WRC 8 – Xbox One Review
There are some remote parts of the world that you really wouldn’t relish driving through. The ice and snow of northern Sweden, gravel tracks high in the Chilean Andes, the winding narrow cliff-side lanes of Corsica, maybe even the muddy dirt tracks through the forests of Wales, all these places are a rally drivers dream, and are just some of the places you get to speed through in WRC 8, the licenced game of the World Rally Championship. In what was a yearly release, Kylotonn didn’t release a version of the game last year, and the extra time working on the new title seems to have had good results with a marked improvement on its predecessor.
The career mode has had what appears to be a complete redesign, and we’re presented with a management sim full of detail and depth that game a good sense of progression when you’re not racing, and gives you a good idea how big a team you need to support a successful rally driver. As well as hiring and firing team members, you need to balance the books with good budget management, and decide how and when to develop your car to improve performance, making it faster and more reliable. The development tree is nothing new for racing games with a career mode, but this one is well laid out, with a well balanced improvement curve that keeps you playing.
Just grinding through the rally stages would quickly get boring in a career mode, so thankfully this is nicely broken up by the chance to try some training exercises and car testing, as well as some challenges and classic rallies to take on. These extra events bring in cash you can use for your development, so don’t skip them as they’ll be a major boost to your career progression. Remember not to take on any events that you think are too difficult for the car you have, as success or failure have an effect on your driver morale, so you need to be doing well on a consistent basis to reap the benefit.
The Online mode isn’t the strongest area of the game but theres not really much wrong with it, its not outstanding. It takes a while to get into a game because youre waiting for all the players to ready up rather than have a set timer, and then you’re into stages where drivers set their times live, so once you fnaish it’s a case of waiting for the leaderboard to update to see how well you’ve done. Like its predecessor, WRC 8 is set up for a serious assault on the eSports field, although theres not much to go on yet as its all due to get going in early 2020. In the meantime the online mode gives drivers weekly challenges to tackle, as well as the ability to test yourself in splitscreen against other online players.
As the game is officially licenced, you get all the real life cars from the WRC, and not just in the main event, as theres also the drives from The WRC2 Pro, WRC2 and the Junior Championship to pick from. All the terrains you’d expect in the real event are there, and theres plenty of diversity, particularly in appearance, with each country having a distinct look and feel with the terrain. You’re thrown straight in at the deep end with the icy roads of Sweden, which is one of the trickier surfaces to control the car on. There may only be a limited amount of road in each stage to race on, but the way the stage is broken up into chunks of different lengths. The net result of this makes it feel like more than the sum of its parts, which helps to keep it interesting for longer than it otherwise might. When you add up all the stages throughout the game, you’re actually getting quite a few tracks for your money. Granted its not as many as a Forza game, but certainly more than the more comparable DiRT Rally.
Now, down to the nitty gritty, and how good or bad the actual driving is, as this is what the game is all about at the end of the day. I have mixed feelings about this as some aspects are superb, whereas other parts spoilt the overall experience. This is very much in the sim bracket rather than the arcade area of driving, and there are a great many factors that effect the performance of the car. You can tune your car to your hearts content if you’re serious about these things, and you know what you’re doing, so that effects the performance, but there are also the outside factors, such as the dynamic and the tyre wear, which are new and welcome additions to the franchise. Inexperienced drivers might not notice the tyre wear too much, but there is a marked difference as the tyre wear takes effect in the latter stages of a rally. There are different game difficulties you can set, but they don’t make you’re driving any easier or harder, its just effecting the times of your opponents in career mode. What does make it easier or harder is what assists you turn on or off. WRC 8 doesn’t cater very well for the novice driver, with no assisted braking and no fully automatic gears. You best you can get is semi-auto, which will get you up to 2nd gear, but after that you need to switch up manually, although switching down is done for you when the revs drop low enough. Another impression I got fairly early on is that you wont get the most out of the driving if you’re using a controller, its just feels far too sensitive and over-steer is common. The game definitely plays better with a steering wheel controller, as the feel and steering are so much better, making the car easier to control. The physics of the car are excellent, all the time you’re on the track, but bump the edge of the track (which nearly always feels like a hard raise curve) and the physics start to feel a bit unrealistic. For example, I took a corner too fast and too wide, and hit a tree head on, only to see my car bounce directly backwards in the opposite direction while doing a triple back somersault! You cant stray far off the course before being forced to respawn back on the track and incur a 7 to 9 second penalty, which is frustrating.
Graphically its also a bit pf a mixed bag. Some stages (it seemed to be the newer ones) had a nice crisp look but then other terrains were a bit underwhelming. The cars look great with plenty of detail, although when damaged the look is a little less impressive and a bit unrealistic. The audio is nothing to write home about, apart from the co-drivers, which are nice a clear, an important factor as this is what youre relying on as driver. As with the real life sport, you don’t have a sat-nav to glance at, so all you have is the person sitting next to you telling whats coming up ahead.
Overall, WRC 8 has made great strides forward, but in many areas there seems to e a lot of work to do. The driving is unforgiving for the novice driver, and its sim nature and high difficulty means that you need to be a series player to get the most out if it. Maybe there is too much of it geared up to pleasing the eSports drivers and die-hard fans of the serious, and it all feels less accessible for the casual player that just wants to dip into the action.
Developer: Kylotonn Games
Publisher: Bigben Interactive
Many Thanks to Dead Good Media for the review copy.