WRC 10 – 1 Left into DR3
- Developer: KT Racing
- Publisher: Nacon
- Release date: September 2nd (WW) / 7th (NA), 2021
- Genre: Racing, Simulation, Rally
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows
- Reviewed on: Xbox Series X
- Game Supplied by: Publisher
WRC 10 Review
KT Racing’s newest instalment in their WRC series is easily the best so far. WRC 10 may be guilty of reusing some of the stages, but the framework upon which the game is built has been improved and refined with each iteration, and it is so close to being the perfect package.
Here comes the new boss…
At first glance, WRC 10 will be very familiar to anyone that played the previous WRC games. The main menu has had a cleanup, but the career menus look almost identical to last year (and the year before). However, they’ve made a few helpful cosmetic changes: You can enlarge each of the four development areas in R&D, for example, and the crew members have a star rating now instead of the unexplained RPG style colour coding system.
Some things that do need improving still linger, though. Do we really need loads of pointless generic emails after each event? After winning my first rally, I was greeted by several emails criticising my performance with the threat of losing my place within the team. Say what? I literally couldn’t do any better.
The overall structure of the career is still very good, though. Each week has a selection of events leading up to the main rallies, with extreme conditions events, training, maintenance runs, rest periods to rejuvenate your team, and manufacturers’ tryouts and Challenges (which are how you switch teams and gain access to the higher tiers of the WRC).
For better or worse, season objectives are back again. Some of them are okay, like not exceeding a certain amount of time on repairs, as it encourages you to drive more carefully than you otherwise would, but others are basically impossible. I had a challenge where I had to complete 3 training sessions in the next 6 weeks; Easy enough, except for the fact that only 1 training session was offered to me.
Early 50th birthday party
The newly added WRC 50th Anniversary events (even though they are a year early) are also tied into the career, as well as having their own separate game mode. These will have you racing against a benchmark time in classic machinery, and recreating famous moments from WRC history, such as the time Petter Solberg switched seats with his co-driver.
In career and season mode, the difficulty is scalable, but the anniversary events are balls-to-the-wall time trials that don’t heed to your set difficulty level. I managed to beat a few of them comfortably, but later events have no margin for error and I eventually only won by a second or two, which was exhilarating. It could alienate some of the more casual players, but when everything else can be tailored to less skilled players, it’s no crime to have something to aspire to and be proud of completing.
The stages are exactly the same as the ones in the regular mode, but to reflect the lack of health and safety rules in those times, there are a few support vehicles trackside and fans waving you on from the edge of the road. These fans are static, though, without any instinct of self-preservation, and even grazing one with your bumper will see your car reset and a 5-second penalty added.
Of more interest are the classic rally cars you’ll get to drive, such as the Lancia Delta Integrale, Audi Quattro and Toyota Celica. I really enjoyed driving these historic vehicles, but some are hidden behind a DLC paywall – Tommi Makinen’s Lancer Evo V and Colin McRae’s Impreza, most notably. That these cars are there at launch but not included is very disappointing, but the classic cars are criminally underused within most of the game modes anyway, so it doesn’t feel like you’re missing much.
As well as the career and 50th Anniversary events, there’s a robust suite of multiplayer offerings, including online multiplayer, the ever-popular clubs, time-trial leaderboards, the hilarious co-driver mode and split-screen racing.
Clubs are likely to be popular amongst groups, as they allow you to set custom events, with their own leaderboards. You can set a start time up to 24 hours in the future, and a duration of anywhere up to 7 days to finish the stages. It’s a very polished game mode, and it has overall rankings alongside those for individual events.
Another addition I really enjoyed were the challenges within the Skill Development menu. They are a series of 50 challenges against the clock, on a mixture of training courses, extreme events and the maintenance runs. Most of them take can be finished in a minute or two, but you’ll need all of your skill to take the gold (and unlock a juicy achievement for your troubles).
