WRC 10 is an important milestone, both for the official video game of the FIA World Rally Championship, but also developer KT Racing.
Last year’s WRC 9 was a breakthrough success, finally providing a driving experience that many rally fans, such as myself, had been yearning for. Ever since the Parisien racing game studio took the official licence on, they had been building in stature, refining its proprietary game engine until at last, with a wheel, the game was rewarding to steer.
Ultimately, that’s core to any virtual racing or rallying experience. If you feel somehow connected to the action, you can forgive other foibles. Like the Gigi Galli of games, there’s a lack of consistency across the board, but if there is a flamboyance to the driving experience, it can carry you through.
Which begs the question – how does WRC 10 move the game on?
The main ticket item here is the 50th Anniversary Mode that sees you playing through pivotal moments in the WRC’s, well, 49-year history. Ah, yeh. About that.
Its 50th season is actually 2022, but the theory is that WRC 10 will be the current WRC game for the majority of next year, so this is the title to receive this addition.
In this section, you play through 15 scenarios, each representing important moments in the championship’s storied history. The flesh this out, there is a suite of classic cars and brand-new stages in Sanremo (Italy) and Acropolis (Greece).
It also uses mildly modified versions of the Monte Carlo and Swedish stages also found in the main career mode – the difference predominately being the number of spectators – and repurposes some of the New Zealand and Spanish stages from previous WRC games.
On paper, this is the main reason to purchase this game, especially if you are a WRC fan like me. Winding your way through narrow Italian mountain roads in Colin McRae’s 1997 Subaru or claiming Sébastien Loeb’s first of 79 WRC victories in Germany.
Except, neither of them is present.
The Subaru is only for PlayStation and Xbox digital pre-orders. On PC, this is available as a separate download for two weeks. At the time of reviewing, it wasn’t yet available. The trailer for the game during the Nacon Connect event showcased a 2002 Germany scenario with Loeb, but that’s completely missing. Strange. Perhaps this will be one of the post-release updates?
There’s a Mitsubishi Evo V too, but that’s only if you buy the Deluxe Edition.
I’m fine with chopping up bits to incentivise pre-orders or editions, but without them, this mode feels a little like eating last night’s spaghetti bolognese cold for lunch. Still better than a cheese sandwich, but something has been lost in translation from pan to Tupperware.
If you’ve played previous WRC games, then you’ve driven too many of the cars and stages here already. For the later events with modern machinery, you are simply playing WRC 8 but with the new handling model.
If you haven’t played one of these releases in a while though, you’ll get more out of it, and even for me, driving the fearsome Group B Peugeot 205 T16 or Group A Toyota Celica ST185 is enjoyable. The rear-wheel-drive cars such as the Alpine A110 and Lancia 037 are better behaved than in last year’s title, although it’s clear the physics model is designed primarily for the current WRC machinery.
The obfuscation of your goals is frustrating, however. You’re meant to beat a target time, fair enough. But you can complete a stage with green splits all the way through, finish first and still fail the challenge. The game does not tell you by how much you failed, either, as the leaderboard doesn’t include timing. Was I 10 seconds off, or one-tenth? No idea.
Once you plugged away at the Anniversary Mode, it’s time to hit up what remains the bulk of the game – the contemporary content.
Sadly, to get the most of some of the new features, you are forced to play the Anniversary Mode first. In the main single-player career, you can now create your own team, manage sponsors and design your own livery – something that has been lacking since the very first WRC game in 2001.
Except, you cannot start the career with your own team unless you complete all Anniversary events. That seems a bit dunderheaded to me. Some of the Anniversary events are not straightforward, and so you are immediately restricting a more hands-on version of the career from the off.
You can of course sign from an existing team, but if you do so, the career structure remains identical to that of the past three releases. That is to say good, but lacking a little sparkle. There’s a car development skill tree, team personnel management, driver training and a team headquarters. WRC commentator Becs Williams voices the tutorial too for a real-world connection.
