WRC 10 FIA World Rally Championship PC Review
Another year, another WRC title, now number 10 in the rebooted series that started in 2010 with original developer Milestone. Kylotonn took over the series starting with WRC 5 and has been making improvements steadily over the years. The best jump in quality came with WRC 8 when the series took an extra year in the development cycle. Since WRC 8, the series has been on the yearly release again, meaning that improvements are no longer as impactful as they were with WRC 8. That is not to dampen what WRC 10 offers, as there is a new vision with this release, which might be due to the developers losing the licence after 2022’s release of WRC 11 – the rights for the World Rally Championship switch to Codemasters in 2023 – and that is celebrating 50 years of the motorsport with a special anniversary feature, which starts next year in the World Rally Championship. Everything else, though, is what you are probably expecting in a yearly release if you are fans of the series; all the returning modes and refinements.
A new rally season means new rally stages, which is one of the areas fans of the WRC games will be wanting to know. Since WRC 8, the series has been known for delivering fantastic representations of the stages, with some electrifying and challenging tracks that will test the drivers’ technical skills – WRC is regarded as having some of the best-crafted stages currently in the genre. This year brings Croatia, Spain and Estonia as new locations, with Belgium and Greece coming as free updates in October and November. I can confirm that the three locations currently added are as well designed as the previous others.
Croatia is asphalt heaven, with a mixture of fresh and broken up tarmac that takes the drivers over tightly thin bridges and twisty turns and narrow roads, which are set in the lovely countryside. Despite the twist and turns, Croatia is a fast location, but dangerous if the concentration is lacking, as it is easy to clip a rising hillside and flip the car over. Estonia is mostly on slippery gravel through woodlands, with a short tarmac section thrown in that feels part of a rallycross event. It requires good braking skills otherwise it is easy to overextended into the trees as the wheels glide on the gravel. Spain is through the villages of the steep Spanish hillsides with plenty of tarmac for amazing grip as you go full speed, but some incredibly tight sections with small stone walls being the only thing stopping you from falling down the cliffside.
A special 50th Anniversary Mode comes packed in WRC 10. This mode lets you relive famous events throughout the history of the World Rally Championship. It sets up each event with a paragraph explaining the situation, then on successfully finishing the event will follow up with more information about the victory that took place. It is nice to see licenced content used to showcase the history of the sport, but more could done to celebrate this milestone. In reality, this mode is nothing more than a glorified classic car versus a time limit. The car is always in good condition, so nothing handicaps the player, no different scenarios, no old school UI or visual effects, nothing but standard gameplay. The only thing making the 50th Anniversary Mode an element of the historic rally is the legendary vehicles, some classic rally stages and the crowd standing close to the track without barricades, meaning they can easily be hit for a 5-second penalty (is that all human life is worth nowadays?). This mode should have been more in line with Dirt Rally 2.0‘s Colin McRae DLC, which showcased many elements of his career with a variety of challenges rather than straightforward time trial events.
One thing I have to complain about is the bizarre idea to lock a cool career feature, the private team, which unlocks when beating the 50th Anniversary Mode. The new livery editor allows people to make their own colour scheme for the vehicles and manage their own team in a rally championship, but why do such a thing as to lock it away? If you wanted a reward for beating the mode, then maybe do something a little less impactful on the game. I would have loved to have done a career as Team DarkZero, but alas, I went for the normal manufacturer mode as I started a career before beating 50th Anniversary Mode.
A good thing to come from 50th Anniversary Mode is WRC 10 now brings with it the most retro filled content the series has ever had. Included are 20 legendary rally cars across 6 historic rally locations, which are classed as their own stages rather than the game’s standard stages from the 2021 calendar. This means the tracklist is around 120 stages, with more to come in the free updates. That is plenty of distance to cover, which should satisfy the craving of most drivers. It is a huge shame that existing locations which return from WRC 9 have not been given more stages, so there would be something new when revisiting returning countries that fans have already driven across last year.
