Electronic Arts and Codemasters first-ever official game of the FIA World Rally Championship is on the way to PC, PlayStation and Xbox players in 2023 – the result of a five-year licencing deal, created by the legendary rally game development team.
Here are all the details you need to know.
What is EA SPORTS WRC?
EA SPORTS WRC is the official game of the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship season, a sport where cars compete across diverse point-to-point conditions based purely on time. Created by Codemasters Southam, it uses the Unreal game engine in collaboration with the team’s proprietary handling model to simulate the sport of rally across several generations.
Who has developed EA SPORTS WRC?
The Southam-based Codemasters team has created EA SPORTS WRC, which is a team that has a lineage way back to the original Colin McRae Rally title of 1998.
This is a separate team from the EA SPORTS F1 games, which are developed in Birmingham, UK. It’s also a different team from those who created DIRT 5, which are based in Cheshire and was subsumed into the Need for Speed development team at Criterion Games.
Codemasters rally-game lineage
It all started with the aforementioned Colin McRae Rally 25 years ago. That genre-defining title created a space for a time-based driving game that was both authentic and accessible. In turn, that set the template for what is now the rally game genre.
Several sequels followed until the seminal Colin McRae: DiRT in 2007. This was a pivotal game, debuting the ‘DiRT’ suffix to the nomenclature and was also the very first Codemasters game to use its proprietary Ego game engine. The technology was set to propel the company forward through the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 era.
From there, DiRT 2 and DiRT 3 continued an accessible and authentic rally title series, with DiRT Showdown being an overt spin-off. Next on the list of a skunkworks simulator, DiRT Rally, which was so low-key, that it initially launched on PC only via an Early Access programme. Fortunately, it was a runaway success, allowing it to be completed and also ported to consoles.
Numerics returned two years later with the mixed bag DiRT 4, before the most recent DiRT Rally title, 2.0, hit all the way back in 2019. The team has been working on a new rally game ever since, and it’s ended up being EA SPORTS WRC.
- Colin McRae Rally – 1998
- Colin McRae Rally 2.0 – 2000
- Colin McRae Rally 3 – 2002
- Colin McRae Rally 04 – 2003
- Colin McRae Rally 2005 – 2004
- Colin McRae: DiRT – 2007
- Colin McRae: DiRT 2 – 2009
- DiRT 3 – 2011
- DiRT Showdown – 2012
- DiRT Rally – 2015
- DiRT 4 – 2017
- DiRT Rally 2.0 – 2019
- EA SPORTS WRC – 2023
A pivotal feature of EA SPORTS WRC is the Unreal Game engine. Gone is the aforementioned Ego technology that has underpinned all Codemasters-crated rally games for the past 16 years – although DiRT Rally’s physics will be ported across and built upon.
It’s worth noting, then, that not only is WRC developed by a different team to the Formula 1 games, but it now also runs on a completely different game engine, with F1 23 continuing to use the venerable Ego platform.
“The game’s new engine has enabled us to push rally to the edge of what’s deemed possible, and the additional features, including Builder and Moments, give players even more ways to interact with the sport they love,” said Ross Gowing, Senior Creating Director on the title.
We’ve noticed that the actual drivers and co-drivers seem to have been scanned, or have been recreated inside the cars. Here’s clearly Thierry Neuville inside his Hyundai.
Speaking of this shot, that’s also the distinctive Fafe jump in Portugal. Perhaps it’s unrealistic to expect 1:1 stage recreations, but at least recognisable sections have been included.
More stage miles
EA SPORTS WRC will feature over 600km of total stage mileage from day one with replicating the current 2023 season as the main focus.
The game’s website states that there will be over 200 stages, “at launch”, indicating more are to follow after the initial release.
One of the downsides of DiRT Rally 2.0 compared to the recent WRC games by prior developer KT Racing has been the length of most stages, with the longest in the outgoing WRC Generations pegged at nearly 26kms, almost double the longest stage in DiRT Rally. It’s hoped that a shift to Unreal could provide bigger areas within EA SPORTS WRC.
There are 13 locations in this season’s real-world competition, but there will be 17 in EA SPORTS WRC including past-WRC venues to best make use of the classic car content and Moments mode. Or 18. We’re not sure, as the game’s media release material mentions both 17 and 18.
The upcoming Central Europe Rally, due to be held in October for the first time across Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic, will be added after launch via an update. We suspect that the difference in total location numbers could be due to counting this, or not, and we’ve reached out to EA for clarification.
The final list of rallies is to be confirmed at the time of publication…
Epic car list
…So is the car list. Although one has been published, peppered with question marks. Fancy a wager that the social media team will be having a field day announcing the line-up bit by bit?
What has been confirmed is the list of contemporary machinery across the three main present-day WRC classes:
- Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID
- Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID
- Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 HYBRID
- Citroën C3 Rally2
- Ford Fiesta Rally2
- Hyundai i20 N Rally2
- ŠKODA Fabia Rally2 Evo
- ŠKODA Fabia RS Rally2
- Volkswagen Polo GTI R5
- Ford Fiesta Rally3
- Ford Fiesta Rally3
- Ford Fiesta Rally4
- 2003 Citroën Xsara
- 2011 MINI Countryman Rally Edition
- McRae R4
The current top flight is the Rally1 category, first introduced for the 2022 season. They feature space frame chassis, sequential gearboxes, turbocharged four-cylinder engines and an electrified hybrid system for an additional boost of torque.
