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Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Racing
Publisher: NACON
Developer: Kylotonn
Release Date: Sept. 5, 2019

About Tony "OUberLord" Mitera

I've been entrenched in the world of game reviews for almost a decade, and I've been playing them for even longer. I'm primarily a PC gamer, though I own and play pretty much all modern platforms. When I'm not shooting up the place in the online arena, I can be found working in the IT field, which has just as many computers but far less shooting. Usually.


PC Review - 'WRC 8'

by Tony "OUberLord" Mitera on Dec. 12, 2019 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

WRC 8 is the next iteration in the rally racing franchise with new off-road physics on all road surfaces, completely redesigned career mode, dynamic weather, 50 teams, 14 countries, 100 tracks, weekly challenges and the eSports mode…

Buy WRC 8

There isn't a massive selection of games dedicated to rally racing, but the ones out there tend to do a pretty good job of portraying that motorsport. I tried WRC 8 at E3 2019, during which I took a couple of cars for a drive in one of the game's courses. Now that I've had the chance to really dig into it, I can only come to one conclusion: Not only is WRC 8 the best rally game in recent memory, but it is also arguably the best rally game ever developed.

WRC 8 features a lot more management aspects than other rally games. Here, you're both the driver and the team manager, and you must guide the team in the actions that it takes. This means you're calling the shots over what R&D handles, which events fill up your team's calendar, and who your mechanics, meteorologists, and other crew members are. You're fighting for the best times on the track while trying to meet objectives, such as keeping your car in good working order and maintaining the team morale.

The R&D portion of the game is a skill tree that is broken up into four main categories: Crew, Performance, Reliability and Team. The Crew section unlocks the new crew member types and increases their capability. Performance improves your car's handling, how much power it has, or how much grip you can glean from different tire types. Reliability keeps your car intact after it hits obstacles and endures the typical wear and tear on the course. Finally, the Team tree expands the size of your team's reserve roster, increases your XP gains, or increases the chances of finding better candidates in the recruitment pool.

There are six crew slots: Agent, Engineer, Financial Director, Mechanic, Meteorologist, and Physical Therapist. Each of the six contributes to your team in one or more capacities, such as how much money you bring in from wins, how quickly the car is repaired, and weather forecasts for the stages. Crew members also have a fatigue bar, so you can only use them for so long before you need to put them on reserve and swap another member in their place. Jockeying crew members into and out of active service can be important, as you'll want to keep your star members fresh for rally events and use lesser members for more mundane events, such as car maintenance shakedowns.

It all leads up to event day, where you get behind the wheel of your rally car and tackle the course. WRC8 features 14 rallies, each containing multiple variations and reverse versions on top of that list. Rip through the ribbons of asphalt that make up the Rallye Monte-Carlo, kick up some dust in Rally Argentina, or take to the high-speed snowy tracks of Rally Sweden. Each rally stage presents different sets of challenges, from how much grip you can get out of its surfaces to the level of visibility you have as you navigate the course.

The realism and level of detail in the handling of the cars in the game is extraordinary. Even with a mere gamepad, the ability to read the car's suspension and adapt to changing course conditions is second to none. The game can be daunting at first, but before long, you are flicking the car around corners, adapting to bumps that upset the car's stability, and stringing together elements before sailing over crests in the road. There's a level of nuance to controlling your car that absolutely makes or breaks a good run, but as punishing as mistakes can be, it also means you earn every single accomplishment.

On nice sunny days, the courses can be challenging, but the game's dynamic weather system will throw plenty of curve balls your way as well. A course might start off sunny and then deteriorate into thunderously rainy conditions. A once-dry course becomes wet and provides less grip, while the growing puddles serve to upset your car even further. A good meteorologist will predict these changes, so you can try to select the best tire for the forecasted conditions, but even the most skilled forecasters can get the prediction wrong.

The vehicle physics in the game aren't perfect, though. While everything on the course has the car reacting in ways that are perfectly believable, impacts with off-course obstacles can do some strange things. Occasionally, you'll slide off course, kick the rear end over some rough terrain, and it'll pop the car into the air. That would be somewhat understandable but slightly suspect in a "physics don't seem to work like that" way. When you slide through some small wooden fencing and the car flips 40 feet in the air, you'll both question the game's grasp on physics and curse while you lose precious seconds flipping in the air.

If you are a gearhead, there are plenty of options to tweak your car's setup to suit your tastes. Aerodynamic tweaks, gearbox ratios, and suspension adjustments are among the dozens of options that are available to customize your handling and performance. You won't swap out parts, but these options alone can make night-and-day differences, depending on what you're trying to get your car to do. You can also simply leave the setup alone and drive, as the default setup handles well overall.

As you progress and complete seasons, you also have chances to woo manufacturers in special events that let you gain reputation with them. Do well, and at the end of a season, you may find yourself with an offer to join the more competitive WRC series. This means you'll also get more powerful cars, which makes driving skill even more important. The game never stops trying to find new ways to test your ability, but it does so in ways that improve your skills, rather than feeling like a punishment.

WRC8 has impressive graphics, especially when it comes down to its weather and lighting effects. The cars are well modeled, and damage causes parts to become deformed or fly from the vehicle entirely. The game engine has goofy issues that are difficult to ignore, such as times when your car's engine sound simply disappears as if you're suddenly driving an electric rally car. More frequently, the game seems to have issues with odd stutters and micro-stutters, regardless of settings, and on hardware that should have no issues delivering a smooth experience.

There are some issues within WRC 8, and they're not small, but the game is otherwise so good that it's easy to overlook them. For all the times your engine switches to stealth mode or a fence post sends you into low Earth orbit, there are hundreds of times when you are blissfully guiding your car into a drift around a dusty apex in Argentina, or masterfully twisting through a series of highly technical corners during heavy rain. The vehicle handling is so good — and that is so important for a rally game — that even with its flaws, WRC 8 is likely the high bar that other rally games should aspire to.

Score: 8.8/10

Reviewed on: Intel i7 4790k, 32 GB RAM, NVidia GTX 2070 Super

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