A final new addition, that’s flawed but functional, is the livery editor. It’s very reminiscent of the editor on Forza, but it lacks the finesse of Turn 10’s implementation. You can build up layers from an impressive number of shapes, but you can’t then group them easily and copy or move them en masse. The resize function doesn’t seem to work properly, either. There are controls for adjusting the X and Y sizing, but they are linked, so moving one adjusts the other in tandem.
With a lot of patience and some trial and error, you will be able to make some pretty impressive designs. It’s a shame so many design elements are hidden away behind arbitrary progress within the game, though; large amounts of colours and shapes have to be unlocked by reaching milestones in-game or completing parts of the career.
I spent about 10 minutes knocking up this really basic Total Gaming Addicts livery, and I was impressed with how easy it was to make something almost, but not completely shit. With a lot more refinement, it could be a powerful tool.
If you’ve got even the slightest hint of talent, you’ll soon be sliding your car around dusty hairpins, threading your way through kinks and scrabbling for grip on snow-covered bends like a boss
As mentioned, the UI and general structure have had a polish, but it’s when you start driving that the real improvements can be found. WRC 9 refined the controls significantly, but you would likely still need to dip into the menus to make some adjustments to the dead zones and linearity to make the driving a bit more controller friendly. WRC 10, however, is far better, and can easily be picked up and played with the default settings.
Aside from the much better controller inputs, the handling model feels better than ever. The cars feel weightier, making shifting the balance of the car more intuitive, and you can really feel the differences as you change between road surfaces. If you’ve got even the slightest hint of talent, you’ll soon be sliding your car around dusty hairpins, threading your way through kinks and scrabbling for grip on snow-covered bends like a boss.
That’s not to say it’s easy, though. When you are pushing the limits you’re never more than a misjudged braking point or misheard co-driver call away from wrecking your suspension and bodywork against a rock or flying from a mountain into the gorgeous looking scenery. It’s these on-the-edge moments that make WRC 10 so good. In cockpit view especially, the level of immersion is second to none.
On most games, I can join party chat and have a conversation while playing, but with WRC 10 I need my entire focus to be on what’s happening on the screen and the information coming from my co-driver. Lose concentration for just a moment and you can find all your hard work building up a lead eradicated in a split second.
Due to the much more pronounced effect of the road surface on the handling, tyre selection and management is more crucial than ever. Somewhat disappointingly, WRC 10 doesn’t let you know what kind of roads you will be driving on from stage to stage. Unless you have prior knowledge of the rally you are starting and the road surfaces you can expect, you will have to guess which is the right combination of tyres to bring. Using the wrong tyres makes a huge difference to the handling – I found myself dropping 20-30 seconds on a mid-length stage when I chose poorly. The option to have some kind of auto-selection for those who aren’t in the know would have been preferable.
WRC 10 – Made for the New Gen
WRC 9 received a next-gen console update that brought much needed 60 fps gameplay, but apart from a smoother frame rate, the differences were slight. WRC 10, however, was built from the ground up with the new consoles in mind. In addition to much improved graphical effects and even more detailed trackside scenery, there’s now a 30 fps mode to show off the graphics, a balanced 60 fps mode, and a buttery smooth 120 fps mode, too.
As pretty as it looks in the graphics mode, 30 fps just doesn’t cut it. WRC 10 is a very fast-paced game that relies on you making constant tiny adjustments that are nigh on impossible at such a pedestrian frame rate. If you’re a graphics junky, the 60 fps mode is the best of both worlds. The responsiveness is much better, and it looks almost indistinguishable, especially when you’re doing 120 mph down a narrow road, For me, though, the 120 fps mode is where WRC 10 shines. It runs at a lower resolution, but it still retains most of the graphical flourishes that make it look so beautiful, and the responsiveness and smoothness far outweighs the loss of a few pixels.
Each stage is full of beautifully rendered scenery and landmarks, and track surfaces look incredibly realistic, so much so that it helps you predict how the car will react based on sight alone. It really is a fabulous looking game. In one moment you will witness the sunlight dappling the road ahead of you, filtering through the trees and flickering across your dashboard, before opening up into stunning sun-soaked vistas as the road snakes off into the distance up ahead.
