Earlier this year, Codemasters proved its dominance on the rally road once more with DiRT Rally 2.0. And though the title is quite a handful when it comes to difficulty, it’s got long-term traction to spare, thanks to its open array of courses, terrific controls and beautiful visuals. It almost makes you wonder if someone can keep up with that kind of competition.
Bless ‘em, Bigben Interactive tries with the latest chapter in its WRC series. The game has some built-in traction that’s sure to get the attention of rally racing fans that are looking for something new outside of the DiRT Rally spectrum. That said, the game comes up short in a couple of crucial areas, despite the team’s devotion to nailing down what rally racing is all about.
The main draw here is a career mode, where you’ll get your start working alongside a few sponsors and teammates, running through a calendar chock full of events. These vary, with the opening ones getting you use to the gameplay system. But then things take a turn for the challenging, ranging from extreme courses to races where you’ll have to attain the utmost confidence in your performance, lest the sponsors start asking questions and possibly losing interest.
There’s also a Seasons Mode, in which you deal directly with the racing itself. This is much less of a burden, though the game still throws plenty at you when it comes to trying to get a first place victory. This is probably the best place to go, mainly because management is a bit iffy.
Having to deal with team costs and sponsors right off the bat, without any kind of fair warning, can be the type of thing that overwhelms rookies. This, on top of landing in an eighth or ninth place spot at first, may turn them off from WRC 8 right away. This is something I’ve seen in a lot of racing games, where the developers go more for the masters of the track, without letting anyone new join the fun. But it seems a little more…extreme here. That’s why I recommend Seasons more, because you don’t have to worry about confidence being chipped away because someone doesn’t like your placing.
If you prefer, there’s also general events you can practice in, a track to master your cornering and speed, online matchmaking so you can race against friends (and rally zealots that dominate the track a wee bit much, if you can get matched up to them) and even a few extra events. Overall, the game is packed. But, again, the door only really seems to be open to the pros. You’d think Bigben would’ve had a better welcome mat to ease some players into the game.
That brings us to the controls, which are alright. But car performance is questionable at times, as it’s all too easy to spin out. As if you’re not already pressured enough to try and capture a good time on each track, one wrong turn could easily leave you spun around – or worse yet, flying off the track in some cases. It’s easy enough to start over, but this could’ve used a little tightening. Outside of that, the controls aren’t too bad. Just make sure you balance out that acceleration, unless you want to go flying.
As for the presentation, it’s a few levels below DiRT Rally 2.0. The graphics, even on the Xbox One X, look like something from the Xbox 360 era. The car models are okay, but the track designs are a bit lacking in detail, and there are technical hiccups that take away from the realism. The full-on camera system is pretty nice, and some of the replay stuff is cool, but there could’ve been a little more polish thrown in here.
As for the audio, it’s lackluster. The music doesn’t really have that much inspiration to it, outside of a couple of tunes. And the sound effects are a mixed batch. The car noises are ideal and perfect for a game like this; but your turn announcer sounds a bit too stuck-up for his own good. I would’ve preferred someone with a more relaxed tone – like in DiRT 4.
In the end, WRC 8 does do some things that improve over the last game, but there’s also too many setbacks to keep it from properly competing with Codemasters’ greatness. The graphics aren’t as sharp as they could be, the controls have some slight issues with spinning out; and the difficulty will be too much for some rookie players to bear, especially in the Career Mode.
It’s still a decent game for those of you that live and breathe rally racing. But for everyone else, I highly recommend sticking with the more casual DiRT 4. At least that way, you have a good time on the road, with far less pressure.