Career Mode remains similar to the last two entries with a couple of small tweaks thrown in to add more variety, but the process and menus remain identical to before. This is the place where the bulk of the content lies, throwing other modes that are outside of the Career into its calendar system to add variety to each rally season, such as the newly added 50th Anniversary events that bring a new element into the career’s calendar, the Challenges and Training stages, along with mixing up some classic cars and tracks for historic rally events. This mode will no doubt supply plenty of time for people who enjoy working their way to the top, even if a lot of it is pasted from last year’s design.
Career begins by joining either a Junior WRC or WRC 3 team. From then, it is about impressing the competition by performing well and having manufacturer try-outs to get offers from other teams higher up in the competition ladder to eventually get to the big daddy of rallying, the WRC. Players have to manage their team by hiring staff, keeping them well energised, taking part in the official rallies, training, challenges, extreme conditions, historic races and anniversary events over the four weekends available per month. Money and experienced are earned by performing well, and these can go into unlocking research and development features for the car or the staff, while money is used for repairs, taking part in special events, paying staff or hiring new people to join the team.
The biggest addition that stood out for me in career was the new tyre allocation that happens at the start of each rally. This gels well with the new “realistic” rally length that adds additional stages to a rally, often repeating some stages as there simply isn’t enough in each country to fill in 13 stages per rally – a country usually has between 8-9 stages. There is a limited amount of tyres that can be taken into the rally that fit across a multitude of tyre types, asphalt, gravel, snow, wet, hard, soft etc. and based on the weather forecast, the surface type, the distance, and how many stages are between each service period are will determine how many of each should be claimed. 2 spares and the 4 equipped wheels can be taken into the stages before the next service time, so the game requires you to switch tyres around to keep the ones with best traction in use after a stage is completed. It is only a small addition, but it impacts how you approach the game in a huge way, as mixing tyres is a possibility to try extend some life into them, or you can totally mess the choice up, as I found out as I picked the wrong tyres and had next to zero grip trying to drive up the mountainous track of Monte Carlo.
Car handling feels great, improved a little over last year, especially with the controller useable after adjusting some settings to counter the oversensitivity of the sticks. I still played the game with a steering wheel, as this is truly the best way to play it. The adjustment to the handling means that you can take control of the car with less challenge from the counter steering in the physics, shifting its weight around with steering and drifts without ending up in a snaking movement of trying to centre the car from eventually spinning out of control. I have never driven a rally car, but in terms of the scale of where WRC 10 sits in the whole simulation to arcade scale, it is more on the side of simulation with a bit leeway that does not make is as hardcore as a pure simulation rally game would be.
Visuals are not a step up over last year’s title. I was running the game on PC on maximum settings, and too be honest, I could not see that much different. There are still strange issues with running the game in Direct X 12 (light flickering is the biggest culprit), but these are all eradicated when running the game in Direct X 11. Sound is also a little improved. Car noises are always a talking point with this series, as the effect of what sounds like a WRC car ends up often coming across weak, but this time I feel the sound is decent enough. These cars are no longer the big mean machines blasting high decibel explosions from their exhausts, and I think the game manages to showcase this enough with the 2021 car sounds compared to the cars of old. It is not the market leader in sound design, but it is slowly getting better with each release.
WRC 10 is the best the WRC series has ever been. It might not be the biggest leap in improvements, but the refinement of the vehicle control, the improved physics, new tweaks to the career – just as time-consuming as last year’s – and the increased legendary car/track count help make the return to the series a good one. There is just a bit too much deja vu here that might put off casual fans from buying the game if they already have WRC 9. Sadly, that is one of the downsides that come with these yearly sports releases. Still, I can recommend WRC 10 to the people who want a new racing game, and those who are into motorsports will find WRC 10 a great title to play with, just make sure you try to go for the full wheel set up to truly experience throwing a car around these amazingly designed courses.