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WRC: FIA World Rally Championship 360 Review - -

Gameplay 7.5
Graphics 7.0
Sound 7.5
Value 7.0
Developer: Black Bean
Review Date:
October 2010
Ash Pinch


WRC: FIA World Rally Championship

Rally games seem to be few and far between in modern day gaming, aside from DIRT which is becoming a regular contender.  I was quite looking forward to the opportunity to play a rally game that was based around the WRC, instead of the Americana that was DIRT 2.  There has been a gap in the market for some time for a rally game to be solely focused on the WRC and the point-to-point stages that this encompasses; racing nothing but the clock and cars that you cannot see forcing you to drive flat out with no knowledge of how your competitors are performing.  I was ready to throw myself head first into FIA WRC and had high hopes to have that rally itch thoroughly scratched.

Milestone seems like a strange choice of developer to handle a completely licensed WRC game, as generally the majority of their experience has been in games dealing with just two wheels with the highly successful SBK series, with the occasional venture into car racing, with no real top tier titles in the latter.  This offering is a gallant attempt considering that the studios that they are competing with have been in the off-road and racing game industry virtually since day dot.

There a few different modes that are available, there are your standard single player modes such as ghost and individual stage and rally.  WRC Academy is mode that is provided with the intention of teaching players how to improve their driving, although this boils down to little more than following a red, orange and red line that had become so popular in racing games.  Road to the WRC is where players are likely to spend the majority of their time.  The idea is that you must work your way into the WRC through racing in some smaller rally series’ and completing challenges such as finishing in the top three.  This is a very idea in theory, the progression can feel very slow and there is no connectedness between events, you will complete one stage in Japan, and then straight onto Sweden, it would be nice to be able to complete an entire rally or even a few events.  It does offer a change up from just choosing a team and driver and being in the WRC. 

There are a number of car classes including the J-WRC, which includes a range of small front wheel drive, naturally aspirated cars.  To the WRC, this is what you really want to be driving.  There is a noticeable difference between the different car classes, the front wheel drive cars tend to understeer and lack general power when coming out of tight corners, the WRC cars on the other hand, is like treading a tightrope trying not to lose control and they have a far greater tendency to oversteer making them much more enjoyable to drive.

The handling of the cars can take a bit to get used to, the steering will seemed very touchy at first but once you get the hang of it you will be throwing the cars into corners with confidence, once you get the hang of the car controls the experience can be quite enjoyable, and unforgiving.  Small errors can lead to big offs and cause you to completely ruin what was a podium finish and can easily land you near the bottom of the field.  Different surfaces create different driving experiences; the snow of Sweden can be literally like driving on ice with difficulty keeping the car in a straight line, whereas the tarmac provides huge amounts of grip and just dares you to push the car to the absolute limit.

It would have been nice to see a few more cars featured in WRC, perhaps some of the classics such as the Subaru Impreza of the late nineties or the Lancia Stratos.  The Group B cars are available which helps to boost the number of cars available but the list always felt very limited.

FIA WRC is accessible enough for anyone looking to venture into the world of WRC, with the now standard, braking assist and the driving line guides, the latter takes away greatly from the whole experience of rallying, as the most exciting aspect of a rally game is not knowing what is up ahead, other than being told “3 Right, barrier on inside”.  This is what separates rally games from circuit racing games.  Anyone who is familiar with racing games in general will probably turn all these aids off as soon as they boot the game and even start a race.  The opponent difficulty is where the tinkering will likely happen, there is a sliding scale of where you are able to set the opponents from being able to crash multiple times, being generally slow and still winning by 10:00 – 20:00 seconds each stage, then at the other end the opponents, or their times at least, are completely unforgiving, not allowing any margin for error, and slight errors will land you right near the bottom of the field as the competition is incredibly close.

The menus themselves are quite clunky and seem to what you would expect from a previous generation title, with bright greens and some horrible completely 2D backgrounds, for those who love simplicity this may be a welcome change from the DIRT style menus, but hey were far too simple and bland overall.

The graphics of FIA WRC were overall quite underwhelming, you kind of go into a rally games expecting fairly lush surroundings, great in car detail and perhaps even some spectators overlooking the race.  The surroundings were the most disappointing aspect of the game, there seems to be a general lack of anything around the course, there is a definite lack of the feeling that you are speeding through a real environment.  The surfaces on the tracks do not appear all that great either, with most of the surfaces looking very similar apart from colour, and sometimes there are patches of reflective road when it is wet.

The cars themselves do not look too bad, but they are nothing special.  The in car view is nothing spectacular and the driver animations seem to be very jerky, this is especially noticeable when the camera shows the driver and co-driver at the end of each race.  Overall, the graphics are not up to par with other racing games of the generation and does not use the hardware that is currently available effectively.

The sounds in FIA: WRC are a bit of a mixed bag, first we will start with the positives.  The engine sounds are not too bad, they give the feeling that you are actually driving a small turbocharged car and that there is actually some power under the hood, again though, they are nothing particularly special.  The co-drivers are also good, providing you with the information needed to make it around the corner in one piece, although not always, there can still be times when you are given a number of corners at one time and this can become confusing when going flat out and chasing that tenth of a second.  The timing of the co-drivers instructions can be changed which can help if some find the default too early or late.

The biggest gripe with the sound in the game is the backfire sound, it seems as though they have copied the collision sound effect and pasted it into the backfire, each time the car back fired it sounds as though you are being rammed from behind.  The music is also nothing special, this is really a non issue in a rally game as you are so focused on the road ahead you will not even notice.

In closing, the game is the best representative of the WRC that is presently out, whether it is the best rally game is a different matter.  If you are itching for a decent and challenging WRC game and are willing to overlook a few shortcomings this game can be enjoyable and provide a real sense of accomplishment.  Overall, WRC is a passable rally game that can be enjoyable with the right frame of mind and if players are willing to overlook the small niggling issues with the game.


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