After eight long years, when the license for the game series from the WC Rally environment was under the thumb of the Nacon publisher and the developers from the French studio Kylotonn, a significant change is coming this year. The rights to the series were taken over by Electronic Arts and experienced racing specialists from the Codemasters studio, who acquired the license even before they became part of EA. How did this important milestone for the series turn out?
- Platform: PS5 (reviewed) PC, Xbox Series X/S
- Date of publication: 11. 2023
- Manufacturer: Codemasters (UK)
- Genre: racing
- Czech localization: No
- Multiplayer: yes (online)
- Data to download: 95 GB
- Price: 50 euros/1230 CZK (Steam)
New orders in a long-standing series
Among the weaker areas of Kyloton’s older installments was the relatively narrow content offering, which relied heavily on officially licensed WC Rally content. Although in this direction, the French, especially with the last work so far with the subtitle Generations, brought a noticeable improvement, one could not avoid the impression that more could be extracted from the whole concept. The new part from Codemasters brings the expected improvement in this regard. More than the number of individual models, of which the game offers a total of 78, the breadth and diversity of the vehicle fleet is significant.
It is very well characterized by a total of 18 unique classes, among which you will find current models, older racing equipment from the past two decades, as well as now purely historical pieces that drove special stages in the 70s and 80s. For some models, the authors visibly drew on the renewed license that was originally used in the two-part DiRT Rally series, thanks to which you can find in the game, for example, the Skoda Fabia WRC and other well-known cars from Dirt. After all, the same development team is behind both the new WRC and DiRT Rally, so both games have more in common. From the point of view of the vehicle fleet, there is nothing to complain about the game and I can personally confirm that as a fan of real rally, I got my money’s worth.
At each competition, just like in a real rally, something a little different awaits you.
We can also stay on a positive note when describing the processing of the tracks and the offer of different environments. EA Sports WRC offers a total of 17 locations, which in total count over 200 stages with a total length exceeding 600 km. No less than 12 locations copy the calendar of the real World Rally Championship, while they are supplemented by five environments where the world rally is not currently held. Domestic players will undoubtedly also be interested in the novelty of the calendar in the form of the Central European Rally, which took place in part in the Czech Republic. The developers have promised to add this location in the form of a free update sometime after release. In addition to the sheer number of locations and special stages, especially in rally games, their processing is absolutely essential in terms of difficulty, diversity and characteristic aspects of each competition.
In this area, I already praised the older parts from Kylotonn and I can continue to do so with the new WRC from Codemasters. At each competition, just like in a real rally, something a little different awaits you. Sometimes it’s about the character and speed average of individual erzets, other times it’s the prime surface (asphalt, gravel, mud, snow, ice) or weather conditions. As with other bona fide rally games, the new WRC is also true that your main opponent is not your computer-controlled rivals, but the special stages themselves, which you have to complete without significant mistakes and in the shortest possible time. Of course, the difficulty increases with the length of each erzet. In this regard, the developers did not spare the player at all, and in addition to the traditional stages with a length of around ten kilometers, they also prepared over 20 and even 30 km long speed tests, the completion of which will take you more than half an hour of constant driving with maximum concentration. In short, a racing boss fight as it should be.
Robust driving model and demanding accessories
From the packed garage and demanding special stages, we can move on to another important aspect in the form of the driving model. Its basis is the proven physics model from the aforementioned DiRT Rally. The result is a believably processed driving model that works very well with changing individual surfaces and allows control on the steering wheel as well as the controller. Although I would personally recommend a steering wheel to play, which can draw the player into the whole action much more, I can confirm that the title can also be controlled on a gamepad without much difficulty. Thanks to the presence of a number of assistants and setting the level of artificial intelligence, the game can also be enjoyed by a wide group of players. At its core, however, the driving model is not significantly different from the remembered DiRT Rally, the older DiRT 4 or the past WRC parts from Kyloton.
However, a noticeable and unfortunately very negative change is the absence of a more sophisticated damage model. It was one of the highlights of Kylotonn’s rally games, where even a few minor bumps were enough when choosing a more demanding setting, and you were glad that you even reached the finish line of the special stage. Don’t expect anything like that in the new WRC. In addition to the relatively primitive visual damage, which does not have an up-to-date impression, the biggest problem is basically the lack of mechanical damage and wear of individual components. No matter how much you crash, the driving characteristics of the car will be minimally affected.
The developers focused primarily on the career mode.
At most, you can expect slightly lower performance, relatively early defects, and in case of really big accidents, a screen that warns you of irreparable damage and the need to restart or withdraw. Although you repair various damaged parts in the service between individual replacements, their condition has such a marginal effect on the behavior of the car and its performance that it is basically not important. The game is incomprehensibly benevolent and outdated in this respect, which could be understood for purely arcade races. However, in the case of a rally game with a traditional cut, it is a definite neglect of one of the important mechanics that is characteristic of the best titles of this genre.
