WRC 8 was a fantastic rally game.
Among its many improvements over WRC 7, its revamped career mode really stood out, allowing players to manage their team and schedule their own events as they made their way from rally wannabe to WRC champion. Needless to say, it makes a return in this year’s WRC 9, with only minor changes here and there to make it a little bit better. But don’t worry, Kylotonn hasn’t rested on its laurels; with its career mode at an all-time high, it’s simply opted to make dramatic improvements in other areas.
One of those areas is the social aspects of WRC 9. Features such as the dedicated esports tab make a return, as well as online multiplayer and special daily and weekly events. On top of all that, though, is a new Clubs mode, which allows players to set up their own events. They can choose to make their club private if they want, limiting who can compete, or they can open it up for all. Even better, you’re not limited to being active in just one club at a time. After creating your own, you could join up to three others to really keep yourself occupied.
Content is another area where WRC 9 is improved. Over 50 teams are included from the Junior WRC right up to WRC, and there are 15 bonus legendary cars for players to get nostalgic about. More importantly, there are three new rallies in this year’s release: New Zealand, Kenya, and Japan. In addition to all the rallies returning from WRC 8, it means that WRC 9 has over 100 stages across 13 environments. From day one you get the range of surfaces, environments and scenery you expect of a rally game.
Each of the new rallies introduced in WRC 9 offer something different – something that makes them stand out. The tarmac-heavy courses found in Japan, for example, are highly technical, juxtaposing fast straights with plenty of twists and turns that must be navigated with precision unless you want to find yourself in a ditch at the side of the road. Then you have the New Zealand courses, which are a bit more easygoing but you may get distracted by picturesque scenery – especially at certain times of day. And let’s not forget Kenya, which is notable for its wide open spaces and punishing terrain.
While the new Clubs mode and additional rallies assuredly make WRC 9 a decent step up from its predecessor, what really propels it ahead are its new physics. WRC 9 simply feels better to play than ever before. Its cars have more weight to them, yet they’re somehow also more responsive as you fling them around. There’s more feedback, too; you get a better sensation of the suspension doing its job. Of course, the best way to play WRC 9 is with a steering wheel, and there’s good support here for the best on the market, but those playing on console will find playing with a controller to be much more manageable and intuitive than in previous games.
While I can only review what’s available to me now, it’s important to note that Kylotonn aims to improve WRC 9 after release. In a move to please video game photography fans, a photo mode is set to be added post-launch, and it will certainly get used because WRC 9 looks gorgeous at times. Both the Finland and Portugal rallies are set to receive new stages, too, boosting the amount of content a little. What sounds really interesting, however, is the introduction of a new co-op mode in which one player assumes the role of the co-driver reading out the pace notes while the other drives.
Honestly, it amazes me how far the WRC series has come under Kylotton’s helm. I remember the disappointing WRC 5, which, looking back, got a pass simply because rally games were thin on the ground at the time. Since then, however, each release has been markedly better, and here we are now with what is perhaps the best rally game currently available. Only a couple of issues with its career mode bring it down.
One of those is inconsistent AI: you might struggle to win some stages driving like a pro, for example, and then win others by a mile after making numerous mistakes. And then there are your career objectives, the completion of which is often robbed from you. Winning three Extreme events in six weeks may sound easy, but what if they’re not offered to you? It sometimes just feels unfair.
Still, these issues shouldn’t put anyone off WRC 9 – they hardly ruin your enjoyment of it at all. With the addition of the new Clubs mode, this is the most competitive entry in the series yet, and it’s also the biggest thanks to the three new rallies that have been introduced. But more importantly, it’s the best-playing WRC game to date, going toe-to-toe with the DiRT Rally series. At this moment in time, WRC 9 is the closest thing to a perfect rally game we’ve got.