Review – WRC 8

Sometimes I think I make too many comparisons between games in my reviews, but it’s impossible to talk about WRC 8 without mentioning its main rivals, Dirt Rally 2.0 and the big fat dead horse that is V-Rally 4. Hell, even the publisher acknowledges that one of WRC 8‘s biggest objectives is to finally dethrone its Codemasters-developed rival. I was looking forward to playing the final version of WRC 8 after checking it out at E3 2019, as I was impressed by the brief showcasing of its visuals and career mode. Let’s take a closer look to see if it lived up to the hype.

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Junior cars are nowhere near as fun to drive as their bigger brothers, but at least you won’t crash them onto a wall that often. At least I hope.

Compared to previous iterations from the franchise, WRC 8 is very impressive. The developers acknowledged that they needed more time in the kitchen in order to make the series go from passable AA filler to a top racing contender, and that’s exactly what happened. WRC 8 is bigger, prettier, louder, and filled with content. Does this mean that it’s perfect? Sadly, that’s not the case, as I’ve found a few issues that really annoyed me during my playthrough, but the good most certainly outweighed the bad.

Let’s start off with a big positive. The game is truly gorgeous, even on the aged and underpowered hardware of the Xbox One S. Environments are absolutely stunning, with lots of particle effects, foliage that doesn’t pop in cheaply, and an impressive weather effect system. For example, a race can start off during the day and finish at night, with rain pouring down. Despite the hardware-demanding features, WRC 8 manages to hold up a respectably stable framerate, even though it’s locked at 30fps. That means that the game doesn’t provide the mind-boggling sensation of speed you would expect from a sport as demented and fast as rallying. It’s not that it feels lethargic, far from it, but have you ever had the feeling that you could have had just a bit more? That’s the case in here.

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Driving a Lancia Stratos on a dirt road. Can’t get more “rally” than that.

The sound department is also of the highest quality, even though you don’t expect a lot from it in a rallying game. There are two things that a game like this needs: realistic and ridiculously loud car engines, and someone doing a decent portrayal of a co-driver telling you what to do next. Especially since you will rarely have enough time to actually pay attention to the warning signs on the top the screen. Thankfully for WRC 8, it features both. All you will hear during the races are the ear-piercing noises of the nearly 400 horsepower coming out of your Citro├źn and a British bloke telling you to turn right, then left, until you imminently crash into a nearby wall.

I say this because WRC 8 is not for the faint of heart. It’s not a very newcomer-friendly game, as its gameplay is a bit slippery, a bit too punitive, and excessively responsive. The game tries to help by forcing you to run an introductory race in order for its algorithm to detect which gameplay features should be turned on for the player, such as ABS, traction control and the likes, but that won’t make things easier for players. It’s realistic, don’t get me wrong, but I feel that in this particular case, Dirt Rally 2.0 did a better job. You’ll smash on a lot of walls before mastering WRC 8‘s controls, but it’s nothing that will make you quit the game in frustration. I mean, this is a rallying game, so you should know that things weren’t supposed to be easy.

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This spreadsheet mess isn’t a Football Manager screenshot, it’s actually WRC 8’s career mode, and I love it.

WRC 8‘s bread and butter is its career mode. That was the thing that impressed me the most during the E3 presentation and I’m glad to announce that it ended up being even better than expected. This is its trump card over Dirt Rally 2.0, a vastly detailed campaign loaded with features and even some RPG elements.

This is not a linear sequence of races covered with some unappealing elements, such as hiring half a dozen staff members or sponsors that barely influence in your overall performance. You start off from the bottom leagues, investing in your team like usual, but also acquiring experience points and leveling up. By doing so, you’ll be able to unlock features from a skill tree, just like your typical RPG.

You can also plan training sessions in between races, as well as partake on classic events with vintage cars, earning some extra cash as a participation bonus. You need to be careful, as everything needs to fit into your budget, and you need to schedule days off for your team in order to improve their morale. I suddenly realized I was basically playing the rallying equivalent of Football Manager, also known as that one franchise I have literally invested more than five thousand hours into. I guess that’s why I was having so much fun with it.

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Cruising through Wales and not a single sheep in sight.

WRC 8 more than makes up for its newcomer-unfriendly gameplay with a ridiculously detailed and engaging career mode, as well as tons of content and great visuals. Is it better than its main competitor? It’s hard to say, as those game succeed in different departments, one featuring slightly better gameplay, with the other featuring a much more interesting career mode. What I can definitely affirm, however, is that WRC 8 is the best game ever released in the series and a fantastic achievement for developer Kylotonn. I guess these kings of rallying will have to learn to share a throne.

 

Graphics: 8.5

A really good looking game, with excellent environments and lighting effects, even though it doesn’t run at 60 frames per second. It doesn’t offer the sensation of speed it should.

Gameplay: 7.0

WRC 8‘s gameplay is a bit too harsh, punitive, and ridiculously sensitive for newcomers, unlike its competitors. It will take a while for you to properly grasp the controls, but once you do, you’ll be fine.

Sound: 8.5

There’s not a lot a rally game needs to do in terms of sound. It needs to have realistic engine noises and well-acted co-driver voice samples. Thankfully, WRC 8 has both.

Fun Factor: 8.0

WRC 8 makes up for its newcomer-unfriendly gameplay with a lot of content and a surprisingly robust career mode.

Final Verdict: 8.0

WRC 8 is available now on PS4, Xbox One and PC.

Reviewed on Xbox One.

A copy of WRC 8 was provided by the publisher.