Rallying games can sometimes be the Dark Souls of the racing genre. This sub-genre of racers can be brutally tough where the slightest mistake can cost you an entire event. You may be comfortably leading a rally but it doesn’t mean anything if you take one corner too fast and write-off your car into a tree or over a ravine. While I have never dared attempt any of From Software’s masochistic masterpieces, I adore rally games. The latest entry into this select sub-genre is WRC 8 from Kylotonn.
As the name suggests, this is the latest entry in the officially licensed World Rally Championship series of games. This means that not only will you be racing in near-perfect recreations of branded WRC cars but you will also face off against the stars of WRC. If you fancy taking on the likes of Sébastien Ogier, Ott Tänak, Thierry Neuville, or Marcus Grönholm, then this is your chance. All 14 rally events from around the world are on offer and they look more realistic than ever before. The development team at Kylotonn actually used satellite imagery and data from real WRC rally stages to produce the tracks. There is such a great shine of authenticity throughout the game.
Handling and racing
Of course, the most important thing in any racing game is the handling model. This is a particularly strong area for WRC 8 but may put some gamers off. The issue is that it is incredibly realistic. This isn’t the sort of game where you just hammer on the accelerator or keep flicking the thumbstick to the left or right. Smooth movements are required here. If you’re the type of racing fan who has a wheel and pedal set, then this will right up your alley. It’s still perfectly possible to play this on a controller, you will just need to be able to refine your movements. The car reacts incredibly quickly and precisely to your inputs. This can be both a blessing and a curse. It means that you are able to pilot your vehicle with extraordinary precision. However, it also means that any incorrect movements can bite you very quickly.
Once you have the hang of weaving your vehicle between the many dangers and obstacles that litter the sides of the track you’ll be ready to begin your career. You can either begin in Junior WRC or WRC 2. Unless you are already an accomplished pro at the WRC series then I would recommend beginning with Junior WRC. The featured vehicle here (Junior WRC teams all use Ford Fiestas) will still give you a great sense of speed but will help you build-up to the level required for the more powerful cars. You will have a choice of a few different teams to join but at this stage, there isn’t that much difference between them.
When you have chosen a team, you will need to build a crew around you. This seems to be a trend of modern racing games but WRC 8 handles it in a way that feels less forced. After, or before, each event you will head to your workshop. This is where your team is hard at work, gaining you invites to events, working on the car, and managing your finances. The calendar offers you some flexibility in the events you choose to enter. You will need to balance earning money while not tiring out your team. You also have your R&D department here which is basically an XP points system. As you level up you’ll gain points to unlock new crew members, improve their effectiveness, and even improve your car.
The look and feel of rallying
One of my complaints on earlier WRC titles were the visuals. While WRC 8 never meets the heights of the Forza series (not many do), it does appear pleasing to the eyes. Draw distance is good, at least when you can afford to look anywhere other than the track directly in front of you. Textures look solid and realistic. Lighting is well handled and morphs nicely as the weather changes. This is also particularly good (though challenging) in night races. The darkness envelopes everything except where your headlights are pointing. This may be frustrating to some gamers but it is certainly realistic. The weather effects here are also good with no obvious repetition of animations. There is a small degree of texture pop-up but show me a racing game where there isn’t.
The quality of the visuals is matched with the audio. The default balance is very good with you being able to hear everything going on with the car as well as your co-driver reading the pace notes. After spending so much time playing the DiRT franchise, it took me a while to get used to the slightly different rhythm of the co-driver here. However, there is nothing wrong with them, it’s just a slight difference that I needed to get used to. One thing I was pleasantly surprised with was the music in the game. As the music is confined to videos and menu screens, they could have got away with almost anything. However, the soundtrack is produced well, fits the vibe of the game, and never gets in the way or becomes annoying.
When I reviewed DiRT Rally 2.0, I described it as the best rallying game around. Well, it now has some serious competition. I stayed away from the WRC series after not being particularly impressed with WRC 5. This latest entry in the franchise has certainly grabbed my attention. In may have a narrower scope than Codemasters’ racer but that allows for a much tighter, better developed, realistic experience. The visuals are a match for the other big players in the genre and the sound is also top-notch. It may be a little challenging for casual gamers. However, rallying fans don’t really expect a simple game. If you like your racing sliding sideways around a corner, spitting out gravel, and dodging between trees and cliff edges, then WRC 8 is a game for you.