The World Rally Championship is a gruelling sport in the world of motorsport. It poses a challenge that tests the skills and endurance of any driver and their team to the extreme limits. It’s not a sport for those who don’t like getting down and dirty. WRC 8 has arrived to separate the boys from the men. Perseverance will be your ultimate pay off, as the developers have also discovered. This series isn’t being left in the dust anymore.
When the word ‘rally’ gets mentioned there is only one game that comes to mind right away, the Dirt Rally series. For several years now the official WRC games have been playing catch-up, but in WRC 8 they are now so close that you have to just about remove the granules of sand from your mouth that is being kicked up by the leader right in front of it. Before you jump into the career mode you’ll be tasked to take a car for a spin so that your skills can be evaluated. If you struggled then it can be turned down to the easy mode, which will definitely help you throughout your progress, but if you aced it there is a new simulation mode that’ll challenge the most hardcore rally fan out there.
Your race might start in the dry and end up dealing with a raging storm and some of the best puddle physics I have ever seen in a racing game.
Career mode has seen a massive upgrade. Many lessons have been noted from other titles and with that, you are going to be managing several aspects outside of your racing events. There is an extensive tutorial to explain the ins and outs of it all, which can also be turned off if you so please. Once you’ve created your profile, done your test drive and signed up for an interested team, you’ll be managing your events on a calendar. Here you’ll find maintenance, training, manufacurer tryouts, manufacturer challenges, extreme condition events and the option to rest. Due to you managing a staff complement made out of mechanics, meteorologists, agents and more, you’ll have to learn to look after both your vehicle and those who are working their backsides off to make you the number one driver on the circuit. Earn money in races and you’ll be able to recruit better crew members, but don’t be surprised if they leave your team for a better offer too. It doesn’t end there.
When participating in events you’ll require upgrade points that can be spent in the R&D tree where you can improve the team, performance, crew and reliability. For example, you can reduce the morale loss if you lose a race in the team section or modify the aerodynamic ability of your car underperformance. Also, when you sign up to a team one of the four departments will already be maxed, leaving you to worry about the other areas. You see, each team comes with its own strengths and weaknesses and you’re there to fill the gaps. At the end it comes down to the racing – you’re not here to only play a management game. The good news is that the racing has seen a huge improvement.
Past WRC games had trouble with the physics and weight distribution of the various vehicles in their respective classes. Each class, Junior WRC, WRC 2 and WRC, feels solid now. There is also a distinct difference between the various manufacturers, no car feels alike and you’ll soon enough discover the car that is made for you in the manufacturer tryout. You’ll also be able to configure the parts in your car to your liking. With over 100 stages to compete in, you’ll be doing a lot of rally driving and will find events in Argentina and Monte-Carlo playing havoc with your vehicles as you’re dealing with bits of rock and challenging terrains, whereas other circuits in Finland and Spain come with more flowing stages where you’ll push your vehicle to its top speed… but also risk folding your car around a tree in an upcoming bend when not listening to your co-driver. Damage plays a massive part in this game.
Mud is thicker than water
Each knock affects the performance of your car. Be it a loss of steering control or damage to the differential, you’re going to have to be careful. What makes it all the better is that there is no form of rewind feature. If you roll your car you either restart the event (there are limited restarts, depending on your difficulty setting) or take the time penalty knock on the chin and continue the race. Where WRC 8 impresses immensely is with its new dynamic weather upgrades. Your race might start in the dry and end up dealing with a raging storm and some of the best puddle physics I have ever seen in a racing game. You might have experienced this is Forza Motorsport 7, but I believe these puddle physics are even better. Hit a puddle at the wrong angle or speed and your car will either aquaplane or see the force of the water pull your car to the left or right. Some puddles were so extreme that it completely spun my vehicle to face in the wrong direction. Therefore it’s a good idea to dodge any pool of water wherever possible. Overall the car handling feels really good. There isn’t a moment, other than those pesky puddles, where you feel out of control and it’s a good thing, as these stages are lengthy affairs.
Once you move up to WRC 2 and WRC you’ll be dealing with everything this game can throw at you and seeing as it’s the officially licensed tracks, you’ll be racing on some stages that’ll last you over 12 minutes. Yes, a complete rally event will last you close to an hour. Due to the game being licensed you’ll also get to race as your favourite drivers in quick play mode, though in season mode you will again play as yourself but without all the frills and spills of managing a team and its crew. The online mode isn’t bustling with players, but you can at the very least play it offline in split-screen with a friend. There is a lot of content to sink your teeth into, but there is a reason it’s still eating the dust of its biggest rival.
Thanks to the game being officially licensed it struggles with variety. If you live for the pure joy of rally racing and nothing else, you’ll be the happiest person on planet earth. But you won’t find much else. Don’t expect a race against other cars on track in rallycross or any other mode to make a showing. It’s always you against the timer and nothing else. Unfortunately, the graphics, while impressive in their own right (especially with the dynamic weather change) it isn’t going to blow your hair back. There is also no HDR support, which is a shame. The constant pop-in of trees in the distance will also catch your eye and can be quite distracting. I also encountered a moment at the end of a long stage where I was supposed to appear on the podium, but my driver was missing and I had to restart the event. In other words – there are still some glitches.
This is the closest the WRC series has come to meeting expectations in a very long time. It is now very close to greatness and if they manage to wheel spin their way out of some of these pitfalls it might just make it on to the podium. WRC 8 does justice to its official license and will soon see green sectors showing up on its HUD.