Let us preface this review by saying that we’re not going to spend too much time examining what’s new in WRC 9 compared to its predecessor. The PlayStation, Xbox and PC versions have been out for some time. Instead, we’ll be investigating how the game transitions to Switch and what features are available or missing from this release.
There aren’t many serious racers on the Nintendo Switch. Sure, there are kart racers aplenty and a couple of officially licenced games for Monster Trucks and motorcycles, but the space is a little bit empty. Why is that though? Does the platform not suit such a serious racing game or simulation?
This is not developer Kylotonn’s first foray onto Nintendo’s handheld platform, however. It previously delivered V-Rally 4 and WRC 8, both of which received fairly lukewarm receptions. What then should we make of the new game of the official World Rally Championship on Switch? Of course, the console and PC versions have been out for a while now to resounding critical success as journalists praised the improvements in graphics and physics in particular. Let’s take a look at how that’s translated across to a more mobile world.
Physics and feeling
As noted at the time of the release of WRC 9 on full-size consoles and PC, the game had impressive physics upgrades over its predecessors that made rallying much more intuitive and realistic. Starting up the game on Switch for the first time, we had doubts over how well that could translate. We shouldn’t have worried.
For a game that has been dialled back for Switch, the sensation of rallying has been transferred amazingly well. There are obvious limitations with the dynamic ability, mainly due to the stubby controls on a Switch and the limited digital on/off controls that the Switch triggers provide for throttle and brake. However, once you adjust, it’s easy to pick up left-trigger braking and feathering the throttle through corners as you would on a gamepad. Input customisation and sensitivity options are available and with some practice and fine-tuning, it wasn’t long before it felt relatively comfortable.
Relatively being the key word. At no point do you ever feel completely comfortable driving a rally car flat out. Nor should you be. Rally driving is and should be a real “edge of your seat” experience. WRC 9 on Switch has encapsulated that perfectly. Every corner is a challenge – in a good way – and keeps you honest throughout. One momentary lapse in competition and you’ll be upside down. Just the way it should be.
Graphics and UI
For a handheld experience the graphics are surprisingly good, an area of the game especially we had low expectations of. Of course, the car detail is nowhere near as crisp as its bigger brothers, but the scenery is remarkably well rendered and even in cockpit view the dials are still useable.
The UI at times can appear a bit miniature, particularly on the Switch Lite with no controls that we could find for increasing the size of it. However, it still retained its intuitiveness from the existing releases.
For photography aficionados, you’ll be delighted to know that the photo mode has also been included, so feel free to snap away at your heart’s content.
The full sounds of rally racing are as embedded in this Switch version as other releases. The throaty sounds of rally cars across the ages are a joy that is only let down by the Switch hardware itself. As to be expected by a handheld device, the speakers are tinny and don’t really showcase the excellent sound design in-game. Headphones are definitely recommended to get the full experience.
It’s quite impressive that the vast majority of content and features are in WRC 9 on Switch. However there are a couple of noticeable omissions “out of the box.”
Probably the biggest feature is the lack of synchronised multiplayer. The “clubs” feature is available immediately for asynchronous play between friends though. The good news is that we reached out and happily, we’ve received confirmation that the full-multiplayer will be coming as a patch post-release.
More good news – all of the upgraded free content that was added to the base game post-release on other platforms is here. There were some additional rallies (Japan, New Zealand and Kenya) new to WRC 9 upon launch followed by additional stages for Portugal and Finland, plus the GR Yaris and Pirelli-liveried Citroen C3 added post-release, but they are here for you day one on Switch.
There is a lack of support to compete in the WRC eSports – although for some reason we can still see the badges that we’ll never be able to attain. The recent FIA Rally Stars DLC also seems to have jettisoned the Switch too. However, those are understandable exclusions given how uncompetitive we would likely be on a 10-inch handheld versus those with a steering wheel.
The only serious omission really is the interesting online co-driver mode. The Toyota Corolla 1999 and Quattro A2 1984 DLC available elsewhere will be arriving at a later date. So this isn’t quite a fully-complete “ultimate edition”, but it’s very close for a handheld release.
To answer the initial question of “does the Nintendo Switch suit a serious racing game/simulation?” – the answer is it absolutely can. Kylotonn hs done an incredible job of the port to the underpowered (by comparison) Switch console.
However, it must be repeated, this is not a game that you can pick up casually on your commute. You wouldn’t give your young rally mad kid unless they have the attention span to deal with this kind of highly detailed physics engine. You have to commit. Equal parts frustrating and frustratingly good.
Ultimately, if you’re someone that loves a challenge and doesn’t mind that irritation when you’re so close to nailing a perfect stage but roll down the side of a mountain, then this is a game for you.
WRC 9 on Nintendo Switch is available today from the Nintendo eShop as a digital download and on a physical cartridge in Europe on 8th April, USA on 13th April. The game at launch is 14.5GB, so make sure you have space on your SD card!
|Release date||11th March 2021|
|Available platforms||PC (Epic Games Store), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series PC and Nintendo Switch|
|Version/s tested||Nintendo Switch Lite|
|Best played with||Controller|
Full disclosure: A code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Here is our review policy.