This generation has seen some great racing titles from the Forza Franchise to Project Cars. Then you have F1 2015 meaning almost all driving styles are catered for but there is one missing. Something the Dirt franchise was good at and that is of course rally driving. BigBen Interactive and Kylotonn Games have filled this gap with WRC 5 bringing all the official teams, cars and locations into your homes. Does WRC 5 powerslide to victory or will it become stuck in the mud?
WRC 5 has three main game modes that are Career, Multiplayer and online challenges where you can win things as well as take part in the WRC 5 eSport. The latter doesn’t actually start until January which coincides with the Rally season. Outside of these modes you have your usual quick race, quick rally and a useful Rally School for people new to these type of driving. The Rally School also appears in career mode but you don’t have to do it. Let’s take a look at the what the career mode offer as it does have some appealing features to challenge drivers of all skill levels.
When you start your career you will have a choice of contracts which require various type of driving style. You might want to drive to get the fastest times as possible regardless of car damage, or you might want to play it safe. What I like about the career mode is that you start off in the Junior-WRC league and work your way up to race against the big boys. Depending on how you do with your team and contract obligations it will determine how many and the type of contracts you are offered for future seasons. You can choose to advance or even race in the lower leagues for another season. Not only that but certain teams will only race in certain locations which gives a slight variation on things.
With you starting off in the lowest league of the WRC world you will not have to worry about car tuning as you don’t get that access until WRC-2. You can treat your first season as a practice to let you get the hang of the controls. The game will let you play with full damage effecting your performance as you batter the car about, or you can play with just visual damage that doesn’t affect the cars performance. The rally stages are usually split into three days that consist of between one to three races per day. When you race in the higher leagues be sure to check the calender for the information on all the races to best determine the tyre and car set-up. This is vital as you can only configure the car once per day. When you get access to fine tune your ride there are quite a few options including front suspension, rear suspension, transmission and so on. While I have not delved too deeply into the fine tuning what I have done does have an actual effect on car handling.
The games damage engine is pretty impressive not only in terms of look but also the amount of things you can actually damage. A handy icon on the HUD allows you to see how badly damaged each part is. Pretty much every part of the car can be damaged leading to a knock on effect of car performance along the lines of Forza titles. Yes you can mess up the gear box taking away the ability to reverse, as well as your engine. In fact you can also knock out the communication system meaning no more pace notes from your co-driver which can be fun and challenging. You will have an allotted time for repairs meaning you have to prioritise what gets repaired first. This goes a great way to add to the challenge and tension during races as you strive to get first place. You can go over your allotted time but any time over will be added on to your rally time so much so that it is pointless if you are going for the win all the time.
When it comes to car handling in WRC 5 I would say it feels more like an arcade racer than a full out Rally sim. I don’t count this as a bad thing personally as it instantly reminds me of a much more detailed SEGA Rally title. The car slips and slides in the way you would expect one to do so and there is a gradual sense of speed the faster you go. Things never get boring as you powerslide your car around corners coming within millimetres of end at the bottom of a cliff. I found the jump from around the 140mph mark to over 150mph a little too much of a difference for my liking given the tightly designed courses ending in me wrapping the car around a tree. The team have done a great job on the different cars as each handles differently and they even get the engines to sound different.
With this title having the official WRC license its not just the cars and teams that are well presented in the game but also all the locations of the WRC calender. Some of the locations like the courses in Australia look beautiful with the lush green forestry during the sunshine hours. Weather plays a part throughout the calender with you encountering rain and snow as well as night time racing. I would say the night time and dawn races show off the games lighting engine at its best. Rays of light pass through the gaps in trees and the bang from the gear changes light up the rear of the car if driving on the outside camera view.
While the graphics are good in some areas of the game, they are also slightly underwhelming in other areas which is pretty much the only downside in this dedicated rally racer. The tracks look good in the rain but there is no rain splashing onto the windscreen to limit your view. Instead it seems like a mist is used to limit the view and this goes for driving in snow as well. This can be forgiving when you look at the content of the game over all. Most courses have so much detail from the mud ridden tracks in Wales to the snowy landscapes of Sweden. However there are some that look lifeless and unappealing. Giving the game not having the budget of AAA racing titles, the team have still done a great job on managing their resources to bring the only dedicated rally game to next-gen systems.
With this being early review code I have not had the chance to test the servers at maximum capacity online, but of the games I did play they were lag free and no connection issues what so ever. The game allows you to jump straight into a match or create a private lobby. When racing you will see your opponent’s ghost car in real-time. The game also has online challenges you can enter from the main menu tied to prizes if you are good enough. One of the current ones can bag you an official WRC t-shirt and cap. This is a great idea and one I would like to see in more racing games.
The Good Things
- All the teams and locations of WRC World.
- Being able to modify sensitivity zones in the controls menu.
- Car handling is good as well as the in-depth tuning options.
And The Bad
- The graphics are a little underwhelming in some areas when compared to other AAA sports titles.
- Your co-driver when not calling out the corners has a very limited vocabulary.
- WRC 5 is the first dedicated racer for the next-gen consoles and with the Dirt franchise M.I.A (except PC) at the moment this is the best option for rally fans to get their fix. There is great use of the official WCA license with all the official teams, cars and locations created in detail. Your controls and cars can be fine tuned to your liking including changing controller dead zones etc. There is a career mode that offers at least a few seasons worth of play if not more along with some great online features. The game may not have the same graphical impact as other flagship racing titles but this does offer a great arcade rally experience.
WRC 5 instantly reminds me of a much more in-depth SEGA Rally title.