unobtrusive enough if all you care about is the rallying.
Not only does the series get a fresh lick of paint from a new developer with a bigger budget, but that developer also ditches their usual Ego engine used on Dirt Rally for Unreal Engine. This ends up creating something that looks similar to the Dirt Rally series with, at times, a hefty uptick in trackside detail and some weird performance. For the most part things look a step up over the WRC games that have come before, but occasionally it can also look a bit underwhelming depending on the environment. Luckily the cars always look & sound great, be interesting to see how VR fares here and on the stages too given the cutbacks with Dirt Rally 2.
The weird performance mentioned before comes from two aspects, the odd stutter (not as often as you may have heard) and what appears to be underutilisation. For every 10 stages done I’ve had noticeable stutter a couple of times, its not something that hits every stage for me. On my system (R7 5800X/32Gb/RTX 3090) the game also ran well between 70-90fps at 4K using the usual DLDSR/DLSS trick. What’s weird is that the GPU & CPU were never even close to being maxed, hence the underutilisation, so the game could still do with a patch or two even with things performing well enough for me.
I suppose your wondering how it plays out. To be fair previous WRC games were good and offered a great balance of sim & accessibility, and that’s the same here as well – with the added edge you found in the Dirt Rally games. To get the most out of this WRC though make sure assists are turned off. Not only does it feel better but also prevents odd understeer etc you get with the assists, its ok to leave marshal breaking etc on so you ain’t casually ploughing through folk at the end of a stage. DR games were usually noted as having weak tarmac physics, but I can’t really say if that’s still the case as I ain’t really a fan of that surface, more a gravel guru, so I’m all about big sideways with loads of late braking and pedal to the metal flight. Sure I can end up in a tree or two, but it don’t half create some of the more tense gaming moments for me these days weaving through forests in a Skoda Fabia.
This is all helped by some awesome track design this time around too. Not just visually either as the stages can be as long winded as around 40km, that ain’t a typo, so it can really push your concentration too with stages that can take over 25 minutes to complete. Other interesting additions like the stage order affecting the surfaces and the aforementioned car building are a treat. Car building in particular is great within the career mode as there’s always events to unlock more parts which can upgrade the car to keep it viable.
A new developer should bring some new ideas to the WRC series, and that’s just what Codemasters have done with an expanded career mode, alongside on the track enhancements such as the longer stages and refined handling over previous Dirt Rally games. While not perfect with a few niggles, its the Dirt Rally 3 with a WRC skin you were probably hoping it would be. Now we just wait on the VR to be added in.
Easily sets the best stage time, with just a few off pacenotes keeping it from leaving the competition in the dust