Perhaps even more stunning are the inclement weather effects, where your vision is hampered by pounding rain, or you are struggling to see the road through the dense fog shrouding the next corner. Not only does it look great, but it also requires even more concentration on top of what is already a deeply intense experience.
The new rallies added for WRC 10 (Croatia, Spain and Estonia) are excellent, highlighting once again just how good KT Racing are at designing stages, and they bring some much-needed freshness to the game. I only wish they could have spent more time redesigning some of the other stages, too. They all look to have had a graphical overhaul, but the same basic layout remains. Monte Carlo, in particular, is getting seriously long in the tooth now. If you’re fast-tracking your way through the lower classes, you’re going to be seeing those same early stages a lot in your first few hours of gameplay.
Seeing how they have reused many stages already, I was surprised that they didn’t bring back some of the best fan-favourite rallies from the previous games, like Germany and Australia. I understand that they need to follow the IRL WRC as much as possible, but they could have added these locations for custom seasons or time trials, especially seeing as they aren’t averse to reusing content.
There is a sub-menu that looks like it’s supposed to house the additional rallies, but it’s unavailable at present. Hopefully, they will be included as an update down the line, as long as it’s not paid DLC.
The ambient noise is the star
I’ve always liked the audio in the WRC games, and the in-car presentation is second to none, especially through surround sound or with a decent set of headphones. There are those who find the engine sound to be a bit unrealistic, but seeing as I don’t have any real-life experience for comparison, the best I can say is it sounds good to me.
The ambient noise is the star, though. Every road surface sounds different, whether it’s the slushy crunch of snow or the scrabbly sound of gravel with stones pinging off the chassis all around you, and the sound of rain hammering down on your windscreen envelops you, which makes this an unbelievably immersive experience.
For the first time in the series, WRC 10 lets you choose a female co-driver. I chose her at the start of my career but instantly regretted it once I discovered you can’t change down the line. The actual directional calls are good, it’s the incidental sounds and phrases she utters that quickly become annoying. I think it’s a nice touch that your co-driver reacts to accidents or positive split times, but the delivery from the voice actors is terrible. Thankfully, these extra lines can be toggled off without losing the normal co-driver calls.
The future of WRC
With Codemasters set to take over the license in 2023, this makes WRC 10 the penultimate outing in its current guise, and I’m genuinely saddened by this. KT has been getting closer and closer to making the perfect rally game, and now they only have one more chance before handing over the reins.
I love the DiRT Rally series, and I’m sure that they’ll do wonderful things with the license: One only needs to look at the F1 games to see the excellent quality Codies produce year after year. DiRT Rally is a far more hardcore simulation, though. The thing that makes KT’s take on WRC so appealing is the accessible driving model and scalable difficulty. There’s obviously a market for hardcore sims, but at the same time, games can also be about fantasy fulfilment – you want to be able to play a game and feel like the best in the world, even if your skills aren’t quite there.
On a more positive note, that then frees up KT Racing to make a game without needing to adhere to the structure, teams, cars and stages of the WRC. If there’s one major negative to KT’s WRC games, it’s the reuse of stages. Hopefully, with the creative freedom to make their own game, we will still see something very special from KT Racing in future. In the meantime, WRC 10 is one of the best and most refined Rally games yet, and the final swansong next year should be magnificent.
WRC 10 is the best outing yet for KT Racing’s longstanding rally experience. The improved handling and refined default controller settings make this easy to pick up and play, but also deeply technical and difficult to master. Subtle tweaks to the career mode structure and UI make it all the more inviting, and there’s plenty of content beyond the career mode to keep you playing for a long time.
Even though a vast number of stages have been brought forward from the previous games, it’s an easy recommendation. It’s certainly a better overall game, however, if you’ve played the last two titles to death, the improvements are only incremental and there may not be enough new content to warrant your interest.
I am already completely hooked, though. I may have run these stages dozens of times before, but doing so with the super smoothness of 120Hz and the new handling model makes it feel all brand new again.