EA Sports WRC review: more than just a licensed tie-in
Dirt Rally's handling combined with WRC cars and stages
Glancing at yet another licensed WRC game, complete with the exact same typeface the sport has been using for the last three decades or so, you'd be excused for wondering whether you should give a flying... uh, finish about EA Sports WRC. But if you fell out of love with the officially licensed rally games sometime in the early 2010s, as many people did, trust us when we say: now's the time to rekindle the passion.
That's because for the first time, this new WRC game is built on the foundation of the superlative Dirt Rally series, which has been eating the previous official games' lunch for the past few years. The detailed, convincing handling model that made Dirt Rally and its sequel so engaging to drive is evolved here, and in particular, the variety of surfaces you'll encounter can be felt instantly whether you're on a joypad or a marriage-threateningly expensive sim setup. It's rare that we get excited about driving slowly in a videogame, but the first time we encountered the telltale sheen of surface ice and had to dramatically reduce our pace on a wintry Monte Carlo Rally just to survive the stage, we were utterly and completely sold.
For the sport's part, it brings with it the top class of hybrid Rally1 vehicles, which are phenomenally capable machines, to the point where they're among the easiest to drive in the game, in spite of their alarming turn of speed on a gravel donkey track. If you want a genuinely terrifying challenge, you'll be pleased to hear the savage 1980s Group B cars feature in the game's extensive selection of historic vehicles.
The game also hosts what we'd argue are the best rally stages in the history of gaming, probably because they've been plucked directly from sections of real world special stages. EA WRC's routes snake their way through vast landscapes, have been lavished with unique incidental details and perfectly reflect the individual character of the rallies they're simulating. They're also reflective of the challenge faced by the real competitors: not only are the special stages so narrow you'll find yourself subconsciously sucking in your gut, but they're also some of the longest routes in any stage rally game. A 30km stage is a supreme test of focus and, quite often, a great demonstration of the game's comprehensive car damage model. We're yet to have to walk across the finish line with the remains of our car in a plastic carrier bag, but we must have gotten pretty close.
EA WRC's career mode puts you not just in the drivers seat but also in charge of team management, hiring and firing employees, managing budgets and setting your schedule. If you're feeling particularly brave, you can even construct your own off-brand WRC car, choosing both internal components and the most aggressive bodykit you can find. There's a lot to fiddle with in between rallies, but the mode never wanders into the realms of unnecessary complexity.
Elsewhere, championship and multiplayer modes are present, along with the continuously updated 'Moments' mode, which allows you to tackle challenges inspired by occurrences in real world rallies, both contemporary and historic. There's currently even the opportunity to recreate the exploits of an unnamed Scottish rally driver. You know, for old times' sake.
In a way, the fact that this game bears an official license almost does it a disservice. Brilliant as it is as a recreation of the pinnacle of the sport, and welcome as the presence of the WRC is, with the game's commitment to simulating just about any combination of car, stage and conditions you could imagine – historic or modern – EA Sports WRC is so much more than just an tie-in. Don't let this one slide away...
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