When a video game releases on a yearly basis, it’s easy to assume that each version has taken 12 months to create. The fact is though, that each version is an iteration, slowly building on predecessor foundations.
This year’s WRC title may be the latest official game of the FIA World Rally Championship, arriving just one year on from 2021’s WRC 10, but really this is a culmination of eight years of hard work.
It also marks the end for Parisien developers Kylotonn’s involvement with the series, before the rights to make licenced rally games moves elsewhere for next season.
Extra value deal
To mark the occasion, and the introduction of the new Rally1 hybrid-powered cars used in the real-world, the studio has thrown the kitchen sink at the project, bundling in several rallies and classic cars from prior titles, adding a new leagues system and launching later in the year to polish the product further.
Hence, instead of being called WRC 11, it’s bestowed with the WRC Generations moniker, representing classic content sitting alongside the latest gravel-spewing beasts.
The question is though – has it created a platform worthy of rallying’s pinnacle?
On paper, it’s a resounding yes. There are 85 vehicles, 165 stages, cross-platform online leaderboards and livery creations plus more game modes than Ott Tänak has trophies. Hands down, the most feature-rich rally game of all time – even if it doesn’t feature VR for the PC-based hardcore.
To sit alongside the vast swathes of options, the visuals have been given a suitable uplift too, with uprated shaders, enhanced lighting and on the all-new Swedish routes, in particular, detailed stage-side furniture. From spectator fires to imposing Scandinavian red buildings and even an in-car map light during night-time competition.
The result is very much dependent on the platform you are playing on – we cannot account for how it looks and runs on an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 – but on a contemporary PC, PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X, there’s a noticeable increase in fidelity compared with recent series entries.
It must be noted, however, that older returning venues such as Corsica from WRC 8, while updated, clearly still look and feel a little behind the pace. Strangely, 120Hz mode has been removed on console this year too.
But you could have the highest volume of stage miles ever, but if the dynamics aren’t up to snuff, the game’s longevity will be more akin to Sébastien Chardonnet’s career, as opposed to Sébastien Loeb’s.
As you traverse the snow, gravel, mud and asphalt of the game’s many varied locales, while accessible with a gamepad, a steering wheel peripheral is clearly the best way of experiencing Generations.
Using a high-end Fanatec device, the feedback is solid, relaying the nuances of a gravel surface back to the driver. There can be a tad more understeer upon corner entry this time around, so a quick little shimmy in the braking zone may be required to turn in effectively.
On corner exits, there can be more oversteer though, too. So, balancing these characteristics does require some adjustment. Handbraking around a hairpin is now noticeably trickier, and braking zones feel longer than Heathrow’s runway.
A contributing factor is the additional electrical boost delivered by this new top-class of rally weapon. The hybrid system can mean you spin up the tyres when leaving a tight corner, resulting in a spin for the unwary.
The impact, and longevity, of the volts is selectable pre-stage across one of three set-ups (aka maps), much like in the real world. However, while switching between them for each stage layout will undoubtedly be what esports-level drivers tinker with, most of the time leaving it in the middle, balanced, setting will suffice.
Once acclimatised, you can find a pleasurable rhythm, where it’s just you and your co-driver floating through a stage, artfully transitioning from one corner to the next, finely balancing the weight transfer. Glorious.
Not perfect, though. We found that switching to a lower-end Logitech wheel delivered strange force feedback characteristics, lacking in consistency when directly compared to WRC 10. The effect is very much dependent on specific device optimisation, something we hope is smoothed out post-release.
The way your car impacts terra firma after a big jump could do with some refinement too, sometimes feeling as if there’s little or no damping as you unceremoniously crash land before awkwardly visiting the nearest ditch.
Still, it could be worse. It could be the engine sounds. I’m convinced that the noise emanating from under the bonnet of the Škoda Fabia Rally2 is a recording of a food blender. While something like the Lancia Delta Integrale has the guttural noise you’d expect from a tuned twin cam, most of the modern vehicles lack the ear-drum-splitting concoction of revs, gearshifts, pops and bangs you experience when spectating in a Finnish forest.
It’s been the Achilles’ heel (or should that be flailing Pirelli) of KT Racing since the beginning, and while there have been signs of improvement, the audio remains lacklustre.
Expansive game modes
On a similar theme, one element that remains remarkably similar is the career mode, which data shows is where over 50 per cent of played stages are completed.
Car and team development skill trees remain, only this time they are mildly expanded. Promising results unlock further tokens and cash to spend. In-between main events, there’s the familiar mix of testing, practice, upgrades and optional historic events.
Other yearly motorsport titles such as F1 22’s My Team are deeper, and really this mode is only mildly updated since its 2019 introduction, but it offers enough to hold your attention.
With several rallies from prior games returning, of course, these extra events don’t feature in the main career apart from the side-show challenges.
This is where the plethora of online options come in handy. The pioneering online co-driver mode returns, alongside the plain online competition. Clubs, which were added to last year’s title via an update, allow you to compete in customised network-connected championships.
The new league system aims to combine all the varied stages and cars with daily and weekly events. Your times will be turned into scores, and then you are placed within ranked leaderboards with those of a similar experience level. It’s like iRacing‘s split system or Gran Turismo 7’s Sport Mode, but based on the stopwatch.
During the pre-release review period, it did provide a competitive relief from career grinding – yet the acid test will be if the community takes to it over time.
WRC Generations takes all the good bits from the past six forbearers, adds in the latest machines alongside a sprinkling of new gameplay features and calls it a day.
The team has pulled off an engrossing rally video game with aplomb. While the fundamental pros and cons of the KT Racing platform were always going to remain present, its unswerving focus on continually refining the formula has resulted in a compelling experience for various skill levels.
|Release date||3rd October 2022|
|Available platforms||PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S|
|Versions tested||PC and PS5|
|Best played with||Wheel|
Full disclosure: A code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Here is our review policy.