Unsurprisingly, EA Sports WRC feels like the evolution of Codemasters’ DiRT Rally series.
It makes sense, really. Having secured the WRC license back in 2020, there’s no point in Codemasters trying to reinvent the wheel when its DiRT Rally series has been such a hit with fans and critics alike. And so, it’s seemingly used it for the basis of its new official WRC rally series. The results are somewhat predictable, but impressive nonetheless.
Boot up EA Sports WRC and jump into a quick event, and if you’ve played DiRT Rally 2.0 you’ll feel like you’re at home. The handling is familiar, but has been tweaked to make it more responsive, especially when playing with a controller. And with the physics already being so good when driving on gravel and snow, particular attention has been put into making driving on asphalt similarly enjoyable and authentic. It certainly feels improved.
Of course, being the first rally game designed with current-gen consoles and PC in mind, EA Sports WRC looks the part, too. Textures are crisp and detailed, and at the side of each track, be it gravel, snow or asphalt, you’ll find a wealth of convincing foliage, rocks or walls. This is especially impressive when you consider that stages are longer and more expansive than ever before, and it’s thanks to a move to the Unreal Engine.
EA Sports WRC looks and plays brilliantly, then, but what can players expect in terms of content when it launches in just over a couple of weeks? Well, quite a lot. Every mode you’d expect is included here, from Championship to Time Trial. We’ve had our hands on all of them except the game’s multiplayer offerings, which is understandable. First we had a blast in Time Trial, trying out stages across the game’s vast number of locations which include Finland, Greece and Japan. It’s in other modes where EA Sports WRC separates itself from the pack, however.
First up there’s Moments, which will provide scenarios in which players can test their skills. Numerous challenges are on offer, some of which are based on historic events, while others are entirely fictional. Whichever you choose, you’ll have to quickly master both the car you’re given and the stage ahead of you if you want to win either a bronze, silver or gold reward. With more of these moments set to be added post launch, this mode might prove to be an engaging time-sink for many a rally fan.
It’s the career mode of EA Sports WRC that’s going to be the main draw for most, though. As ever, after creating their own avatar, players can choose to either enter at the Junior WRC level and work their way up, or jump in at the deep end with WRC. Players have another choice in EA Sports WRC, too; whether to simply race a car from one of the tried-and-tested manufacturers, or build their own. The latter proves to be a simple but rewarding process, with players first choosing a drivetrain and then selecting from a range of mechanical and cosmetic body parts until their vehicle is complete.
Key here, and in career mode in general, is budgeting. Older and less flashy parts are cheaper, alleviating some of the burden of keeping your team afloat and your benefactors happy. Spend a little more, though, and you might be better set to win events, which is also great for improving morale and the bank balance. A balance has to be struck, then, and throughout your career you can further tweak your vehicle and even acquire new ones.
What’s really struck us about the career mode of EA Sports WRC is how much choice you have week to week. You’ll not simply be moving from one rally championship to the next in the pursuit if being the WRC champion. Instead, you’ll be able to curate your own calendar, choosing to take part in invitational, trial and even hospitality events. Sometimes you’ll need to put time aside to deal with opportunities and issues presented by your team, too. Needless to say, you won’t feel like you’re just going through the motions.
After going hands-on with EA Sports WRC, we’re very keen to spend more time with it, and that can only be a good sign. It seems that those who have loved Codemasters’ more serious rally titles in the past will find themselves well-catered for, but work has been put in to make this more accessible to newcomers too. In any case, when it comes to authenticity, there might just be a new king in town when EA Sports WRC launches in the imminent future.
EA Sports WRC launches 3rd November on PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC. Pre-ordering the digital edition grants three-day early access, allowing players to get a head start on 31st October.