So, another rally game, another angle, this is the new "officially licensed" WRC game, and it doesn't disappoint, with all the top teams and drivers, 14 real rally locations from around the world, all programmed realistically using satalite data, up to date cars, new liveries, sponsors and surroundings, this should be one hell of a game, but how does it handle in comparison to other ground breaking titles around at the moment such as the big man himself Mr Colin Mcrae.
(It may be of interest to go back and read the review of CMR3, to see what all the fuss was about and also to pick up on its weak points just to make a fair comparison.)
I loaded this game with a little intrepidation, I am after all a big fan of Colin Mcrae 3 and was wondering how this game would compare, the answer is favourably, although not perfect, neither was Mcrae 3 and these games seem to have excelled where the other had glitches.
So lets start at the beginning, WRC has wonderful interfaces accompanied by music from the chemical brothers it put me in the mood to race, each individual rally is preceded by a wonderful video introduction telling you a little of the history of each rally before you start, Little touches like this go a long way with a reviewer like me, I like to see things happen, get to know the backgrounds, it makes you feel different to be racing in the Monte Carlo Rally rather than a nameless series of dirt roads, these videos all serve to illustrate important features of the rally that may surprise you if you weren't expecting them.
So into the race, the big advantage over MCrae 3 is that you can choose who you want to race as from any team, so I jumped in as Richie Burns in his 206 and away I went. Graphically the game is great, the levels are detailed the draw distance is staggering and the cars look amazing, the levels are densely populated with marshal's, crowds and animals as well as parked vehicles. I shot around the first few stages of Monte Carlo in record time i was about 30 seconds ahead from second place. Comfortable (or so I thought), then I went into the mountain stages and started to hit Icy roads....
Oh dear.... I really lost the plot here, and the car took on a whole new set of physics, really slipping and sliding around, I was very impressed by the handling, the car will drive very differently when on snow, gravel, ice, water, or grass,
If your a big rally game fan then the controls are very easy to master, if your a beginner or an inexperienced gamer, they really wont take you long to get to grips with, if I had to compare WRC to CMR3 I would have to say that WRC is easier to get used to but I like a challenge so CMR3 is still cool with me! I didn't find WRC difficult to drive, it was fairly easy for me, but I am (without sounding arrogant) a big fan of driving games and am pretty good at them, put me in a role player and ill be dead by dawn but Driving games I can do, and I do them well.
So onto the big important bit of the review... THE CRASHES, yes as much as we don't like to admit it, we all try on our first attempts to flip and roll the car in the most stylish way possible. WRC doesn't disappoint in that respect, the gravity and weight simulation is a bit unrealistic i've hit ridges at about 80mph and flown a good 50 or 60 feet vertically into the air and taken a long time to come down, but it makes it look impressive, I don't think id be as forgiving about it if I was seriously competing in the rally though! the drawback to giving cars so much airtime is apparent after a few plays, whilst there is an auto correct (when flipped the car will return to its wheels) and also a 3 second out of bounds return, there is a small glitch where you can become wedged in certain positions so the car will not correct, and because your still moving, it will not put you back on the track. Basically the game will lock up, you cant return to the track and you can't get anywhere else. This is poor, it really lets down what is otherwise a good game, I got very frustrated when I was a good minute in the lead on the last stage of the rally and became wedged in a gully, it cost me the rally and I couldn't be bothered to start again, I suppose I should have been driving a bit more carefully!
Damage-wise, the cars will get wrecked but its not easy, CMR3 really was good for damage, you could rip off bumpers, doors, wheels, everything, you only had to clip a sign and glass would shatter everywhere, In WRC I was deliberately driving badly for a good 10 minutes and I only really dented a few parts, so if that's the kind of driving your after, you may be a bit disappointed.
There is one major major annoyance for me, collision detect in rally games has always been iffy, its very difficult and I appreciate that making the detect spot on for trees and obstacles is understandably hard, I was extremely critical about how in Colin Mcrae 3 you could easily sideswipe a half ton bail of hay across the road with out affecting your car but a small bush would stop you dead in your tracks, at first I was delighted with the detect on WRC, and for about 99% of it I still am, it is very good, as close to perfection i've seen, however... There is one main problem I have, every single time without fail that you slide around a corner and clip a barrier you will be spun to face it. There is no scraping across it, you are just spun through about 90 degrees on average to face the wall. It is absolutely, without questioning the most infuriating thing in this game. I would never dream of faulting the detect if it weren't for this. But again maybe I should just drive better eh?
The replays in this game really come to life, they are very beautiful, they play similar and have the same realism as Gran Turismo, the cars in the distance will blur, heat haze will appear on roads, and when filming from the helicopters, the cameras will shake as they would for real, This is by far the best replay i've seen for a long time, it makes your driving look good no matter how bad you are!
Overall I enjoyed WRC, I think there is plenty of room for it alongside CMR3, both games cater for different needs whilst containing very similar material, I would say that WRC is easier to get to grips with and so is a much more user friendly game the draw distance is a major major advantage and adds an element that others don't, and its damn enjoyable to play too!