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The WRC is undoubtedly one of the most thrilling racing leagues in the world. Just imagine barrelling down a dirt road barely wide enough to fit your car, taking twists and turns at 60mph (that’s 100km/hr for most of the world). You’re on the edge of control at all times, and any mistake could lead to a devastating wreck and the end of your career, if not your life. It’s almost nightmarish — and that’s what makes it so fun. As a game series, WRC
has been around for years now and has thus far demonstrated mediocrity. But with WRC 7
, the team at Kylotonn Games have been learning quite publicly. Beginning with their debut WRC 5
and last year’s WRC 6
, each game has been noticeably better than the last. As the game series continues that trajectory fans of WRC, or even racing in general, will undoubtedly find something to love in this year’s entry.
Right at the outset, you’re asked whether you’d prefer a realistic simulation or a "fun drive". The simulation is no DiRT Rally
, but it’s fair in its added challenge. Even if you select the latter, you’ll still receive a simcade experience where putting the pedal to the metal while forgetting about your break is a surefire way to end up in last place. Once you select your style, you’re sent to a sort of obstacle course where the game will teach you the basics of rallying. At the end, you’re given a suggested difficulty which you can, of course, change at any time. This doesn’t seem perfect — I was set at the easiest difficulty in the training and then proceeded to win every race by a substantial margin — but since rallying is primarily time trials, increased AI difficulty really only serves to move up the target time for a given race. No matter what you get, you’re going to have fun and that’s what’s important.
The tracks are set in the 13 official countries of WRC. In 2017, that means we’re visiting Monaco, Sweden, Mexico, Argentina, Germany, Finland, Spain, the UK, Australia, Portugal, France, Italy and Poland. The realism is a nice touch, but the greatest benefit is the massive variety of environments in which you’ll race. You’ll move through wet forests in the UK before heading to the Australian outback to kick up dust. Poland sees you moving through countryside villages while Sweden requires you pull out your snow tires to drive through the ice. There are fields, mountains and everything in between and it all comes together to create a very exciting range of locales. While you might imagine Sweden and Finland, both northern, snowy climates, would feel the same, they are still distinct and recognizable at a glance once you’ve played them a few times. These countries are an absolute joy to experience.
To match the huge number of locales, there’s likewise a large number of tracks, called stages in rally lingo. There are over 60 to experience and while they are not each totally unique, sharing certain stretches of track amongst each other, they feel different enough to keep you interested. It’s worth noting that these tracks are not one-to-one with the real world tracks, but such a detail would likely go unnoticed by anyone but the most diehard of rallying fans. Honestly, it simply does not matter. These tracks are exciting and every turn feels like a nice, well-placed challenge. The first time you soar over the top of a small hill and land with only a moment to react to the turn in front of you, you’ll be so delighted by the track design any complaints you had with the game will be forgotten. In addition to drives through the country, the standard stages also feature a complement of arena-based races which feature tight turns and another car on the track. It’s still a time trial, but these events feel fresh and fun, with the tangle of turns in such a small area mixing up the feel of the stage in a nice way.
The game does feature primarily the standard stages rally veterans have come to expect, but there’s more as well. New to the series are epic stages. A traditional stage will typically run in between five and ten minutes. Epic stages, on the other hand, send you across most of the stages all at once which really can be best described as epic. You’ll climb icy switchbacks up a mountain and feel like the race should be long over, only to realize you’re not even half done and have a ride all the way down the other side ahead of you. These twenty minute stages are rare enough to not feel tiring and epic enough to be enthralling when they do come up.
The handling model of the game feels right. As I mentioned earlier, this is no arcade racing even on the more lenient settings — it is simcade all the way through. You’ll not find yourself flooring it often nor will you drift through every corner without a worry about whether you should brake. In WRC 7
, the cautious win the day. You’ll need to control your speed to make sure you can handle the next turn. You’ll need to pay attention to your co-pilot (or the on-screen indications for the upcoming turn) to know whether your e-brake is going to be appropriate or if you might be able to handle it.
On top of this, terrain plays a huge part in the game. Asphalt is completely different than dirt or snow, and you’ll need to react to each one appropriately if you’re going to make it through quickly. It’s a challenge and one that’s quite welcome as it makes the game that much more fun. With the handling model, it’s absolutely delighting to drift around a corner in the dirt with your car turning completely perpendicular to the track, then applying just the right amount of counter-steer to whip yourself back into a straight line for a smooth finish to a turn. You’ll need to know when you can perform maneuvers like this and when you need to play it a bit safer, and that means you’re really going to need to know how your car handles on each terrain type.
If there’s one primary fault in the game, it’s that the career mode just isn’t particularly exciting. You’ll sign up for a team and be given a car and some goals to accomplish and then it’s off to the next race. Each team has certain things they prefer, such as clean racing or fast racing at all costs, but ultimately this doesn’t change the way you race at all. If you do well, your team will like you and if you don’t, they won’t. There’s almost no management of your team, with only choosing what repairs to make requiring any input at all. As you progress, you’ll be able to switch teams and the game will feel almost exactly the same except for the new car you’ll be using.
The issue with this career mode is that it doesn’t make you want to play. There’s nothing to make you want to do well except for the joy of racing itself. There’s no personality to a team, so there’s no incentive to do well. You don’t buy new cars, you just use whatever your team uses. You can’t upgrade your cars beyond some very minor adjustments. You can place high in the championship if you do well, but that’s not going to motivate you to do better either — you either like racing enough to try to win or you’re probably not interested in a racing game at all. This is not a game where all its systems will come together to make it better than the sum of its parts because WRC 7
is purely racing for the sake of racing.
The achievements are much the same as last year. You’ll need to race. A lot. There’re standard achievements for winning rallies in each location, for being promoted to a higher league
, for winning the WRC championship
and all the other standard achievements you might expect in a racing game. But most importantly, you’re going to have to earn all the accomplishments
, which is going to take north of 150 hours with certainty. These are things like completing 1000 stages and playing plenty of multiplayer. It will be no easy completion, but if you enjoy the game it will at least be a fun one.
is racing for the sake of racing. In its purest form, it is full to the brim with exciting tracks across a huge variety of locations. The handling model fits as a simcade and it’s extremely fun, feeling rewarding while still offering up plenty of challenge even for veterans of the series. It does suffer from a completely forgettable career mode, but at the end of the day the game was never trying to be a rally career manager. It was trying to be a rally racing game and, in that, it has succeeded with flying colors. If you’re just looking to play in the dirt, WRC 7
is an excellent experience you’ll be glad to have played.
- 13 countries to visit, each feeling unique
- Plenty of diverse tracks to keep you interested
- Handling model is rewarding and challenging
- Range of difficulty options to suit many players
- Career mode can be incredibly dull
- Very little management leads to too little activity outside of racing
- Inability easily change your car in career may disappoint some players
The reviewer spent 8 hours touring many different countries, kicking up dirt along the way in single-player. Since the copy was pre-release, the multiplayer could not be tested. 14 of the game's 41 achievements were unlocked along the way. An Xbox One copy was provided by the publisher for this review.