The WRC series goes back some time. If we rewind the clock and revisit PS2 days, Evolution Studios released the first officially licensed WRC title.
That had a sequel. Which had another sequel. A third and fourth sequel were also made. They were really, really good games. Believable – I use this term instead of realistic, for reasons I’ll explain – driving physics, superb graphics and the full selection of WRC cars and venues.
Then they stopped making sequels and the world’s rally fans wept.
The Colin McRae games were getting worse by the minute and the late Scottish rally champ would cringe if he saw what they’d tacked his name onto. Another late rally champ, Richard Burns, had a rally game with his name: Richard Burns Rally. To this day it’s the most gruelling motor racing simulation ever – the reason I choose to say other games feel believable when played, while RBR remains the most realistic.
With that in mind, we have to evaluate the newest WRC game, based on the 2010 season and a now very different rallying landscape. The actual sport hasn’t changed much.
It’s still about a bunch of real men with very hairy chests bombing down dirt back-roads at license-losing speeds. The line-up of teams and cars has changed a lot, with the FIA’s new rules determining who and what can run in each of the four represented classes: WRC, P-WRC, S-WRC and J-WRC. No longer will the WRC class be a selection of Subarus, Mitsubishis and the like. Instead, bank on the two remaining works cars, the Ford Focus and Citroen C4. Ironically, the lesser classes are where more fun and challenges lie, especially in the baby Junior WRC class where they use a variety of shopping trolley 1.6-litre hatchbacks (in full rally trim, of course). There’s also a Group B class, with some historic rally cars that petrolheads will be familiar with – this is available as a downloadable pack on the PS3 and Xbox versions, for around US$5 or 400 MS Points. It’s included in the PC version.
The campaign mode is fairly straightforward: pick a car and team, and enter each of the 13 WRC events. There’s a “Road to the WRC” mode where you can start from scratch in the rallying scene, building yourself (and your team) up to an internationally competitive level – a twist on the “relive the season” modes we’ve seen in some sports games, but the first time I’ve noticed it in a racing title. Newcomers can get into the swing of things quite soon.
There are a number of assists to help keep the car on the black, brown and white stuff, depending on the country you’re racing in. It won’t take away from the semi-realistic feel of having an all-wheel drive rally car slithering across the snow, but definitely makes it easier to adjust. Your Forza and Gran Turismo skills won’t translate well here.
Graphics are good, but not brilliant. Ditto for driving physics and crash damage modelling. Sound is really sub-par. Most of the cars sound like hopped-up sewing machines. For all its official-ness, WRC 2010 just doesn’t deliver the knockout punch I was hoping for. It feels good to play and linking together some corners on a dirt course is satisfying. Tar driving is very technical (and tricky), while muddy courses will cause you to bog down if you’re in an underpowered car.
The biggest problem was when I fired up Colin McRae DiRT 2, to see how WRC compares. The Codemasters game just looks, feels and sounds way more polished.
It has far fewer things wrong with it – truthfully, the steering sensitivity in that game is the only big criticism – and Black Bean’s effort just pales in comparison.
There is good news, though. The WRC license is with Black Bean for three years – and this is a solid base to build on. The fundamentals have been put in place, but now it’s time to spit, polish, shine, and make them stand out from the crowd.
At A Glance:
Adequate is the best word to describe Black Bean’s first go at the WRC game. It’s really not bad, but it’s also not very noteworthy.
Developer: Milestone Srl
Publisher: Black Bean Games
Distributor: Ster Kinekor