WRC 6: FIA World Rally Championship PC Review
The time between the release of last year’s WRC 5 and the arrival of WRC 6: FIA World Rally Championship offered rally fans the most choice for a rally game in quite some time. This was very unusual for the sport, as games based on it were limited to the official WRC titles created by Milestone before the licensed moved on to current WRC developers, Kylotonn Racing Games. Kylotonn’s first attempt with WRC 5: FIA World Rally Championship ended up being a fairly standard rally game that brought a forgiving version of the motorsport, but unfortunately for them, the game was the weakest link out of the trio of rally games – Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo by Milestone was a solid, if buggy, rally game, and veteran developers, Codemasters, who had released Dirt Rally within this time span, a game that I regard the best rally game to grace a console. With the competition quieter this time around – WRC 6 is the only new rally game on the horizon – can Kylontonn step up their game to improve on last year’s attempt?
Simple answer is yes, as WRC 6 comes with a set of improvements that make it better. While it’s still not close to the standard set by Dirt Rally, nor as hardcore, WRC 6 feels like an incremental upgrade, making a step in the right direction with developed visuals and gameplay additions that nudges this more closer to the realism side of the spectrum than WRC 5‘s lenient and approachable design. The handling this time around requires a bit more of a delicate touch to stay firmly in the middle of the track, but don’t worry if you think that the series has changed too much, as the game will use a test drive to recommend gameplay settings to find you a suitable spot that will offer handling assists to grip the car to the track more if going full simulation is too much work to cope with. I personally thought simulation was simple enough to get to grips with, feeling more natural taking corners than the stuck to the ground feeling that comes with full assists, plus, WRC 6 will still let you get away with more than what Dirt Rally will ever let you, allowing it to appeal to people who just want to drive fast down muddy and dicey tracks.
Design of the tracks have been made to be less open, and mixed with the tuned handling means they combine to bring more of a challenge. Some of the tracks in WRC 6 contain some wild bumps, disastrous uneven edges, many dangerous obstacles, and some insane twisty corners even reaching past some of the dangers in Dirt Rally (corkscrew bends into 180s murder my speed in WRC 6). The narrower tracks mean drivers no longer have a huge safe zone before sliding into danger and everything going tits up. Surfaces no longer feel like tiny variances of grip – WRC 5 surfaces did not feel representative of the substance the car was driving on – but bring much change in how a driver handles the car, with set ups having more weight in how the car will behave on snow, ice, wet gravel or loose dirt. It brings to attention the focus on making sure you brake, turn and accelerate out of those corners with precision. It feels rather rewarding when you smoothly transition through a corner without braking too hard and messing up the car’s speed. These uneven tracks give them more of a realistic feel, but just like last year’s title, the actual tracks are not copies of real-life courses, instead, the developers have created fantasy tracks using the 14 countries as a backdrop and thrown in sights to make it feel like you are driving the dusty roads of Australia or the snow filled ground of Sweden.
One area I was disappointed with was that the amount of tracks per country. Places like the newly included Chinese Rally only have three courses, while something like Australia features five. It’s great that there are 14 countries included, more than double that of Dirt Rally, and each have multiple day and weather settings, but the lack of consistent track content for each country means some rally championships are over quickly. That said, the long endurance tracks that can last six to eight minutes are still included, and with some seriously challenging corners include in the game, prepare to have your ability to focus tested during 12,000 metres of tricky surfaces.
Kylotonn’s approach to capturing the WRC with its official license comes in the form of all the official cars and drivers, but once again, the license handicaps their ability to dig deeper in to the history of the motorsport and bring back classic vehicles and locations. It’s exciting to drive the current cars, but there is always a desire in me to take a machine from the 80s and try survive without a scratch on these demanding tracks in a machine more reckless. And while on the topic of driving well, WRC 6 has a more punishing system that will penalise for going off the track with various time penalties, depending on the seriousness of the accident. With the lack of flashbacks in this year’s game, crashing off the track has more of an impact. You cannot simply reset to the last checkpoint and keep a good time. Now you’ll have to accept the implication of bad driving and keep pushing on.
