WRC 8 Review – A Challenger to the Throne Emerges

Oct 13, 2019
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GAME INFO

WRC 8

5th September, 2019
Platform PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One & Nintendo Switch
Publisher Bigben Interactive
Developer KT Racing

Earlier this year, during my time at the Bigben Interactive Week, I was able to preview WRC 8. There was no doubt in my mind, even from that hands-on, that KT Racing (formerly Kylotonn, formerly-formerly 4X Studios) had made great strides in their development of racing games, pushing for it to be their speciality following middling-at-best results with WRC 6 and FlatOut 4: Total Insanity. Following a two year break after the release of WRC 7 to releasing WRC 8, I'm more than a little impressed with the results and it seems that rally-games now has a challenger for the throne.

Every Sunday, I’ll be reviewing an older game, one we weren’t able to cover on release or one that simply interests me. If there's any particular title you want to see reviewed, let me know in the comments and if there's one particularly well requested (or that intrigues me), I'll review it.

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Let's be honest, anybody who has ever seen any gameplay footage from my previous reviews of any racing game knows that I'm miserably poor at anything close to simulation. I need assists, a nice tuning of the difficulty and possibly the support of an emotional councillor just to get me past the first few corners. This is to say, I'm not exactly good at them. As always, it would be worth you bearing that in mind. Thankfully, this does mean I'm almost an expert in judging the accessibility of racing simulations.

In this case, WRC 8 is accessible. It doesn't seem to be on the same level as the current rally game ruler, DiRT Rally 2.0, but it's up there. You have a variety of assists to choose from, with the ability to adjust the difficulty to your liking. There's more than enough there for you to find that sweet spot that, like me, still has you careening off of the track every now and then, but also lets you feel like you've actually accomplished something when you manage to go in a straight line without taking out any nearby wildlife.

This isn't to say that the physics can't bugger off every now and then. I've had cars flying higher than a Tomas Cook aeroplane, following a turn gone awry. What turns out to be truly annoying to me is that if you happen to go off-track, the game is incredibly rigid in the time it gives you to get back on. Ten seconds, starting from when you cross the invisible barrier. Personally, I prefer to drive back on, I always try, though why a flimsy wooden fence can stop a huge car is beyond me.

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Minor issues, I suppose. Particularly when you can tell that KT Racing has really worked on the driving in WRC 8. The difference in your car setup, the terrain you're racing on, the weather conditions - everything contributes to the way you race. This is far more accurate than previous outings in the series and is much closer to titles like DiRT Rally. For the review, I was playing it using a controller, but having used a wheel during my preview time, the game is certainly designed with a wheel in mind.

Keeping with the issues. I do have a few more minor ones to complain about, as well as continuing my complaint about the time given off of the track. Ten seconds isn't always enough time to get back on track and no matter how long you've been trying when the game puts you back on track, you've got a nine-second penalty. It's egregious and unfair. Also, and while it wasn't the fault of the game - I'm just bad at it - I found my co-drivers instructions to be a little late, even when settings were set to deliver instructions early. All too often I'd find my way through trial and error - or pure dumb luck.

So, let's talk those flimsy-in-appearance but sturdier than a concrete bollard wooden fences. It all depends on the tracks. Taking place across fourteen different locations, each with multiple tracks, you'll not find yourself repeating yourself a great deal. Well, actually, when it comes to the career, the set-up of a location is usually that you do a small portion or two of a course, before doing what is essentially the full thing. It's just that with a change in weather, time of day, even just reversing the direction, it never actually feels like you're repeating yourself. Frankly, WRC 8 truly shines thanks to the sheer number and variety of locations. It's the best on the market for it.

What really helps is that, while it's not perfect, there's a lot to distinguish these locations and they genuinely look good. As I've said, not perfect, nor the best looking rally game on the market, but there's a marked step up from the last iteration. From the scenery, which at times can genuinely look great as the sun shines over a lush forest, or can be very atmospheric as your headlights barely penetrate the darkness and rain, only just showing you the course in front.

Keeping on with content, another thing worth speaking about within the game is the expansion of career mode. The stages in the career haven't changed a great deal, nor has their format. That's understandable, it is the official game of the event itself. What has changed is everything around it. In between stages you'll find yourself at your garage, managing your crew, attending other smaller events to bring in money, managing your sponsorships and relations with sponsors, manufacturer and more.

Part of this more also includes enhancing your and your team's abilities, as well as other bonuses, through the skill and tech tree. This is very reminiscent of what you'll see in Codemasters' F1 titles. Still, if something works, adapt it and make it your own. This is something KT Racing have done, while also bringing in the aforementioned crew management and more to actually flesh the career mode out and let you actually feel like you're a part of something. Even more so as you see the effects of your choices, where car repairs are done quickly and wear and tear is slower.

Comparisons to Codemasters' DiRT Rally series were inevitable here. DiRT Rally is the true leader of rally-racing in video games. Still, for a game to have improved as much as WRC 8 has, while also having the official license, finally putting it close to Codemasters' outings is very high praise. For those who want to be the licensed drivers, I would say it's finally put the WRC franchise on a level footing. On the actual track, I'd still give Codemasters the advantage, but their lead is diminishing.

If there's one thing that can be said, it's that KT Racing have outdone themselves and created the studios best ever title. This being their best title across every iteration or name of the studio. Not only is WRC 8 a genuinely good looking and great feeling title, it now has a lot more to keep you engaged. Thanks to the refined physics, options while driving, enhanced career mode and having the bonus of the license, WRC 8 finally marks the point where rally racing has two top-notch games.

PC version reviewed. Copy provided by the publisher. Played on an ultrawide monitor running at 2560×1080 resolution from a PC with an Intel i7-6700 3.4GHz x4 CPU, an Asus Radeon RX480 GPU and 32GB of DDR4 2400MHz RAM. On max settings, the game averaged around 40FPS.

8

By far the best outing every by KT Racing/Kylotonn and in the WRC franchise as a whole. With a well-defined career mode, backed up by a wealth of stages, set across a variety of places within the world, all of which are well designed, WRC 8 offers a lot for fans who want yet another strong rally game to jump into. While not quite alongside DiRT Rally 2.0, it's certainly coming close.

Pros

  • High amount of content with a wide number and variety of stages
  • Detailed career mode and progression
  • Genuinely good looking game for the largest part, with some great views
  • Handling is generally great, with a decent number of options for accessibility

Cons

  • Game doesn't allow for time to get on-track & has very punishing penalties
  • Physics can still cock up a bit
  • Co-driver instructions are, at times, too late no matter the settings
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