WRC 4 FIA World Championship is now the fourth game in the newly imagined rally-gaming series by Milestone. Some of you may know Milestone as creators of the latest MotoGP titles and needless to say they’re doing a sterling job. The same is definitely said for their off-road racing counterpart as WRC 4 throttles up and takes you on the ride of your gaming life.

WRC4 is the official game of the FIA World Rally Championships. As you would expect every licensed racer, car and even co-driver is available to use as you traipse through muddy Welsh valleys and meander your way past the German countryside. For those not well-versed in the Rally World Champs next season will see a new defending champ. For 9 concurrent years Sebastien Loeb dominated the FIA world, before new-boy Sebastien Oglien (yes another Sebastien) won the 2013 championship. A new breed of racer has broken on through along with this new game and you’ve got the makings of a very exciting 2014 season for fans of the sport.

Anyways, back to the game in question. Going down the usual ‘Career’ path like the games before it you take to the roads as a rookie driver. Flitting from job-to-job trying to make ends meet before you’re eventually offered a more serious contract with one of the more storied car manufacturers within the racing circuit.

You get to personalise the driver (you), choose a co-driver, number and even a manager. Though the latter choices make no real impact on the game if only to please your own vision of a racing team aesthetically speaking. You’ll start off as a Junior wildcard racer. As mentioned above you’ll be given a few choices of temporary racing contracts, impress those who are paying the bill and it’ll lead to greater things. You race up through the various classes and in all fairness it won’t be all that long until you’re racing with the big-boys in the WRC, driving machines that many of us can only ever dream of owning.

As you would expect when starting from the bottom, your opponents are pretty pointless. Jumping straight into a career race I remember my first track as quite a bumpy affair with my vehicles striking the wall a dozen times if not more before managing to cross the finish line some 15 seconds ahead of second place. Thankfully by the time you reach the WRC your opponents are a lot more difficult and you’ll be struggling to lead by a 15th of a second let alone 15 seconds on any given stage.

Along the way you also have the opportunity to play about with your vehicle in the service parks. If you choose to ignore these sections, on your head be it. A simple adjustment to your steering sensitivity, hand-brake, suspension or any of the other parameters within your car that can be modified will quite literally be the difference between winning a race with a car that is responsive and clean to drive, and finishing last with a jerky, bumpy bashed up trash can.

Naturally the game tries to give you a realistic representation of the cars on various terrains, though I’d have to question if they’ve actually got it right. Whilst there is a noticeable difference when you go from tarmac, to wet mud, to dirt, to snow, I can’t help but think that some of these are harder than the game’s making out. Snow in particular, whilst challenging, I expected to be a whole lot worse to navigate.

If you don’t fancy going through a career starting life as a rookie you can race a rally or any special stage within the FIA calendar. You can obviously choose to drive as any of the licensed drivers be it Olgien, Evans or Meeke. Not forgetting the offline multiplayer, this is rather dull in all honesty. Very much like a ‘pass-and-play’ monopoly app on your iPhone you take turns in setting times for your pal to beat. A simple split-screen set-up would have been a welcome addition and I’m a bit perplexed as to why this has been omitted.

Online is great fun though. You race up to 15 other ‘ghost’ cars. Naturally 16 cars on one stage simply wouldn’t work as the roads are far too narrow, but these ghosted cars are definitely the next best thing. It’s rather invigorating chasing a bright blue Peugeot 307 as you attempt to jump from 16th to 15th place. Be warned there are some ninja drivers online, you’ll lose a lot of races before ever topping the podium. It would be nice to see staggered-starts in future instalments, but for now what you’re given is still enough to get by.

Lack of a split-screen mode isn’t the only thing that’s lacking in this title. Where are the legendary cars? I love watching current rally cars but the shine is somewhat taken off the sport when you read that a VW Polo has won a race. A Polo… my step-dad had one of them and it was horrid! When you continue on seeing a Hyundia Accent, a Skoda Fabia and a Suzuki SX4 it doesn’t really quell your thirst for bigger and better things. I wanted to race a Lancia Stratos like you see in those crummy amusement booths down on the pier that charge £2 for a 30 second race. What about an Audi Quattro? Arguably one of the greatest vehicles to grace the sport, or a Lancia Delta not forgetting the Toyota Celica and Ford Cosworth’s. Those were amazing cars and I am missing the chance to race them again.

Visually WRC4 is pretty epic. The cars all look amazing and despite the fact that my bumper always seems to detach in the exact same way when I hit numerous walls, visually it still looks awe-inspiring. The stages are also a site to behold. When you’re putting so many official stages on display to joe public you need to ensure that they’re represented as well as is possible. Milestone have done that. At times you really do feel like your out for a spin in the Welsh countryside with mud kicking up and rain pouring through the tree cover. The audio is as good as it can be. The cars sound good and whilst the co-driver is pretty dull and somewhat sounds like every co-driver in every rally game ever created it does the job of telling you what’s around the next bend. If it’s not broken…

Ultimately Milestone has offered up a very good game. It looks stunning and offers any rally fan the chance to live out their dreams of being rally world champs. There are issues, that being the lack of any vintage rally cars, the poor excuse for an offline multiplayer, lack of a staggered start via online multiplayer and perhaps a need to tweak the realism on a cars performance whilst racing on different terrain. That being said it’s still a thoroughly enjoyable game and I look forward to seeing what Milestone do in 2014 with WRC 5.

Lee Matthews

Lee is an avid gamer, photographer, film buff and sports fan. A scaly brat since birth it only seemed right for him to join Her Majesties Armed Forces of which he has been a proud member ever since. Despite a long absence from gaming, during which he spent many a night reminiscing about the glory days on Halo 2, Matty is now back online smashing his way through Black Ops and soon enough Gears of War 3 and Battlefield 3.

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