Getting down and dirty with the latest in off-road monsters
I have grown up in cars. Instead of football on TV as a kid, there was Formula 1. I was taken to racing events from about 5 years old. So naturally, cars and racing are a huge part of my life, which I honestly don’t get to talk about much. So imagine my glee when I get asked to review the new WRC game, imaginatively titled: WRC8.
In all honesty, I’ve fallen a little out of love with rallying in the last few years, the cars have become less interesting, the events less hardcore in the name of budgeting. However, flinging a car down a tiny narrow gravel road with a cliff on one side, and a rocky wall on the other, is still immense fun in a butt-clenching, I’m only a few seconds from potential death, kind of way.
WRC8: Content is (car) key
With most of the racing games I play, the big things I look for is how immersive the game is, how realistic it is, and how much there is to play with. So I always look at the car list and location/tracklist as a game with few of either things can get dull pretty quickly. WRC8, being a fully licensed game, has every Rally location that’s featured in the real-life series. And all of the cars, teams, drivers are all real too. So points there for immersiveness, especially as they have done their homework and included two of the feeder series’ for the main WRC. However, this is where the first disappointment occurred. Looking at the roster for the top flight rally cars, there are only 5 choices. 5. That, quite simply, isn’t going to cut it. I would have been okay with the devs making up fake teams and drivers just to pad out the game and make running for the championship more of a challenge. The other two main classes have a decent amount of choices though, which makes up for it to a degree, and means I prefer running the second down tier as it’s far more competitive. There is also another class of car, which is a mix of classics and ex-recent WRC cars, that wouldn’t really have a home in any of the professional settings. Even if there are only four cars there, they’re all from very different eras and behave incredibly differently.
Now whilst the number of locations is good, and varied, and covers all terrain types, the number of actual stages per rally really isn’t enough. Especially as a lot of them are what I call, “recycled road” which is just one of the previous stages just instead of going from point A to point B, you go from B to A. Now I feel like I should point out, the point of rallying as a sport is to not know where you are going, it’s why there are co-drivers. People who sit in the passenger seat giving a constant stream of notes to the driver telling him what’s coming up for corners and other potential hazards, like a very narrow bridge for example. If I spend my time going up and down the same four pieces of road, forwards and backwards, I’m going to learn the road, and not need a co-driver. Which really defeats the purpose of the sport in the first place, and is a serious pet peeve of mine.
WRC8: It almost feels like the real thing!
One of this game’s biggest strengths is the detail while driving. The driving physics may feel a little arcadey (I was able to play this game on a controller even though I own a proper wheel and pedals set), the damage modelling was good, from the cosmetic to the more severe; I liked how it was very easy for the slightest mistake to cause a flat tyre and adding a lot of unwanted stage time in the process. Indeed, the damage is realistic enough that you can destroy your car to such an extent that you’re unable to finish the stage. This pleases me, I like things to have a degree of difficulty and with that level of realism.
WRC8: Time to become a professional.
Once I’d had a play around, looked at what was in the game, and gained my first trophy, which was for rolling a car, I delved into career mode. Which on the whole I was very impressed with, there was a lot of depth to it. Although there genuinely wasn’t enough of a character limit to allow for my full name. That small amusement aside, the game starts you off as a new driver and you have to run tests in order to impress teams so they hire you. I love these sorts of mechanics in a career mode. So scraping through a test, and being hired by a team, I begin my career. I was then greeted by a central hub, with lots of different areas to look through, from a calendar where I can schedule events, read emails, make upgrades in an incredibly extensive research and development department, manage, and hire team members, there’s even a free roam section where I can just blitz the car round the local country roads.
Eventually, however, it was time for my first real competition, where the game threw upon me another fantastic little detail; I had objectives to achieve that had been sent from Ford for me to complete while at this rally. These objectives contributed to a brand loyalty meter, which, if it drops low enough, the carmaker you are racing for won’t want you driving their cars anymore and you’d have to look for a new job! Thankfully though, I kept the automotive giant pleased with my performance. Not necessarily completing every objective set for me, but pleased enough to keep my first ride.
There are plenty of other events to do besides full rallies, such as training sessions, and historic rallies allowing me to drive one of the classic cars in the game. One of which being somewhat nice to drive as long as you are very liberal with the handbrake, the other needs no encouragement to stick its arse out and try to spin at every hairpin corner.
Despite one “did not finish” result thanks to an awkwardly placed boulder on the exit of a corner, I did better than I expected, even finishing on the podium for one rally which I really didn’t think was going to happen, enough to keep me invested in this career and keep me playing the game.
WRC8: It could be brilliant… could be
To sum up, whilst I love this game’s in-depth career mode with all its little details and facets to it, the arcadey physics and it’s lack of cars and roads to drive on does make it seem a little unfinished. Plus there were some glitches that reared their head during play. The most comical of which was the Toyota I was busy destroying on a Finnish stage which is nothing but jumps and trees, decided it didn’t want to be white, red and black anymore, instead the whole car was just a chrome purple. While the career mode is wonderfully thought out, eventually it will grow stale with all the repetition in the stages and the few cars to drive.
In an ideal world, I would take this game’s career mode, then mix it with Dirt Rally 2.0’s physics, car list, and rallies. The rival game has all the content I’d like out of a rallying game, which they are still adding too as well. Oh and maybe some sort of livery editor, seeing as I’m in charge of my own team for the career mode as well.
In the end, I feel like ultimately, I’d rather be playing Dirt Rally 2.0 over WRC8. Content is key, and content is what sells a game, and gives it replayability, and for my money, WRC8 doesn’t have enough content, sadly.
A review code for WRC8 was kindly provided by Bigben Interactive.