Design your own car
But let’s move from gameplay to content. Basically, don’t expect anything surprising in terms of game modes. The developers focused primarily on the career mode, in which you become a driver and a team boss in one person. In addition to the races themselves, you will therefore also have to take care of finances, hiring individual employees and completing partial tasks that the game gradually presents. It is commendable that the developers do not force you into a fixed structure of races, but leave their choice primarily to the players. In practice, this allows you to buy several cars of your preferred class and run races, championships or shorter challenges with them. After that, it is not a problem to sell them and, if the financial account is sufficiently charged, to add to the virtual garage or gradually change the whole thing. Thanks to this freedom, you will fully enjoy a large fleet of vehicles during your career. Compared to previous parts, for example, historical models do not act as a mere less-used bonus, but as a full-fledged part of the career experience.
You can supplement the already numerous range of cars with a custom-designed racing special. It was this mode called Builder that the developers were very excited about before the release, and personally they consider it a pleasant novelty that is not common in rally games. In practice, it works so that the game allows you to design the basic structure of the car from the available components, from storing and choosing a specific engine, through the choice of gearbox, differential or cooling to the shape of the body, the selection of aerodynamic elements and the layout of the interior. Although designing a car may sound complicated at first glance, it is nothing more than a simple-to-understand kit of individual components. It is therefore primarily an interesting and unconventional feature that the new WRC tries to distinguish from other titles of the genre. On the other hand, it’s not something that would make me personally buy a new WRC. For that, the options in this mode would have to be a bit more sophisticated.
You would look in vain for split-screen in a new product from Codemasters.
In addition to the career, the game offers other traditional game modes in the form of school rally (works as a tutorial) or fast special stages, competition or the entire championship. An interesting partial novelty is the implementation of the regularity rally, in which instead of speed, accuracy plays a role when passing individual checkpoints. In these game modes, you can set the weather and even the season in which a particular game or race will take place. Also worth noting is a separate mode called Moments, in which various short challenges are available. These are characterized by certain “extreme” conditions in the form of driving with a damaged car or racing in extreme conditions.
But I personally expected much more from this mode. Thanks to the presence of a number of historic vehicles and a license for the current World Rally Championship, the use of moments from the history of the championship is directly offered, which is an element with which previous parts worked relatively successfully. In addition, the developers somewhat inexplicably made some of the challenges conditional on having an EA Play subscription, which I don’t consider a completely happy way to promote the service. Single-player modes are expected to be complemented by online multiplayer for up to 32 players, which supports cross-play and club racing. On the contrary, you would look in vain for the couch split-screen that the previous parts offered in the new game from Codemasters.
Something had gone wrong
You could already get at least a basic picture of the graphics from the attached images. In the older parts of the series, due to the use of the old internal engine from Kyloton, it was definitely not among the strengths of the series. With the transition of the brand under Codemasters, a more significant step forward in this direction was expected. Moreover, this impression became even stronger after the developers announced that the game will run on Unreal Engine. But the result cannot be described as anything other than a disappointment. Not only does EA Sports WRC look no better than Kyloton’s latest installment. In some aspects, it lags graphically behind the more than four-year-old DiRT Rally 2.0.
From a technical point of view, the game clearly has a B-level impression.
While the car models still seem satisfactory, the surroundings of the tracks and the overall processing of the environment, lighting and additional effects are not. It’s obvious that there was a mistake somewhere and the developers couldn’t even remotely take advantage of the Unreal Engine’s potential. Otherwise, I can’t explain how it is possible that the new WRC looks even worse than the older games from Codemasters, led by the F1 series, which also use the slowly aging Ego engine. At the same time, it is not only about the graphics themselves. The game also surprisingly falters in terms of presentation, animations and overall visual impression. To make matters worse, the new WRC is not the best in terms of optimization either. On the version I tested for PlayStation 5, framerate drops sometimes occurred when passing through passages with a large number of objects, which you definitely do not want to experience in a game of this type. There is nothing significant in this regard, but given the graphic qualities, it is not very defensible.
In short, from a technical point of view, the game has a clearly B-level impression, which can be compared to the previous parts of the series by Kyloton or games by the Italian studio Milestone. In the case of the new WRC, we are talking about a title from the renowned studio Codemasters, which has decades of experience with racing and specifically rally games. In addition, the studio has been able to rely on the financial support of the Electronic Arts publisher in recent years. In short, I simply expected more from this combination.
It’s a shame, because it will be precisely the outdated visuals that will spoil the reputation of an otherwise excellent racing game. Regular players of the series and hardcore rally fans will probably forgive this ailment thanks to the excellent physics and controls, the packed virtual garage and demanding special stages. After all, I had fun playing it myself, and despite the problems mentioned, I am convinced that it is a good rally game. However, I can’t help but feel that the developers at Codemasters studio with support from Electronic Arts simply have extra.
EA Sports WRC
- Driving model
- Processing of speed tests
- Varied and numerous car park
- Designing your own car
- A large number of different locations with long erzeta
- Robust career mode
- World Rally License
It bothers us
- Outdated graphics processing
- Primitive damage model
- Poor presentation
- Occasional framerate drops
- Missing split-screen and untapped potential of Moments mode