World Rally Championship
Review of World Rally Championship
Take a regular production car and perform every possible enhancement to transform it into a several hundred horsepower racing machine. Next, send it through a forest in the dark with rain lashing down on an already muddy single-track road. Insert hundreds of spectators who can stand only a few feet from the road and ask the driver to race 15 miles from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ as fast as possible; relying only on his co-driver shouting out instructions about the severity of the next bend in the road just seconds before it arrives.
Some would call this madness… but its official title is Rallying !
As there is only one car on the road at a time, the whole game is basically a time-trial challenge that pits your driving skills against some of the most unforgiving roads in the world. Each rally is made up of 5 separate races (stages) and to win the event you don’t have to finish first in any of them; just have the lowest cumulative time. You will never see any of the other cars, but will be kept fully informed of their times; giving an idea of how much harder to push (or risks to take) in order to win.
WRC opens with a fantastic 3 minute introduction sequence that has interlaces TV quality footage from various locations in the actual event with snippets from the game its-self and at times its hard to tell which is real and which is computer generated ! Jumping straight into the main competition mode, another amazing mini-movie introduces the first location on the world rally tour and at last we’re off !
Its immediately obvious that the guys behind the game have experience in flight simulations as this looks radically different to anything done before in this genre. The terrains are very undulating and at times you can see the twisting turning roads above, below or ahead of you that won’t actually be reached until later in the stage. It gives the impression of being in a real location, rather than just being fooled by some clever course design and programming. Every country has different road surfaces and scenery and they look better and better the further you progress through the championship. Racing in the mountainous areas has the added danger of sheer drops awaiting any driver who takes a corner too wide. The skyline is worth a special mention, as it looks stunning no matter what the time of day or weather conditions. The only real criticism that could be mentioned is that some of the textures look a little blurred and the trees look like cardboard cut-outs; but the overall impression is very nice.
As there is only ever one car on screen you would expect it to look stunning and it does. The light bounces off it in a very realistic way and the paintwork gradually gets dirtier during the race. Damage is limited to smashed glass and slightly bent front and rear bumpers (fenders). All of the body panels remain in perfect condition no matter how hard you abuse the car. Its possible to flip it onto its side or roof, but rolling it is almost impossible. Both driver and navigator can be seen working hard inside the vehicle and the replays let you appreciate how lifelike they are.
If like me you were under the impression that this was going to be an ultra realistic simulation along the lines of ‘Colin McRae Rally 2’, then let me dispel that rumour straight away; what we have here is far closer to the arcade heritage of ‘Sega Rally 2’. The first signs of this are in the car set-up screen, which only allows minimal adjustment and shows a pre-set selection for each race that is almost always the best to use. Also, either the damage control system wasn’t finished when the game was released, just doesn’t work properly or has been dummed down to such and extent that its useless. I threw my vehicle off several huge cliffs, smashed it into every wall I could find, tipped it over a few times and not one light on the damage indicator lit up; allowing the car to be controlled and normal. During the course of playtesting WRC for this review I raced over 100 events and was affected by damage only twice and as the car is auto-repaired to perfect condition at the start of every race-stage, it makes it rather easy to drive like a lunatic and still win the rally.
Don’t get too disappointed though, as the actual control of each car is fantastic and manages to make the whole racing experience thoroughly enjoyable. Switch the controls to allow use of the analog buttons and you can feather the throttle around corners, touching the brake to force the nose of the car around a tight bend or releasing the accelerator to allow the back-end to sweep around. Virtually every road surface is undulating and so constant correction is needed even on a long straight. At first you may feel like you are trying to control something thats uncontrollable, but give yourself at least an hour to get to grips with the handling and you will be taking sharp turns at incredible speed.
Due to the arcade nature of the game most of the earlier events in the championship allow you quite a margin of error on the road. The developers have made the courses gradually more challenging and by the time you reach the second half of the season, even experienced gamers will start to feel an adrenalin rush. The final event is on roads that are barely wider than the car, with ditches on one side, telegraph poles on the other, in the rain… at night !
The two player split screen option is almost useless due to heavy fogging on the screen and poor camera views making it hard to judge the severity of corners. Even your opponent is just a silhouette (ghost car) that car be driven through; rather than battled with. All would have been forgiven if there was the option to allow a few of your friends to race through each championship stage one by one, recording their times and positions. At least this would have allowed a fun night in with your mates playing the game, but as it doesn’t, WRC should be considered a solo experience. Sadly the number of game options available is pretty much limited to racing over the same courses one-by-one or all together.
Only easy and normal difficulty modes are available at first and after winning the championship on my first attempt (on normal) the far more challenging professional mode became available where the opposition times were far more difficult to beat. I was hoping that this would have unlocked more tuning options for the cars, or the removal of the crash barriers to make racing more challenging; but this wasn’t the case.
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'World Rally Championship' before writing this review. The scores given above are our honest opinion and were not influenced in any way by the manufacturer or distributor of the game.
This review was written by Stevie Vincent © Absolute PlayStation
Click here to view our 20 World Rally Championship in-game screenshot slideshow
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