All three of these are present in the game, alongside the Rally2 cars – formerly known as R5 – which formulate the WRC2 support category. These run in the same events as the main WRC cars, but are significantly slower, minus hybrid assistance and with reduced aerodynamic packages.
Finally, the Rally3 Fiesta has less power again but still has four-wheel drive. Currently, only the Ford competes at the Junior WRC level, although a Renault Clio has been developed to this ruleset so it’s something we may see in 2024. This was the category of car that Game Designer on the EA SPORTS WRC project, JonArmstrong, used to win the real-world European Rally Championship ERC3 category title earlier this year.
Then we must touch upon the historic vehicles, which initially total 68. Forgot the removal of classic cars from the F1 games, WRC is leaning into its rich heritage.
This is where most of the gaps remain. We have seen the mid-90s and late-90s variants of the Subaru Impreza – the latter used as the cover star of the original Colin McRae Rally games, a nice touch – the Lancia Delta Integrale and Ford Escort Mk2.
Then, the car list to date confirms Colin McRae’s first-ever rally car, the Hillman Avenger alongside the likes of the Lancia Stratos, Alpine A110 and Group B Audi Sport quattro S1 (E2).
While the specific models have not been confirmed, there will be 15 categories of elder-generation vehicles, including the front-wheel-drive F2 and Super 1600 screamers. There will also be two more Rally2 cars to be announced, could we see the Proton Iriz or a concept GR Yaris? Let’s wait and see…
One of the more intriguing elements of EA SPORTS WRC is the new builder mode. If the 78 cars included aren’t enough, you can create a brand-new one.
How parts are secured isn’t confirmed yet – could it be an F1 World-style process or something completely unique – but what is clear is that each car built here is fiction and fits in with the three main WRC categories plus rules.
It should mean a Builder vehicle has performance parity with the equivalent Rally1, WRC2 and Junior WRC machines and could be used within the career mode. Chassis, body shells and key parts can be selected, with interior and exterior designs then customisable.
How these are integrated into the main experience is yet to be clear, but the WRC only had three different cars in its top class, so what we’d like to see is you becoming a fourth and helping bolster the entry list.
There’s a significant trend in sports games at present to provide players with scenarios that happened in the present season, or across history, to keep them engaged and the fresh content flowing.
F1 Manager 2023 will have two playable scenarios based on each proceeding weekend’s action, updated within the week after each race. F1 23 also has an event replay mode within F1 World where you can relive the action.
And so, EA SPORTS WRC will also have something analogous, with its Moments mode. This will be updated every 24 hours, surprisingly, with a new scenario from the 2023 season or, making use of that historical content, past years.
Gone are 2003 WRC co-driver champion Phil Mills and, for French speakers, Stéphane Prévot. In is Jonathan Jackson, a British Rally Championship competitor alongside Meirion Evans who is also the Head of Rallies and Cross Country for Motorsport UK.
You can hear him in the initial reveal trailer for the game, alongside a new woman co-driver in the form of Kirsty Riddick, known for navigating for Jonny Greer.
Yes, EA SPORTS WRC will support virtual reality headsets, but no, we’ve not seen VR in action yet and according to the Epic Games Store pre-order page, it will be a PC-exclusive feature. PSVR2 owners, we’re sorry.
Podium Pass-style DLC
It wouldn’t be a game released by EA without mentioning paid DLC, right? Perhaps that’s true, and while the finer details aren’t public yet, we’re hopeful that EA SPORTS WRC doesn’t do anything egregious in this respect.
If the pre-order bonuses are anything to go by, we expect it will be for cosmetic items only. This shouldn’t be like Ultimate Team where currency is spent on performance-enhancing players. At least we hope not.
As it stands, there isn’t a premium or deluxe edition, and the bonus for pre-ordering the digital release nets you Ford, Toyota and Hyundai livery and apparel packs. Purely cosmetic items there.
You will also receive a “VIP Rally Pass for five in-game seasons.”
Rally Pass, remind you of F1 23’s Podium Pass? Yes, yes it does, alongside the mention of a VIP tier and seasons, which is an identical game mechanic for unlocking new crash helmet designs or snazzy gloves. We’re okay with that as it’s entirely optional.
We should also mention EA SPORTS WRC’s price, which is £44.99/$49.99. In these inflationary times, that could be a bit of a bargain. F1 23’s list price, for example, is £69.99/$69.99.
EA SPORTS WRC release date and platforms
EA SPORTS WRC will be released 3rd November 2023, although, for those who pre-order, there are three days of early access from 31st October.
Crucially, it will only be on PC, via Steam or Epic, PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X|S, as it’s meant to signify a true next-gen rally experience. It follows the likes of Ride 5, Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown and Need for Speed Unbound in ditching the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
- PC, Steam or Epic Games Store
- PlayStation 5
- Xbox Series X|S
It also doesn’t have a year in the name, so it’s not clear whether this is a yearly sports franchise title or a platform to build upon, but what we do know is that in 2020, Codemasters signed a five-year deal with the championship and 2023 is the first of that term.
Images: EA SPORTS WRC and Motorsport Images