Rally games were once very popular, to such an extent that there was an abundance of titles on offer and it ended up overcrowding the market. Today you’ll get one or two new games in their efforts to take the podium, but with Dirt Rally in the market it’s tough to break into the genre. WRC 6 is about to take them on in a head-to-head super special stage race, and they actually nearly beat them.
Out with the old, in with the new
Forget what you know about the previous WRC titles. The previous entries weren’t anywhere near as polished and always felt like a typical low-budget game. Developer, Kylotonn, must have taken the critics quite seriously as you now have a game that’s worthy of the officially WRC license. It’s tough as nails, but it really feels like you’re getting your rally sim fix.
The focus is purely on rally driving and nothing else. The first mode you’ll want to sink your muddy wheels into will be the career mode. Here you start off as a newbie whereby you register your name, surname and nationality and sign-up with one of the junior WRC teams. You’ll get to choose the team that best suits you. Some are strict with rules (but come with bigger rewards), while others provide you with flexibility in your contract. Before you do all that you will be put through a few tests to see what difficulty level the game suggests for you. If you’re having a bit of trouble you’ll be pushed to an easy difficulty in the rookie tier. Do a bit better and you’ll edge your way into medium difficulty with pro or semi-pro, or if you’re a veteran you’ll likely head the elite class. I put focus on this tier system as it’s important that you choose wisely. You want a challenge, but you don’t want your first Junior WRC race to be a complete mess as you have to keep your team happy.
[pullquote_right]Move on to France or Germany and you’ll have to deal with an onslaught of tight nippy corners ‘from hell’.[/pullquote_right]WRC 6 comes with no rewind feature. What does this mean? It means it’s oldschool and you can’t afford to make any mistakes. You need to listen to your co-driver. At first I felt a little bewildered as the co-driver was mouthing turns off so quickly that I could not keep up, but there is an option in place to lower the amount of information he provides. Understanding what he says is critical to winning, as he’ll warn you about a dip, rock or jump you should be vary of. Win any particular rally event and your team morale improves and it also means that you’ll have teams from the higher tiers knocking on your door.
The official everything!
It’s a complete rush upgrading to WRC 2 and, later, WRC as the cars handle so much better and are so much more powerful, but I do have a slight problem when it comes to each tier (including Junior WRC). The cars in each tier handle so similar to one another that I feel there’s very little reason choosing between the various teams. Other than your contract details it’ll feel like you’re racing the same car. That said, the cars handle really well and it’s an absolute joy taking on any stage. This brings me to your locations you’ll be racing in.
If it’s in WRC (in the real world) then expect it to be in the game. You’ll see Peugeot, Ford, Skoda, Citroën, VW, Hundai, Mini and all their respective drivers featured. The locations include Portugal, Italy, Poland, Finland, Germany, China, France, Wales, Australia, Monte-Carlo, Sweden, Mexico, Catalunya and Argentina – each stage represented to perfection and with its own very unique set of challenges. Head to Australia and you’ll drift around the dusty wide roads with accuracy, but head to Poland or Finland and you’re required to do everything at top speed. Move on to France or Germany and you’ll have to deal with an onslaught of tight nippy corners ‘from hell’. Beat the time of your rivals, that’s why you’re racing, and you can’t help but pat yourself on the back. There are so many dangers in rally driving and WRC 6 brings it to the fore.
[pullquote_left]The cars and tracks themselves are immaculately detailed, but the crowd in the background are as ‘calm as Hindu cows’.[/pullquote_left]Each jump, corner and dip could spell the end of your race. Damage your car too much and you’ll see a visual breakdown of the green bits slowly turning to red. First that’ll go, no matter what you do, will be your tyres, followed by your bodywork and brakes, and later, when things go horribly wrong, your engine and steering ability. And, just when you think you’re on top of it all, and that you are about to take a sweet podium, you get a flat tyre that adds 30 seconds to your time. It’s gut-wrenching, but when it all works out it is a sweet, sweet feeling. Stages are divided up into segments and once that segment is complete you’ll at least be able to repair your car. You only have 45 minutes to tamper with the repairs, though a quick push of the X button will automatically make those repairs for you. It’s also here that you can configure your car for any particular surface and track layout. Swap between hard and soft tyres, or adjust the springs, shock absorber compression and rebound, anti-roll bar and ground clearance. You have two different setting variations targeted at tarmac or snow & ice, which means you don’t have to keep changing the settings back and forth between rally events.
You can taste the dust… why is my mouth so dry?
Graphically WRC 6 looks very impressive. The trails of dust, something I’ve always enjoyed with a rally game, is as thick and detailed as I remember the first time I saw rally driving in Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec many years ago. Look behind you and all you see is a massive cloud of dust, unless you’re on tarmac or a wet road. You’ll also have to deal with thick mist and stages that involve night driving that’ll make it very, very challenging. The cars and tracks themselves are immaculately detailed, but the crowd in the background are as ‘calm as Hindu cows’. Smash into a barrier right next to the spectators and they’ll show absolutely no emotion. Perhaps something that can be worked on for the future.
Unfortunately I could not find one single game to try online, though split-screen couch co-op players will be glad to hear it includes an offline mode that allows up 2 players to race against each other, or you can have an 8-player time trial battle to see who has the best nerves of steel. Once you’re done with career in single player you can also create your own custom championship, which definitely adds to the length of the game.
WRC 6 is a massive improvement over previous games and, though it’s as tough as they come, it’s a dream come true for fans of the discipline. Dirt Rally finally has a contender. It’s still got a few things to fix, but next year might be the year that Dirt Rally gets left with dirt in its eyes.