WRC is starting to become the FIFA of rally games with its annual releases. As much as I don’t think players need to pick up every release of a sports game I was still curious as to how this compared to WRC 6 and to see if it can close the gap on the Dirt series.
Sports fans like their official licenses and WRC is the only rally game with the official WRC license which is always a good start. This license means that WRC 7 comes complete with all of the vehicles and drivers that feature in the 2017 World Rally Championship. As a WRC driver you will be crashing into trees and rolling your car in 13 different countries across 52 stages.
That WRC license does place a natural restriction on the career mode and as a result it is identical to the previous games. You start off as an unknown driver in the Junior WRC and work your way to the top. Or at least, attempt to. It is all going to be very familiar if you have played any of the other WRC games but that’s the nature of sports games and it isn’t something that seems to harm FIFA year after year. What doesn’t do the familiarity any favours is little things like having the same menu structure and some recycled rally trivia on the loading screens.
As a new Junior WRC driver your first task is to choose your team. The main criteria behind the choice is matching your driving style to the objectives of the team. Some teams want you to push it to the limit at all times no matter the cost whereas other teams don’t want as much as a scratch on the paintwork of the car. And then there are those that are in the middle of the 2 extremes. From what I hear there is no “i” in team so you need to consider that your actions and performance can affect the morale of your colleagues.
Before you can get going in your career the game needs to put you through your paces to allow it to suggest a suitable setup. The main choice you have is between fun or realism and being a coward I opted for fun. In control of a Toyota Yaris shaped little rocket, I sped off down the dusty track. The induction is the same format as last year but WRC 7 instantly feels a little different. The handling is more sensitive and the off road sections are either more narrow or just feel that way. It certainly made for a more tense drive and that’s a good thing in a rally game. You can ignore the suggestion at the end if offended by the outcome and you can always change the difficulty and setup at any point. I did try the simulation setting but due to being too preoccupied by fumbling about with manual gears I wasn’t really able to form a proper comparison with the fun mode.
If you have come from WRC 6 then there will be a familiar voice bombarding you with directions in the seat next to you. He is as dramatic as ever and you may get startled by his outbursts from time to time if you have never met but there is something nice about having a familiar co-driver.
The first stage of my career could have gone better. I had a puncture to deal with a few bends into the event and a relatively error prone drive led to me propping up the leaderboard. Even set on the ‘fun’ mode, this is clearly no arcade racer. I used a similar setup on Dirt 4 and I could cruise though the races and even had time to roll my car and still win easily. WRC 7 on the other hand is going to make you work a little harder and in all honestly, that is how it should be.
I normally prefer my camera viewpoint to be outside of the car but in rally games you really need to experience the bonnet or internal camera to really appreciate how bumpy a ride it can be. As with WRC 6, the internal display looks a little basic when compared to the equivalent view in graphical showpiece racing games however. The weather is another place where the game pales in comparison to others but night racing still impresses. The damage model doesn’t seem to be as comprehensive as the Dirt series and your car can take quite an impact but have little to show for it. It is possible to lose bumpers as I have discovered a few times.
WRC 7 definitely feels like it handles differently to the last entry. The difference between the surfaces is much more noticeable this time, particularly on the snow. Whether it is down to handling or steering sensitivity, it is definitely easier to spin out in tight bends this time round so more care with the steering and throttle is required. Another more noticeable difference is tyre wear which isn’t something I recall noticing in WRC 6.
The courses are good, varied and very scenic which can pose some problems for a rally driver who needs to stay focussed. The substantial crowds with their klaxons certainly help create a good rally atmosphere. I spent a lot of time with Dirt 4 earlier in the year and the courses in WRC 7 are far more interesting.
The multiplayer modes cater for online and off. For the offline player there is split screen for 2 players or hot seat for up to 8 players to take it in turns. The online mode is relatively limited and there is nothing added over the previous version. Online competitors show as ghost cars on your screen and you all race at the same time. You are able to see how you are doing, how far ahead or far behind you are and if you bagged the fastest time for the sector. It works perfectly well but lobbies are a little quiet at the moment with the game not having had its European release yet.
The Challenge mode returns where you get to attempt to show the rest of the world how it is down in a pre-determined rally setup. Or in my experience, be left scratching your head as to how people can drive that fast.
WRC 7 is a better game than WRC 6 but I don’t think it is different enough to merit the upgrade if you already own 6. WRC 7 has more interesting courses than those in Dirt 4 and I feel it plays a bit better than Dirt 4 in the equivalent fun/arcade modes. It could so with some extra content to pad out the overall package but if you are looking for a good rally game then this is definitely worth considering.