I suck at racing games! I mean REALLY badly. After 20 years of playing all sorts, from Mario Kart, Wipeout and F-Zero right through to Sega Rally, Gran Turismo and Burnout, you’d think I’d improve at least a little. But no, I’m always the worst out of my friends and even the AI on easy setting laughs at me.
But the petrol head in me has never ceased to be enthused about strapping myself in to a virtual cockpit and hoon around the place in a very expensive automobile in the pursuit of that perfect lap, hitting that perfect apex and that feeling of “Yeah, I could totally be a racing driver!”
There are many disciplines of racing out there that we gamers get to indulge ourselves with, but arguably the most difficult of all isn’t the hyperdrive-esque speeds of Formula 1, but the ever changing conditions of Rally racing. And I love it! Even when I’m hand-brake turning in to a ditch.
Rally games are going through a bit of a renaissance right now. Earlier this year we got the sublime DIRT Rally (with the PC version almost a year ahead of the console release following early access) from Codemasters. A stomping return to form following the arcadey hoonaginism of DIRT 3.
The latest game to hit store shelves promising the sh*t scary realism of being strapped in to a 600bhp snarling mass of metal and thunder is WRC 6.
“Nothing beats creating your own driver, getting signed to a pro team as a rookie and proving your metal throughout the season in a bid to be standing on the podium…”
Kylotonn Games first stab at the series with WRC 5 showed real promise but was a bit dinged up with technical issues resulting in the odd engine failure. With WRC 6, the team are back for a 2nd shot at the top spot of the podium, and it’s a belter!
Having the full weight of the Official World Rally Championship license behind it, shows through in the bevy of options and modes available. Solo mode is where you can set up a Quick Race, choosing from any of the rally stages of Portugal, Sweden, Poland, Monte Carlo, Germany, Australia, Spain, China, Mexico, Argentina, Italy, Finland and Wales, tailoring your racing conditions just to how you like them. Want to wake the locals up at the crack of dawn with a roar? Or how about testing your skills in the dark with some night races? Each of the 67 stages (yes 67!!!) can be customised to your preference, be it, time of day and weather conditions across the 3 major classes of WRC, WRC2 and JWRC. You’ve even got your choice of over 50 official drivers and their co-drivers to choose from.
For me though, the real attraction is the career mode. Nothing beats creating your own driver, getting signed to a pro team as a rookie and proving your metal throughout the season in a bid to be standing on the podium, raising that championship trophy above your head. Which, from my opening statement I’ve never actually achieved! Though not as impressively involving as, say, F1 2016’s career mode that included rivalries, team expectations and a light RPG style system for car development. Having the full might of the Official World Rally Championship licence behind it, WRC 6 could have fleshed the presentation out a lot more.
“Cars have weight but also feel blindingly fast and responsive.”
The most important thing about any racing though isn’t all the bells and whistles, sure they help and can even go a long way, but first and foremost is how the car feels to drive. This is where WRC 6 excels for me. Hitting a sweet spot between not quite full-on sim but far from feeling arcadey in the slightest. Cars have weight but also feel blindingly fast and responsive. The different terrains you will encounter throughout each stage of those 13 countries feels great, whether you are rooster tailing sand at 70mph, sliding sideways in the mud or, like me, ending up on your roof after misjudging a hairpin in the snow! The handling is downright challenging and fun.
“You’ll hear every pebble of gravel bashing up on the underside of your car too, feeding back to you this extremely satisfying crescendo is pings as you thunder along.”
Audio is suitably beefy too. Engines roar no matter which camera view you prefer to use, the only slight exception here is the cockpit view. Engine notes seem a little too high-pitched in this view, whereas the Bonnet Cam gives you a great almighty howl of anger. You’ll hear every pebble of gravel bashing up on the underside of your car too, feeding back to you this extremely satisfying crescendo is pings as you thunder along. Graphically however, is where the game is at it’s most disappointing.
In the right lighting conditions, WRC 6 can look really quite good. The problem is that happens few and far between and in the end, the majority of the environments can look quite flat and ugly. Especially when stacked up against other racing titles such as Project Cars, F1 2016, Driveclub (still the visual benchmark) and of course DIRT Rally.
Graphics aren’t always everything though and thankfully the wealth of stages, solo and multiplayer modes and how downright sweet it is to play make up for this shortcoming.
There is a heck of a lot of rallying to be savoured here. You can easily spend hundreds of hours learning each stage in each country, perfecting your drifting and handbrake turns. But if your looking for the pinnacle representation of the sport, you might be disappointed. For those looking for a great rally game that can cater to a more accessible skill level whilst also be cranked up for the more demanding sim audience, WRC 6 has you covered.
There is no question there is a great rally game here. It just has to settle for 2nd place on the podium.