WRC is back: Officially licensed and officially awesome!
- Developer: Kylotonn
- Publisher: Bigben
- Release date: 5th September 2019
- Genre: Racing
- Platforms: Xbox, Playstation, PC, Switch
- Reviewed on: Xbox One X
- Game Supplied by: Publisher
Rally games are nothing new, indeed, many series have been around for decades. It’s a testament to the enduring popularity of the most intense and exhilarating form of four-wheel racing that these games are still thriving today. With so many games available, both past and present, it takes something special to stand out. WRC 8 is the latest game from developer Kylotonn and publisher Bigben, and they have pulled out all the stops to make this the biggest and best rally game yet.
The first thing you’ll notice is the new and improved front end menu. Bearing more than a passing resemblance to F1 2019, you’re greeted by a stylish menu, with solo modes and competitive options (including multiplayer) grouped separately: It’s simple and instinctive, with everything laid out in a logical fashion. From the ground up, WRC 8 offers a highly polished experience, and this quality persists through all aspects of the game.
The career mode in WRC 8 has had a major overhaul and has progressed from a simple checklist of events with some minor tinkering before you begin the next stage. Between races, you now have a choice of optional challenges, training, and manufacturer events to participate in, that grant you additional XP, cash and/or perks. There is also a Research and Development skill tree, that awards you with various bonuses, from new crew members to increased durability, improved grip, or XP boosts. It’s very reminiscent of the F1 games by Codemasters, and given how those games have gone from strength to strength recently, it’s not a bad comparison to be able to make.
Team management is a new feature for the series, and with it comes a new system of perks and assistance you can get from your team. For example, with the introduction of dynamic weather, the conditions you race in can be unpredictable. To help you out, you can recruit a meteorologist who will give you a heads up to what kind of conditions you should expect and prepare for. Improving their stats by recruiting a higher level teammate will make them more accurate, and if you unlock the corresponding perk, your meteorologist can provide more detailed breakdowns of how the weather will change over the course of the race.
The improved career mode adds a lot to the gameplay, but for those who aren’t interested in the management side, Kylotonn has included the option to play without all these features in Season mode, and you will be launched straight into action on the first rally stage of the season. Progression still works the same, and you will work your way up from WRC Junior or WRC 2 up to the WRC. It’s a thoughtful addition for anyone who is not a fan of busy work, and many are sure to appreciate it.
WRC 8 has improved the physics for their newest outing, and it translates well to a control pad. It still requires a deft touch, but it doesn’t have the twitchy controller steering and tendency to try to kill you like in the previous game. Controls are responsive, and it’s possible to place your car exactly where you want it on the road, but that’s not to say it’s easy, as it is anything but. If you are a competent racer or have experience of rally games, it’s all very intuitive, and you’ll be channelling your inner Ogier in no time at all. Once you are adept at controlling these 1.6l turbocharged beasts, and can accurately translate the steady stream of pace notes to your driving, you will be sliding and jumping your way through the stages like a pro.
WRC 8 features over 100 stages spanning 14 different and uniquely landscaped countries. From the icy, snow-covered roads of Sweden and Monte-Carlo, to the picturesque vistas of Finland and France, or the undulating terrain of Argentina, each environment brings its own set of challenges. Tracks are often narrow, with frequent bumps, yumps, ditches and obstacles, all vying to propel your car into a catastrophic accident. WRC 8 commands your attention, and you will require total concentration to react to the (excellent) co-driver pace notes and the constantly changing road surface.
There are leaderboards for each stage, however, there is no option to filter by car class, so the WRC2 and Junior cars are mixed in with the WRC times. It’s an unusual oversight, and a little disappointing, especially if you enjoy chasing times on leaderboards, as it could have added longevity to the game. Ghosts are available to chase if you wish, and times from career mode are automatically added to the boards (and can be viewed after each stage in career).
WRC 8 caters well for competitive gamers, with a raft of features available. There are the aforementioned time trial leaderboards, as well as weekly challenges, eSports championship events, and online and split-screen multiplayer. If you have friends around, the inclusion of split-screen, an often overlooked game mode, is a welcome inclusion, allowing you to go head to head across any of the stages, with full control of the conditions.
Online multiplayer allows you to host or join a quick game or lobby, for up to eight people. You can jump into the first available game, or use the find lobby setting to select a lobby that meets your criteria. You can filter by difficulty, car category, type of stage and even which specific rally you prefer.
Weekly challenges offer a preset stage and car combo, and you compete to increase your rank. You have as many attempts as you need to set your best time, although your first run will offer the most points. Your final standing at the end of the challenge will also award you bonus points. For those that enjoy it, it’s sure to add a lot of life to the competitive side of the game, and the ranking system means you will always be making improvements. eSports events work in a similar way to the weekly challenges. There is a ‘warm-up’ option, so you can get some practice in, however, you only get five attempts to set a qualifying time. Set a good enough time, and you could earn a place in events organised and sponsored by the developers down the line.
**At the time of writing, eSports and weekly events aren’t active yet, but should be accessible as soon as the game goes live.
A special mention goes to the replays. Most games offer a perfunctory replay option with, at best, a few in-game camera views or a basic and unrealistic trackside view. WRC 8 offers highly realistic TV-style replays, with the cameras placed how you are used to seeing on TV broadcasts, and it’s so satisfying to watch your best runs like this. A helicopter chase cam is also included, along with the usual in-game views, and it is so much more enjoyable watching these replays than it is on other games. It helps that WRC 8 is such a good looking game, of course.
WRC 8 is a wonderful looking game. The stages are richly detailed and beautifully lit, and everything has a real sense of depth. Stages take place at all times of the day, in all kinds of conditions. Bright sunshine glints off your windscreen and bounces from the bodywork of the cars and shadows from the trees dart over your dashboard, while overcast skies render everything in a muted palette. This game is at its most impressive, however, during storms. Rain casts a deluge of water across your windscreen, and trees sway violently in the wind. Mud from large puddles sloshes across your car, while the water saturated road turns to mud in places, and casts textured reflections from its surface. It is, quite simply, one of the best looking rally games ever made.
This level of finesse has been carried over to the cars, too. They have been recreated with meticulous attention to detail, even to things many may never even notice. Wing mirrors reflect the body of your car, and if you zoom close in photo mode and look around the car, you will see a fully rendered interior. A look around the car will find hidden detail inside the wheel wells and even behind the front grill. Even the texture of the rubber on the tyres is realistic, and they have gone as far as adding the embossed size numbering on the sidewall.
It’s not just the graphics that have had all the attention either, the quality of the Audio in WRC 8 is outstanding too. The exhausts carry a distinctive rasp, and the fast-revving engine sounds are highly authentic, right down to the turbo whistle at the top of the rev range. When your engine has damage, you will hear it labouring as it struggles to deliver power, with pops, bangs and misfires shooting from the exhaust. If you race using the in-car or bonnet view, you can hear the gravel flicked up by your tyres rattling against your car’s bodywork, and the rain pattering against your windscreen. In storms, your car splashes through puddles, the wind howls through the trees and thunder booms across the sky. For those using surround sound speakers or headphones, the sound is mixed perfectly, and you are encompassed in a magnificent blanket of sound. With all of these elements working in harmony, the sense of immersion is incredible.
With WRC 8 Kylotonn has produced an excellent game, and the level of immersion they have achieved is exceptional. Challenging but rewarding, it balances difficulty with fun perfectly. Graphically sublime, it’s one of the best looking racers ever made. Indeed, WRC 8 is easily one of the best rally games ever made.
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