Between 2001 and 2005, five World Rally Championship titles were released on the PlayStation 2, developed by Evolution Studios. Five years on and Milestone Games and Black Bean Games, who have a history of racing video games with franchises such as SBK and Superstars V8 Racing, have re-ignited the series’ flame by bringing WRC: FIA World Rally Championship (WRC for short) to the next generation.
The game’s main mode is ‘The Road to the WRC’ – a career mode in which players build up their team from scratch and battle through the fifty eight different races and events in order to become the WRC champion. The mode uses a ranking system in which players earn reputation and credits for completing a race and its objectives. Earning reputation increases the player’s level and unlocks new rewards and events, whereas credits can be spent on new cars and liveries. The career mode itself will last players a number of hours and is the highlight of the game.
However, the remaining single player game modes aren’t particularly entertaining, simply offering a choice of Single Stage, Single Rally, Championship and Time Attack, none one which offers any real reward or satisfaction from playing it. Furthermore, WRC also features the ‘WRC Academy,’ which provides the only real variety within the game, but even then, this isn’t much in the way of alternative gameplay. The academy sees players racing on sections of the game’s tracks against a ghost through twelve short challenges (split into basic and advanced).
WRC: FIA World Rally Championship also features multiplayer both locally and over Xbox Live. Known as ‘Hot Seat,’ the local multiplayer allows for players on the same console to race one after the other across Single Stage, Single Rally and Championship. This can prove quite tedious, especially with a greater number of players, having to witness the same rally (sometimes even rallies) being raced multiple times.
Over Xbox Live WRC is pretty much identical to the local multiplayer, featuring the same game content as the other game modes. The only changes come in the form of players not having to watch their opponents' rallies and the number of players in a race increases from four to sixteen. Nevertheless, as is the case with many budget titles, is that actually being able to get into a game lobby with more than four players is an achievement in itself. There’s simply not enough gamers playing online, which isn’t promising for a title that has only recently been released.
Regrettably, the problems don’t stop there. The game suffers from a lack of customisation options, paling in comparison to the likes of Forza Motorsport. Both car and driver customisation is very limited with players being unable to alter the appearance of the driver, and car liveries can only be placed in set positions. In fact, the only feature of the customisation that stands out is being able to select a female co-driver, though some may say that isn’t necessarily a good thing.
To add even more salt to the wounds, a further problem with WRC: FIA World Rally Championship is the game’s long loading times. Players will find themselves waiting approximately one minute at either end of the race/event for the game to load which, in this day and age of gaming, won’t go down well.
Graphically, WRC is a mixed bag; the car modelling and detail, especially the car damage, is quite realistic. However, many of the environments are quite bland and a lot of rather weak texturing is evident. The game’s audio is yet another feature which fails to impress. Whereas the sound effect of the car tyres scraping across the tarmac on a drift is quite remarkable, it’s WRC’s menu music which lets the audio down. The music comes in the form of an annoying, looping soundtrack, which to make matters worse, can also be heard on the loading screen menu.
Nonetheless, it’s not all doom and gloom as the car handling is to a very good standard. There is a clear difference in handling across a track’s different road surfaces, which include tarmac, gravel, mud, sand, and ice. This element of realism is the highlight of the game. Further adding to the realism element is the inclusion of the official WRC support classes, namely: P-WRC, S-WRC and J-WRC. This implementation also means regular WRC viewers will be able to recreate the rallying experience in the official cars and with the real drivers.
Overall, WRC: FIA World Rally Championship is a mediocre racing title. There’s nothing in the game that hasn’t been seen or done before within the genre, this is offset by the handling and official WRC support, making this more of a must purchase for the fully committed car rally fan.