One thing to mention is that a crash isn’t always your fault. This might sound a little strange to say in a rally game where it’s you, the machine and the race against time, but the co-driver in WRC 6 is poorly implemented. They are very vocal in throwing many upcoming directions, sometimes bundled together in advance or too late that it can be off putting to keep up with them. There are options to change the delivery time, which I set to the latest to solve a few of the problems, but co-driver calls still remain an issue and unnatural compared to the smoothness of Dirt Rally‘s understandable and better paced notes.
Campaign follows the same structure as WRC 5, with the career beginning you as a fresh driver in the leagues of the Junior WRC. Doing well will eventually gain the interest of other companies who come forward to offer a contract in WRC 2, and then again to WRC, where a full calendar rally is required to become a true rally champion. Speed is something that suffers in the Junior and WRC 2 category, as these cars are less powerful, and in turn the sense of speed produced by the game doesn’t quite live up to the adrenaline fueled speeds that the TV cameras appear to show real life cars moving at. It has improved over WRC 5‘s sense of velocity, but once again, it doesn’t quite capture it well on long straights that should seem like you are travelling at a blistering rate.
A quick note regarding the AI, while the game is fairly easy to come first on normal, it does seem to have removed that dumb difficulty mechanic that would alter AI times depending on how you performed on the track. It was a weird concept to implement, so it’s good to see that it has gone here, finally giving a bit of challenge to what was otherwise a time attack against yourself in the career.
Moving away from the bulk of the main game, the career mode, there are online challenges that match up with real life rally events, along with multiple weekly challenges. The eSports season is included here, no longer requiring a paid DLC pack to enter, which should get more people involved with the next seasonal event, challenging each other for the best times on the same rally championship as in real life (event the dates are the same). Local multiplayer is no longer limited to the “pass the pad” mode, as it comes with split-screen support (hooray!) that was absent in the last game, even though the console version had it. Online remains rather limited in customisations, with just a single race or a rally event. Luckily, it seems to work well online, and with ghost cars taking space on the track as other racers, it offers a multiplayer experience that doesn’t feel as lonely as racing against the clock with no indication of other players around.
Leaving the PS3 and Xbox 360 behind, Kylotonn has been given more power to play with, and this is clearly visible with the visuals when matching them up to WRC 5. On PC this means improved textures, nicer lighting and shadows, better environment variety with denser vegetation and scenery while being able to run at 60fps or higher. It’s not as pretty as the best parts of Dirt Rally, but it’s not a bad looking racer. I set all the settings to the maximum and tried to run the game at 4K UHD resolution using a Nvidia GTX 1080, which ran locked 60fps until night time races or foggy weather. In those scenarios, the frame rates would hit the low 50s. It seems WRC 6 doesn’t support SLI as of yet, but some fans have managed to use Nvidia Inspector to use another profile to get the game to work with it. Audio is sadly still standard. It has been re-recorded for this year’s game, and while the pop and bangs sound great, there is still that airy tinny sound that doesn’t capture the aggressiveness of the cars that some other racers do.
WRC 6 makes a good step in the right direction, but it has a slight problem – Dirt Rally being around affects my recommendation of the game for people looking for an authentic take on the motorsport. Codemasters has experience in this genre, and unfortunately for the WRC series, it came back in full swing with Dirt Rally. It does feel a little unfair to keep matching that game up with Kylotonn’s second attempt, but at least steps are being made by the studio to make it a better game. The improvements are there to be seen in WRC 6, and maybe with each yearly release Klyotonn will manage to creep up to the high standards that Dirt Rally set. At the moment, WRC 6 is a solid rally game that is, above all else, fun, and brings some genuinely great tracks, making it a decent alternative for people who are put off by the hardcore nature of Dirt Rally.