Having driven the upcoming WRC Generations at Gamescom, the the KT Racing-developed World Rally Championship game is shaping up to be its best to date.
I’m sat in a cockpit with the official World Rally Championship licence steering wheel in front of me, connected to a Fanatec CSL DD wheel base and hooked up to a fly-off handbrake.
Headphones on, WRC Generations has been set up with an asphalt stage in Belgium and the Ford Puma Rally1 – the latest hybrid generation of rally weapon.
Now, I always want to set a quick time, but this time the pressure is more intense than usual as the development team at Kylotonn is standing behind me watching. It’s also an over 30°C day inside a convention centre, which is leading to perspiration. My drenched shirt is all to do with the temperature and not the tension, honest…
I needn’t have worried though. The handing system created by the Parisian studio since 2020’s WRC 9 has always inspired confidence. When you’re in the zone, the pacenotes flowing, and the steering wheel correctly calibrated, this is the best contemporary rally experience by a long stretch.
A name change
WRC Generations follows last year’s WRC 10 and eschews the numbered nomenclature for two good reasons: There’s a new generation of WRC machinery in the real world and it’s the final official title created by KT Racing, the team bowing out at the end of 2022 after seven years at the helm.
That means not only will Generations simulate the 2022 season, but bundle in all of the cars and stages from the previous game’s 50th Anniversary mode plus several rallies from prior WRC games such as Corsica last seen in WRC 8 and Turkey last seen in the ninth instalment.
Each has been given a mild spruce up to bring them in line with the visual evolution since then thanks to new spectator models and more detailed vegetation.
But, it’s the new-for-2022 content that is the star of the show.
An electrified WRC
For those out of the loop, the championship has started with a new set of regulations this year, with cars now based upon a motorsport-focused tubular chassis and incorporating electrification. That means an additional 3.9kWh battery that can provide a dollop of extra torque alongside the already banzai internal combustion engine.
This is implemented in a realistic fashion. It doesn’t operate like a push-to-pass button, but rather before the start of each stage, you select from one of three hybrid maps. One will provide more power but for a shorter amount of time, another less power but more sustained and a third in a balanced middle ground.
So the trick is to marry the ideal electrified map to the stage length, but also surface type. Too much power in the wet, or on snow, and you’ll spin your wheels too much and lose momentum.
In practice, initially, it’s hard to spot a difference. But as you progress through a stage, in particular a slow one like Psatha in Greece, you can really notice the extra response coming out of hairpins. This is something your driving style needs to adapt to, almost predicting what may happen based upon the on-screen electric power meter.
Despite this new addition, the biggest change to your driving style this year, however, is the reverse from a six-speed to a five-speed gearbox. On familiar stages, used within WRC 10, a ‘two-left’ corner if often now taken in first gear, which is a longer ratio than before. My Gamescom-addled brain was struggling to find a rhythm with the gearing far more than the hybrid boost.
For better or worse, some elements remain constant
The suspension systems remain, thankfully, as genre-leading as ever. Trust me, when you find a rhythm and you’re driving on a device that can run the game smoothly – the PC release is delayed a few weeks when compared to the last few years to hopefully ease the process – this is a rally purist’s idea of heaven.
Sadly, the engine sounds remain stuck in a Welsh ditch. They sound flat, bland and not befitting of the ear-splitting sound you can hear when spectating. The development team was able to visit a team and capture audio samples for Generations, but there’s still work to do ahead of the final version.
Setting that aside, the all-new Swedish location is a breath of fresh Scandinavian air. Often one of the oldest set of route designs within the WRC games, this season the event moved further north to Umeå resulting in quicker, and narrower, stages – the layout of which is replicated here.
You can now lean on the snowbanks should you enter a corner a little too quickly, as it should be. They are also visually a marked improvement, with typically tall trees, spectator fires and Swedish buildings adorning the sides.
Cross-platform enters the mix
Elsewhere the online leaderboards and Clubs modes are now cross-platform enabled so those on PlayStation, PC and Xbox can compete, as is a revised livery editor that allows the uploading and downloading of user-generated content regardless of platform. Traditional competitive stages and the innovative co-driver mode, however, remain device-specific.
There’s a brand new Leagues mode too, also cross-platform. Daily, weekly and monthly challenges can be completed, with your score ranked. Thus, you are placed against those of a similar skill set to compete for XP and rise up levels, unlocking items for the livery editor as you progress.
In theory, this will help those who are esports-level good to find relevant competition, but also those who are new to the series and using a gamepad to also find like-minded drivers.
The version we tried was clearly not final, but it was impressive. As for my performance, I successfully navigated the course without crashing and then stepped the pace up from there. Much to my relief, it wasn’t too embarrassing and spending time with the Nacon and KT Racing team is always a pleasure as they really ‘get’ the sport.
This latest release is a window into the progress that the team has managed since WRC 5 in 2015.
“Before WRC, we were nothing,” said Alain Jarniou, Creative Director of the development team.
“Then we grew up with this game. It’s been a huge adventure.”
WRC Generations launches in October for select consoles as the final game in the series created by KT Racing. Traxion.GG will have a full review of the final release version ahead of then.