Building on the experience gained from sitting behind the wheel of the WRC
franchise for four years, Milestone has once again decided to remove the restrictions that come with developing an officially licensed game in order to put their own mark on a genre with the release of a new intellectual property. Sébastien Loeb Rally Evo
promises to offer the largest stable of cars found in any rally game, accurately recreated tracks, and almost twice the content of its competitors. With WRC 5
still fresh in the memory, and the return of Codemasters’ DiRT
franchise heading to consoles in just a few months times, does Sébastien Loeb Rally Evo
do enough to race ahead of the competition?
Sébastien Loeb Rally Evo
The career mode in Sébastien Loeb Rally Evo
mimics the same setup as the one found in Milestone's last outing, RIDE
. You begin as the newcomer sitting in 401st place on a leaderboard with the aim of working your way up to the top spot by earning Reputation. Rep is awarded based on your performance in events, with more Rep awarded for the higher you finish. Unfortunately, the rest of your competitors’ Rep remains completely static regardless of how they place in comparison to you in each event, making progression through the ranks feel like a hollow experience. The question is not if you can make it to the top, but rather one of how long it’s going to take. The answer to that is over 30 hours and, even then, you’ll still have plenty of events in which to take part long after you’ve reached the summit of the leaderboard.
Thankfully, the variety provided by a large selection of different types of events, and a reasonably large selection of cars that span five decades of rally history, help to keep the career mode interesting, even if your competitors don’t. Eight main categories separate the game’s lineup of cars based on age, manufacturer and type. Rallies make up the majority of events, ranging from quick single stages right up to full eight stage races that can take up an hour of your time. Then there are skill-based races against the clock that will require you to pass through specific gateways, or follow a coned line around a circuit. Finally, Rallycross brings elimination and sector battles against five other cars, removing the loneliness of racing against nothing other than a clock.
By far the most rewarding part of the single-player experience comes outside of the career mode in the form of Loeb Experience events. Here you’re tasked with replicating 27 accomplishments that span the star's career, with each one being introduced by a short video interview from the man himself. The events vary from simply winning a rally stage, to finishing a stage with an average speed of over 100mph. While the racing is largely the same as the action found in the career mode, the added pressure of trying to keep up with the legend himself can provide a real challenge that will require maximum levels of concentration.
Behind the wheel, SLRE
is very much a sim-racer, meaning that it can be hard to master. There is a genuine challenge to steering your way through the various rally stages, especially with the different options for the road surface beneath your wheels, weather conditions and time of day. For the majority of the time the racing is exciting, fun and rewarding as you try to find the perfect balance between aggression and caution in order to set the best times possible along the tight winding tracks. The learning curve is steep and there will be moments that will leave you scratching your head as to why you are suddenly left nestling in a group of trees. Thankfully, there are a relatively wide range of assists and AI difficulty options that are available to help keep the action competitive for both novices and racing veterans.
Unfortunately, not all of the cars provide the same handling experience, with some feeling uncharacteristically twitchy to the extent that each minor adjustment to the steering alters your course far more than is expected. This leaves you fighting to remain in a straight line despite barely accelerating, even on dry tarmac and with multiple assists turned on. Whether this is an extremely authentic recreation of the way that those particular cars handle or if it’s something that needs to be patched post-launch isn’t really obvious, but when you do find yourself in those occasional situations, the best course of action for people who don’t have the patience of a saint will be to exit and find another event. The game quickly crosses the line between being challenging and infuriating.
Visually the game is a bit hit and miss, although this could be put down to a smaller budget when compared to other racing titles rather than a lack of effort from the team at Milestone. One of the biggest faults in RIDE
came from the dull and bland environments in which you raced, and this has been significantly improved in SLRE. The team has taken the time to painstakingly scan and recreate each of the game’s tracks along with the surrounding environments, which makes each one look and feel unique. For the most part the game runs extremely smoothly throughout, but there are occasional frame rate blips that seem to reoccur at certain sections on a handful of rally stages. At best they are off putting and at worst they are almost unplayable, especially when they take place on night stages.
The game’s 50+ cars have also been shown a lot of love, with each one offering a high level of detail both visually and in the way that they sound when racing from an outside viewpoint. There are some minor gripes with actual car animation, though, where cars appear to float over the track rather than giving the appearance that they are touching it. The same can’t be said of the cockpit view, however, where engines sound hollow and the level of detail drops to the bare minimum that is expected and not a whole lot more.
Although time with the game’s multiplayer has been limited due to a lack of players prior to the game’s official launch, the few races online have been both trouble and lag free. The options available are very similar to the single player quick race mode, allowing you to choose from any of the available event types across all of the game’s different locations with settings allowing the host to switch between the different times of day. The stand out options, and the ones that will most likely retain the most players after launch, will be the events that allow you to race against people rather than their ghost cars.
All of the game’s 25 available achievements can be earned through normal gameplay. The majority of them unlock through the career mode while on your way to reaching the top of the leaderboard in pursuit of the Rising Star!
achievement. Players must also win in each of the different event types, including winning 4-day scheduled rallies at each of the eight rally locations. The only possible challenge for some players will come with the Sébastien, the legend
achievement, where you will be required to triumph in all 27 of the Loeb Experience events, requiring a fair level of skill to complete. For multiplayer haters out there, the game contains one
solitary achievement for simply finishing a stage.
Outside of the officially licensed WRC
franchise, Milestone’s first attempt at the rally sub-genre does little to reinvent the wheel. However, Sébastien Loeb Rally Evo
does offer a pleasant alternative to the previously rigid career modes found in similar titles by offering a wide range of different events in which to take part. It isn’t a completely smooth ride with the odd periods of sustained frame rate drops and moments where it feels like you’re battling the game’s mechanics rather than the already difficult tracks. For those of you that need to scratch that racing itch, you’ll find a game that offers a genuine challenge. It might not do enough to pull ahead of similar games, but it will compliment them well if you decide to give it a try.
- A large selection of events and cars
- Loeb Experience Events provide insight into his career
- Rallycross is fast and action packed
- Challenging yet rewarding racing
- Inconsistent handling
- Frame rate issues on a small number of stages
The reviewer spent 46 hours racing through the game's campaign and Loeb Experience events, earning all 25 of the game's achievements. An Xbox One copy of the game was supplied by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
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