Rallying games used to rule the racing game scene. From titles like Sega Rally to Colin McRae Rally, not only were there lots of rally games but they were among the best racers out there. This generation has been going for almost two years, and we’re only just getting our first dedicated rally game (Forza Horizon had rallying elements).
WRC5 is the latest entry in the official World Rally Championship licensed series. This is the first game in the series not to be developed by Milestone S.r.l. who were ‘responsible’ for the passable ‘MotoGP 15’ and the very lackluster ‘Ride’. This game comes from Kylotonn Games, a French developer best known for developing first-person shooter games. While the game is still not quite what the sport deserves, it is still a solid step in the right direction.
The main body of the game is the career mode. Here you start off in Junior WRC, before working up to WRC 2 and finally making your way into the full WRC. The way this works is similar to ‘MotoGP 15’ in that you’re given a choice of contracts to sign. As you begin, all of these contracts are for Junior WRC and will only be for approximately 5 of the events in season. If you perform well enough in the Junior WRC, you will be offered contracts for a team in WRC 2 (for a few more events). Eventually (if you perform well enough) you will make it to the full WRC, driving the top rally cars and for a full season of 13 rallies.
The rallies themselves consist of 6-7 stages with a couple of service sessions to repair any damage to your car. The developers have done a great job of making each country’s event look unique from each other. Even stages that are set in woods or forests look appropriately different from each other. The stages themselves are the really twisty turny tracks that you only get in a rally game. The game possibly goes a little too far in this direction. In most real rallies, you have a few sections where the cars get to ‘stretch their legs’ a bit and reach some serious speeds. There are 1 or 2 sections like this in the whole game, but that’s all.
The game features one of my biggest pet peeves in racing games, and it’s accentuated in this case because you never see your opponents; what I’m talking about is ‘rubber banding’. Rubber banding is when the AI doesn’t let you get too far ahead or behind. Developers will tell you that this is to keep the racing exciting, but in a rally game where you race against the times of your opponents, this is just ridiculous. It’s virtually impossible to pull out more than a fraction of a second on your rivals in each stage. I finished a stage in first place, 0.25 seconds ahead of 2nd place, I drove the stage again deliberately finishing 6 seconds slower than before and this time I was 0.1 seconds ahead of 2nd place. The game is pretty easy and unless you really struggle at racing games, you are never likely to be challenged, except on the very top difficulty. There is one exception to this, and that is Special Stage 2 of the French/Corsican rally. You’ll really have to fly through the stage to complete it in less than 2:45, yet your opponents seem to be able to do it in 2:15. With the rubber banding on the other stages, this makes it impossible to win the French Rally.
The graphics on the game are perfectly adequate with a decent draw distance and solid-looking surroundings. The frame-rate is not so good though. While it’s never horrendous, after the glorious rock-solid 60 frames per second of Forza Motorsport 6, it just doesn’t match up. There is also occasionally some screen-tearing, but this is a rarity. The cars are modeled quite nicely and there are some nice lighting and particle effects. The visuals in this game will never wow you, but they don’t distract from the driving.
The sounds are also passable, however the co-driver voice is a low point in the game. The race notes are clearly patched together from a batch of samples. This not only makes them sound monotonous, but they’re not put together as well as they should be. I remember playing the Colin McRae Rally series and all the pace-notes were read by real rally co-drivers (first Nicky Grist and then Derek Ringer, both of which had been Colin McRae’s co-driver). This not only gave them a level of authenticity, but meant that all of the instructions were perfectly positioned and in the best possible groupings. The pace notes in this game are rattled off to you in a quite unhelpful manner. You often are given instructions about 3 corners ahead when they really could wait. Engine noises and the sounds of the tires on the different surfaces are pretty good though and help to sell the realism of your car thundering across the terrain.
All in all, WRC5 is a solid racing game. The handling feels pretty good and the graphics are passable. There is online multiplayer, unfortunately despite trying every night for a week, I was never able to find a match. For Kylotonn’s first entry in the series, this is not bad. There’s definitely some fun to be had with this game. Here’s hoping that the next entry takes everything up a notch.