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Gaming: WRC 8 finally offers Dirt some competition
Official World Rally game takes a huge step forward
Fans of high-speed automotive gravel displacement have been positively spoilt this year when it comes to videogames. Back in February we were treated to the new standard bearer Dirt Rally 2.0, with its sublime handling and clever stage degradation. Now we’ve got WRC 8 on Xbox, Playstation, PC and Switch, the official game of the World Rally Championship, which aims to knock Dirt off its lofty perch with a well aimed muddy rooster tail. So does it?
Well, in a word: no. But you might be surprised by how close it comes. For a start, the WRC series of games has taken a year out to have a good long think about how to compete with the all conquering Dirt. The biggest, juiciest fruit of that labour is a much improved physics system, which gives you a far greater understanding of what your wheels are doing underneath you and a better idea of how the weight is shifting too. All of which is useful information when you’re sideways at 80mph with one tyre hanging over the side of an Argentinian mountain.
WRC 8 also has exclusive rights to the current, terrifying breed of downforce-heavy WRC machinery. It’s all comically oversized aero adornments and mind-bending loose surface cornering speeds. If you’re a keen follower of the sport, you’re probably just reading this and nodding while you wait for your copy of the game to plop through the letterbox. If you’re not a fan, prepare to forget everything you learned in Physics GCSE.
The real highlight of the game are the special stages. There’s loads of them, for a start and even when you have finally seen them all in both directions, the new dynamic weather can make even the most familiar routes feel alien. They’re also far prettier than they were in the previous WRC game, capably serving up everything from dramatic alpine vistas to claustrophobic forests and authentically capturing the individual character of each rally.
Where WRC 8 is actually better than Dirt Rally 2.0 is in the career mode, which takes its cues not from its fellow mud flinger and instead from the Formula One games. You’ll be hiring and firing staff, taking part in meaningful testing and directing your R&D department in their hunt for performance gains. Best of all, it’s all presented via a doll’s house overhead view of your team HQ. It’s like The Sims but with more rally cars and fewer tragic kitchen fires.
WRC 8 is a huge step forward for a series that had previously been pumping out respectable but uninspiring rally games. In almost every area, this feels like a new and confident reboot of the official WRC offering and it’s genuinely worthy of a spot alongside Dirt Rally 2.0 on your shelf. Two great rally games in the same year? We could get used to this…