it's fast, it's tough, it's wild
This review is for the PS4, playing with a gamepad.
The WRC franchise has been around for 17 years now , resulting in a dozen or so games. What they all have in common is that they aim for a mid-level simulation experience; something that's relatively easy to jump into, ... think Forza, Gran Turismo, Dirt 1-3, and so on.
WRC 7 is an officially-licensed game for a real-life event called the World Rally Championship, where drivers take part in stage rallies across the world. There's no rallycross or hillclimb in the real event, and therefore you won't find them in this game. Like all officially-licensed racing games - F1, MotoGP, Nascar - the developers are limited to real-life content. In WRC 7 then, you do stage rallies across 13 different countries, each with it's own unique environment and conditions.
Understanding the background of a game is thus important, as it heavily influences the expectations you have. With no background knowledge your expectations can easily become absurd and unfair to the game.
WRC 7 is a follow-up from Kylotonn's previous game, WRC 6. While most of the changes made are not massive in scale, they are numerous: better graphical quality, improved visual details, more realistic sound designs, changes to the rally stages, some new cars, updated teams and drivers, and so on.
As in WRC 6, the game offers weather effects that include rain and snow, as well as night-time racing. However, there are three major changes to WRC 7 that makes it feel very different from WRC 6:
1) the introduction of Epic stages, lengthy stages that will take you 8-15 minutes to complete, one for each country you race in
2) improved physics and stage design modelling, where bumps and terrain are felt much "closer" and more realistically than before, even when using a gamepad
3) narrower roads, making the game even more challenging
While these changes are welcomed, there is one feature I was hoping would also be improved in WRC 7: the Career mode.
I really wish the Career mode offered the same personal experience as the later F1 and MotoGP games, where you interact with your team and the environment in a more immersive way, bringing you closer to the role you are playing. In WRC 7 you create a character who feels rather divorced from yourself as a player, if that makes any sense to you as a reader. I know this is a budget-question, but I think it would really elevate these games.
Racing in WRC 7 is focused on fast-paced action. Your main challenge in the game is not the physics of the car, but the stage designs, as you battle whatever environment and condition nature throws at you. The result is an intense, immersive and focused racing expereince, one that is very demanding of your reflexes.
In stark contrast, with Dirt Rally and Sebastian Loeb Rally your main challenge is the handling of the car. You are not battling the stages and the environments in the same way as in WRC 7. Put differently, while racing in WRC 7 your mind is on the road, in Dirt/Loeb Rally your mind is on the car. So while these are all rally games their focus is very different.
So who might enjoy WRC 7 ?
- if you are a fan of the real-life WRC, as this is the best WRC game so far in my opinion
- if your favouite part of Dirt 1-3 are the stage rallies, or if you are a big fan of stage rally in general
- if you want a truly global racing experience, with 13 different settings and environments to enjoy
- if you want something that's less technical than Dirt Rally or Sebastian Loeb Rally, as far as car-handling goes
- if you enjoy fast-paced racing games
To conclude, I think Kylotonn should focus on making the Career mode feel more personal in the future. They should take inspiration from games like F1 2017 and Valentino Rossi the Game. Apart form that, WRC 7 is a blast to play; it's fast, it's tough, it's wild.