There’s a lot more depth to racing games than the general public gives them credit for. Not every game is about street racing, and the context does actually have an effect on gameplay. WRC 9 is a great example of this- as a rally game, there’s a lot more to it than just driving fancy cars around a block.
Sub-genres aside, how does it play? We get in the driver’s seat to find out
A Beautiful Picture Of A Car Driving Through Mud
When talking about the visual aspects of WRC 9, there’s a degree of expectation-management required of the player. Many racing games tend to focus on the flashier side of racing, having lots of visual effects so that their game screenshots as well as possible. WRC 9 skips this step, and as a result can stack up less favorably next to other racers.
However that’s not to say it’s a bad looking game, because the actual models used look amazing. The game simply opts for a less flashy approach, which works better for a game where you drive through dirt and snow.
Like many games with licensed vehicles, WRC 9 looks amazing. The game’s outdoor tracks look extremely natural, with realistic lighting effects.
Speaking of the stages, a lot of care went into making them look as alive as possible. While you won’t have to worry about hurting wildlife, the game does have drones flying along the track, looking for the best shots of the action.
The cars themselves look gorgeous, naturally. The smallest tracks of dirt will show up on the floor, as well as water streaks from driving through puddles and rain.
Similarly, the game’s HUD should be commended for how simple it is. It’s very effective at conveying information, with details like speed, gear and even car condition all communicated through a minimalist HUD.
While the game lacks any dramatic effects like blooms, this works to the game’s advantage. While the game is incredibly pretty, it never focuses on it too much that it gets in the way of gameplay.
Management Game, Ahoy!
The game comes with two modes, Junior WRC and WRC3 League mode. These modes have similar gameplay, though the Junior WRC limits your car selection to the Ford Fiesta R2. It’s a great mode for first-timers, as you won’t have to worry about the unpredictability of other cars.
There’s more to this game than racing, too. The career mode comes with a side of management sim, as you have to plan your team’s activities and schedule races. They’re not all big rally races, however, and you can have some fun with the other types of events available.
These include Historic Races, which have you driving vintage cars. You can also do manufacturer tryouts, which let you drive as far as possible with the cars to build more reputation with manufacturers. This is a good way to build EXP, though damaging the loaned cars will hurt your standing with them.
The meat of the game is the Rally races, however. These are where most of your water cooler talk will be coming from, as it’s more than just completing your race. Like real rallies, Rally Racing is an endurance test. You have to manage your car, and any damage your car takes will carry over between races.
It’s also a cruel reminder of life, as damaged parts can never really be restored back to 100%. You’ll also have to be smart about repairing your car, as you’re only given 45 minutes in-game time to do so.
Of course, it’s not all just prolonged campaigns. The game also has a quickplay mode, which lets you just get into the racing. There’s also online multiplayer, so you’ll have plenty of stories to tell as you race your way to victory against players around the world.
The Actual Driving
Racing games have a whole spectrum of difficulty, but few of them sit as comfortably on the hard end as WRC 9. The game asks of you constant control, as well as precision. Avoiding walls in this game requires a lot of skill, and the game’s narrow roads and many turns will constantly test you for it.
In addition, the game is also quite punishing during races. Starting your engine too early, for example, is a good way to get 10 seconds added to your lap time. Resetting your car after heading off-road also incurs time penalties, meaning you’re going to have to be careful lest you ruin your lap time.
Of course, bad lap times aren’t the only thing to look out for. The game has limited continues per race. Failure to complete the race before you run out of continues will have you fail the race. This really adds to the urgency to get things right on the first go.
While the cars handle well, they’re also prone to environmental hazards messing them up. Puddles and ice will mess with your car’s handling, as well as weather like rain.
Remember how we mentioned the visual damage on the cars? They’re more than just cosmetic. As your cars take damage, they’ll lose functionality according to the parts that break. Lose your headlights? Have fun driving at night.
Despite being someone who enjoys more arcadey racers, there’s a certain joy to be had from how strict WRC 9 is. It’s definitely not a casual game, but it never pretends to be. While some may lament persistent car damage, it does give a certain role-playing fun to the game.
While it may not personally be to my tastes, there’s a lot of fun to be had here. Unlike a poorly made racer, WRC 9 is hard by design. It’s got enough challenges in it to keep you engaged, having you focus on a lot more than just racing. The limited continues are definitely a bold choice in game design, but work out in the long run.
The progressive damage to your car gives it an almost RPG-vibe, while the management side is also a great way to fill out the non-driving parts of the game. The addition of additional modes that just take you into the action is also great, because players who just want to drive the car get to.
On top of that, every car has been lovingly rendered in the game, complete with environmental interactions. There’s no doubting it, this is a pretty game about driving through mud.
|Cars look and sound real||Can be daunting to new players|
|Challenging gameplay||Difficulty can seem excessively punishing|
|Management aspect is fun|
Review code provided by Ripples Asia. Game reviewed on PS4.