Earlier this year we saw a bit of a deluge in rally games. The Sebastian Loeb licensed game, developed by previous WRC developers Milestone, failed to ignite any kind of enjoyment from fans. Whilst not an excuse for its shortcomings, it did have to compete against the rather excellent DiRT Rally from Codemasters who made the leap from PC and Early Access to consoles, giving a difficult, yet engrossing simulation. Neither really attempted to take any kind of crown from the WRC series however.
Sebastian Loeb Evo was more of an arcade nod to the styles that a generation ago would have been a passable game. DiRT was a love letter to the sport, painstakingly replicating the handling and terror of driving rally cars from a selection of ages around real world inspired course settings. To compare WRC 6 to either would be remiss but as a tie-in, it gets the luxury of diversity, of accessibility and, most obviously, licensed authenticity.
The World Rally Championship as a sport has had a bad few years in piquing a more casual interest in fans and viewers. Not really finding a TV home, despite great internet and occasional sports channel coverage, and results being dominated by the VW Polo of now four time champion Sebastian Ogier, it suffers like F1 does in having a good product and interesting new prospects that come up secondary to the inevitable winner. But WRC 6, like its predecessor, does well in giving people an interesting and competitive access point to the game and the sport.
The career game mode returns and like WRC 5 will see you select a team in the Junior WRC category and work your way up to the big leagues and more powerful cars. The damage model also keeps the style of WRC 5. But it’s the expanded season, which includes Australia and China, as well as extra tracks for existing rally’s, that definitely shows that the team listened to feedback or had more time to put further interesting sections in to the game.
The extra special stages are a fine case in point. Rally has a habit of being a bit “out in the wilderness” when it comes to games, but Rally in real life can and is raced in town centres, special tandem like courses and tight show off stages. WRC 6 does well to bring this part of rally in to the fold with a great deal of driving difficulty slapped on top, as you’d expect.
All of the previous modes come back for another outing like a quick race, training, the career mode and a multiplayer setup which allows for custom games with the full selection of courses, cars and rally lengths, to choose from. You won’t really race against a person outside of times but being part of the same race with your friends and laying down challenges is fun. You can also download the ghost laps of the top 5 drivers in the leaderboards for any rally to see how its done, which is a great extra.
There seems to be more life all round in WRC 6 with a big emphasis on the broadcast like presentation that adds some colour to the proceedings. The handling of the cars has been much improved to with last years game with refinements to handbrakes and car correction from a slide or drift. Everything feels a bit tighter and even a bit more claustrophobic on the race course, separating it from its arcade feel contemporary.
Where the game falls down is in tackling some of the bigger issues from WRC 5 and what its sacrificed to do so. Each track has a choice of three weather options but those are dictated by the climate. Monaco can either be clear, cloudy or a snowstorm, there’s no in between conditions or rain. Similarly Finland can be clear, cloudy or rainy – nothing else. Arid tracks take dusty instead of cloudy and so on. It’s a missed opportunity to do some real fantasy rallying. Imagine Monte Carlo with no snow.
What makes it more of an annoyance is that these snow/rain storms are really quite sad. There’s the effect on handling, sure, but they aren’t much to look at. A lot of grey, a few drops here and there and that’s it. Hardly worth putting in a windscreen wiper control for it. In fact there’s a lot that feels a bit light graphically. Aside from the lack of weather effects, the surrounding scenery of the countries feels a bit lost in a blotchy background. In the immediate its good but as soon as you look beyond the confines of the trees or rocks, it lacks the kind of character that others, even WRC 5, had before. Although DiRT Rally’s amazing vistas may have spoilt this reviewer a bit. There is a positive though.
The upshot of this is that the game runs incredibly smoothly. The PS4 version we tested ran at 30fps with only minimal drops in frame when heavy braking for tight corners or in certain view modes when a lot of input is needed (cornering, sound, gear changes, the co-driver, timing, etc). Everything around you while racing (cars, course scenery, road, etc) is now very sharp and a lot clearer than WRC 5 was. There has been a definite improvement and the sacrifice in distance fidelity and weather allows for a smooth ride, albeit one you might sigh over. Unlike your co-driver who still hasn’t got the timings of when to read their notes quite right yet for my personal taste. A bit too close to the corner for me and easily lost with quick successive corners.
The problem is that the game can never match that of DiRT which is good on the one hand as we get and enjoyable licensed game with all the courses, drivers and a decent career mode. But on the other hand we know that there is better. Most importantly, despite being a step in the right direction it feels like the game, the engine, the developers and the sport has more in it to give. WRC 6 feels like a chapter building to a better climax in future, but is still an entertaining chapter in its own right.
- Good consistent graphic performance
- Expanding on last seasons licences
- Broadcast style great to introduce new players
- Graphical Stability at the cost of impressive weather
- Lack of fully customisable weather and quick races.
- Won't present a challenge to hardcore fans