The F1 games still lead the way in this respect, as you won’t see a driver transfer market, animated members of the press or rivalries in this title – but playing through the Junior WRC, then to WRC 3, WRC 2 and the main WRC class is as fun as ever
When you do unlock your own team, the livery editor is a solid first effort. You get the freedom of a blank canvas and a profusion of logos, colours and shapes to apply, all of which can be sized appropriately.
Only the bonnet and wing mirrors can have the option of a contrasting colour, however, and once you’ve created your design, the game adds its own sponsor stickers rather unceremoniously to your car. You can’t share designs online either, but I was surprised by the creative options available – a worthy addition.
An element that is sadly still present is the team objectives, which never really make sense to me. They love to incentivise you with nonsensical tasks, such as not using hard tyres for two rallies. That’s like saying don’t breathe for an hour and we’ll give you a chocolate bar.
Speaking of tyres, there is now a detailed tyre selection process for events. You have a limited number you can allocate for an event and then you must manage which specific set you use. You may end up at a stage start and have two spare fresh soft compound tyres and four worn hards on the car, so you must swap at least two of those for two new ones. This includes cross-mounting, handy in Monte Carlo for example when using a mixture of dry and studded ice tyres.
Your tyre selection has a much bigger effect on performance. Go for a set of harder compound slicks on an asphalt event, for example, and the lack of grip is noticeable, but they will at least last stages which can be over 20 kilometres in length. It’s a balancing act and a tangible sense of strategy.
Elsewhere, the handling of the top-spec machines is still glorious. You need to work up to them, adapt, tweak controller and wheel settings. But once you click, learn to listen to your co-driver and find a flow, this is a driving experience up with the best.
Thankfully, the egregious engine sounds of the preview build are now gone. The notes still don’t make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, although current WRC cars aren’t the most charismatic sounding vehicles anyway. The sound had been re-made from the ground up this time around. I would say there is still work to do, as it’s still a bit flat.
Stage variety remains a strong suit. There is everything from the snow of Sweden, the barren wastelands of Kenya to the fast and flowing gravel of Finland. Three new events have been added, that of Estonia, Spain and Croatia, and all are welcome additions. Strangely Wales Rally GB is still included, despite its omission in real life. I’d prefer it if it wasn’t part of the Season and Career modes, please.
While you could argue the roads are lacking in visual finesse, they make up for it in diversity of corners, environments and stage length.
The new Ypres Rally Belgium event and further Greek stages will be added post-launch. Sweden remains in lieu of the last-minute Covid-19 related substitution of Arctic Rally Finland.
The point of more stages coming further down the line leads me to my overall opinion of WRC 10. There’s a lot here – I haven’t touched upon the online co-driver mode, clubs or split-screen multiplayer – and once you are in tune, the driving remains rewarding.
But I get the impression that it’s still in its embryonic stages of development. As it stands, the Anniversary Mode feels a little tacked on, lacking in both content and polish. Online functionality will be updated post-release, more events and stages will also be added alongside new vehicles.
During our testing too, the PC build was experiencing many hitches and frame rate dips even on a 3090-equipped Alienware Aurora R12. Thankfully, the PS5/Xbox Series X version is relatively smooth in comparison.
This brings us back to the original question. How does WRC 10 move the game on?
If the roadmap is delivered as promised, this could be a significant evolution. As it stands today, it isn’t enough of a step forward, as harsh as that seems, mainly because the Anniversary Mode is a little frivolous.
But I’ll be dammed if a clean run through an Estonian stage as Ott Tanak isn’t one of the best virtual rallying experiences there is. You got me.
|Release date||2nd September 2021|
|Available platforms||PS4, PS5, PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S.|
Nintendo Switch at a later date.
|Version/s tested||PC and PS5|
|Best played with||Wheel peripheral|
Full disclosure: A code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Here is our review policy.