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Review: how does WRC 5 stack up against the best rally games?
Mike Channell plays Finnish rally ace in new title for console and PC
We’re no professional psychologists, but clearly something in your brain has to have gone a bit skew-whiff for you to want to be a rally ace.
Something somewhere in the few cubic centimetres of squishy, spongy grey stuff that would otherwise be politely nagging you not to dance a tonne of metal and carbon fibre across loose gravel, mere inches away from a sheer precipice. It’s amazing that this complete absence of a sense of self preservation wasn’t run into some sort of evolutionary dead end back when early humans first started flinging themselves at woolly mammoths.
What rally video games like WRC 5 offer is a taste of the blissful, zen-like levels of concentration and reactive car control that the pros enjoy, without the accompanying risk of being returned home in two separate, equally sized pieces.
Unlike the recent, hugely impressive Dirt Rally, WRC 5 is absolutely not an aerospace-grade simulator. Instead it blends an authentic recreation of the official championship’s teams and locations with gently widened roads and a forgiving, chuckable handling model. Not only will you be driving Sebastien Ogier’s 2015 VW Polo R WRC, you’ll be pulling precision slides and deft Scandi flicks like him too.
Just because it’s easy to pick up doesn’t mean you won’t be challenged, though. The surface changes not just stage-by-stage but corner-by-corner, and it’s easy to drop a wheel on some ice or wet mud and end up slithering embarrassingly into the banking.
There are also some frighteningly fast stages in there, particularly on Rally Poland. It’s no wonder Robert Kubica regularly forgets that he has a middle pedal at his disposal.
There’s no escaping that the overall budget for this game would probably fit comfortably within the coffee and doughnut budget of something like Forza Motorsport 6, but WRC 5 stretches its more modest resources well. Every stop on the calendar is represented, with five stages each, and there are both night stages and an entire British summer’s worth of different weather conditions to adapt to.
It’s going to be a very long time before you’ve memorised every single corner, which is the key to rally game longevity.
And that’s WRC 5 in a nutshell. It’s never going to frighten the big boys of the genre, but if you’re at all interested in the sport, or just fancy experiencing the weird, tunnel-vision focus of threading between Finnish pine trees at 150mph that’s unique to rallyism, then this plucky underdog is punching well above its weight.
WRC 5’s available on PC today, with the console release following on 16 October. Buying it is statistically unlikely to result in you ending up upside down and on fire at the very base of a Monte Carlo mountain. What more recommendation do you need?