The WRC franchise, i.e. the official license of the World Rally Championship, has had a very eventful gaming life: born on PS2 at Evolution Studios (the same as Driveclub), in the Xbox 360 era the series landed in the Italian Milestone studios almost at the end of the generation, and then joined the Nacon stable with Kylotonn in command until last year. Unfortunately over time the series has suffered a constant decline in quality, but this year it awaits the moment of redemption, with the passage of the license to the giant EA, but above all to the Codemasters studio, the same ones behind Colin McRae and DiRT. It was born like this EA Sports WRCwhich we were lucky enough to be able to try for almost two weeks with both controller and steering wheel, albeit in the PC version.
And the first impressions are certainly positive: the guys at Codemasters have created a product, despite still being in the beta phase, which is already technically solid, with convincing gameplay and rich in content. The core of the experience of EA Sports WRC, as well as an absolute novelty for rally games, represented by the Career mode; along the lines of what has already been seen in its cousin F1 23 (coincidentally also by Codemasters), here we will be given the possibility of taking on the role of not only the pilot (created with a rather simplified editor), but also those of the project manager. We will therefore be able to decide, in the preliminary phase, whether to start from the preparatory categories, WRC3 and WRC2, or immediately jump into the premier class.
MX Video – EA Sports WRC
At this point we will have to design our racing car from scratch, making a series of strategic decisions that will affect both the performance of the vehicle and its cost. We will have to decide which engine to install, which body, which suspension system and other practical aspects of the mechanical vehicle. I really liked the double thread that is created between these two aspects. Playing a small company that appears in international competitions, I was rather parsimonious in designing the vehicle, with positive repercussions on the team’s coffers (just think of the cost of spare parts), but with limited speed potential.
After defining the car we will drive on the world rally circuit, we will be catapulted into the team headquarters. Here, through a practical terminal, we will have to organize all the team’s activities, choosing, from week to week, whether to participate in the scheduled races or rallies or spend the time developing a multitude of secondary but no less important aspects; for example, we will be able to strengthen the team of engineers, develop their research network, participate in secondary events organized by sponsors or even let our employees rest, to let them get rid of the levels of stress and tiredness accumulated in the various trips around the world world (and there is certainly no shortage of exotic locations here).
These are strategic choices that have a tangible impact on the season both in the short and medium/long term. If we decide, for example, to enhance the skills of the chief engineer, we could have an advantage in terms of speed in repairing the car between one stage and another, or obtain an optimization in terms of economic resources in the development or improvement of the car’s mechanical components. In my test I experimented with the development system and found it to be well balanced overall, also because each week brings with it activities of various kinds, to possibly facilitate a change of priority in the objectives for the development of the factory. If we have been competitive enough to guarantee promotion to the next series, at the end of the season we will be able to acquire new sponsors and structural improvements capable of further amplifying the capabilities of our structure, allowing us to create and support projects for more high-performance cars, as well as engineers more specialized ones that will bring passive bonuses during rallies, such as additional quick repairs or higher quality mechanical components.
The other, more traditional game modes allow us to tackle a Rally of our choice with our favorite vehicle, carry out time trials complete with a leaderboard and relive iconic moments in the history of the WRC with the aim of repeating the memorable exploits of the category champions. Obviously the online mode is inevitable, but it was not available in the build I tested.
We now come to the crux of the experience EA Sports WRC: the gameplay. Although this is the first Codemasters title to abandon the proprietary Ego Engine in favor of the more widespread Unreal Engine, pad in hand those who are familiar with the DiRT Rally series will find a well-known feeling. The cars behave in a believable manner, the lateral and vertical stresses are reproduced with good precision, giving the player a high but always credible level of challenge; we are pleased to note the differences between the various road surfaces that we are going to attack; if we can have the confidence given by the mechanical grip guaranteed by the slick tires in the asphalt stages, we will certainly have to be careful on the Swedish snow where the grip level drops drastically, giving rise to real battles with a marked, but never frustrating, oversteer; I have always had the awareness of having total control of the vehicle, a very pleasant feeling of connection between pad and road surface. Dosing the braking, as well as the accelerator when exiting corners, is a must (but difficult to master), as well as tackling the various bumps in the right position on the track and with the right speed. Ending up in fields, or worse, in a ravine, will be inevitable without paying attention to the dynamics of the car and the track.
To our aid we will have the trusty co-pilot (configurable to warn us of approaching curves more or less in advance) who will accompany us in stages created with extreme care by the developers, and, finally, of realistic length, sometimes exceeding 15 km; it will therefore be imperative to measure nervous energy and never let the attention threshold drop even for more than 10 minutes, if we do not want to end up off the track with important consequences in terms of damage and, obviously, lost seconds.
I would define the guidance system as EA Sports WRC as tending towards simulation, but without the punishing peaks I would have expected; even at the maximum damage level I never found myself struggling to finish a stage, despite impacts at high speed with trunks, gates, trees and ditches, even if, as mentioned, the drop in the vehicle’s performance is tangible and difficult to recover in the subsequent stages (even more so when what has been destroyed needs to be repaired). I also found the stages well designed and characterized: each location has a very distinct mood, both in terms of driving speed and the width and breadth of each track, a truly well-crafted aspect that offers tangible diversity throughout the experience with the title.
And as a driving lover, I obviously couldn’t avoid testing the game with my trusty Thrustmaster T818 steering wheel with which I was able to verify the goodness of the driving model and the feedback that the suspension system transmits to the Direct Drive engine: the addition of an expanded range of details made the ride galvanizing, tiring to be sure, but on another level compared to the pad. I found myself driving at the limit (unfortunately, sometimes even beyond) with extreme naturalness, which is an indication of a basic accessibility (superior to the more hardcore DiRT Rally 2.0), but, I will never tire of repeating it, also of realistic and traceable behaviours. to reality. A truly satisfying job, which undoubtedly represents the jewel in the crown of the production.
This immersion was also possible thanks to a highly respectable audio sector. Although some changes to the volumes of the various aspects of the game were necessary, the fidelity of the roar of the engines impressed me favorably, as did the sound of the tires in contact both in grip and in sliding with the various surfaces such as asphalt, gravel or snow. .
Furthermore, from a technical point of view, the work can already be defined as promising. The Unreal Engine gave me credible environments, well modeled and with realistic lighting. Although it is a not exactly recent beta, I had few technical problems and crashes, and the framerate remained stable without any hitches whatsoever at 60 frames per second. I underline how this test was only possible on PC (tested in 1440p, medium preset with a 3060 Ti), and the performance on console will therefore need to be verified. In any case, many details on the modeling of vehicles and environments surprised me in a positive way and the general glance, although not jaw-breaking, was excellent when compared to the goodness of the car’s physics system which, we know, has a significant impact on performance. general terms of such a title.
In short, while awaiting the launch scheduled for November 3rd, I can certainly tell you that we are faced with a truly promising and complete product: I am confident that EA Sports WRC it will be able to satisfy both veterans of rally games and those who want to approach it in a lighter way, thanks also to the scalability of the difficulty system. The online modes and performance on consoles remain to be tested, but for this and for our final considerations on the game we refer you to our review!