- Kylotonn Games
- BigBen Interactive
- 10th September 2019
WRC 8 brings with it yet another new season of pure rally racing, as well as some new features and a slight overhaul to the game play, but if truth be told this is the first WRC game our team has played since Milestone left development duties. Having played some of Kilotons other works in the past, be it Truck Racer or Motorcycle Club you can forgive us for why we always tended to steer away from their newer works. But after a few years away, and wanting an alternative to Code masters Dirt series we decided to hop on in and give WRC 8 a thrashing through the mud, snow and the brutally British wet lands. So is this worth getting all muddy for?
Let us begin by saying that WRC 8 is a Simulation racer and you will hear us calling this game a sim numerous times throughout the review, unlike previous titles in the series when it was developed by Milestone. Long gone are the days when the more arcade style of play would be forgiving if you happened to mess up on a turn and could use a rewind. No instead you get punished and punished hard for slightly falling off the track with penalty times aplenty coming at you from all over, especially when you first start the game.
I don't want to scare you off however before we even get going, so let us take a moment to talk more about the games core mechanics and the career mode, which when you delve right down deep into them, are some of the deepest mechanics you can find within a racing game. You can be tasked with not only looking after your car and working on repairs, but in WRC 8 you can also hire, fire and manage a whole crew of six different areas of a fully motivated and working team.
I found the actual handling of the team to be quite fun when you first start the career, you will be met by just a couple of different tropes of person that you can hire, be it a meteorologist who will advise you on weather conditions throughout a race weekend, and if you should expect a sudden downpour of rain. To hiring an engineer who will help to bring your repair times down during the stages of a rally where you need to repair all that is broken or at least breaking.
Not only do you hire these people though, but you also have to make sure they are happy and well rested, this is done in various ways, be it from earning morale from competing well in events to giving the guys the occasional rest day or hiring a replacement to take over so the first guy can get some rest. It is all incredibly deep for a racing title like this. As you progress and earn more money and more teams become interested in hiring you, so will better attributed people that you can hire.
During the game you even have a further way of expanding what your team can do or how effectively they work for you, by using the upgrade area of the career menu, here you can not only find upgrades for your team, but for your vehicle too. In truth there are alot of different options for you to upgrade and what's more if you decide to move teams during a season you still get to keep the upgrades you have earned and applied at the team you was at previously. I guess you can call this the Lewis Hamilton's appreciation mechanism.
If you do decide at any point however that one of your previously earned upgrades just isn't worth it anymore and you would rather invest those skill points into a different area, then you have the option to respec at any time too, from what I could tell from my time of playing you never have to pay for these chances to respec, and they can come in handy if you find that an area you invested heavily into at the start of the career is now becoming more redundant and you need to invest say more Into the upkeep of the vehicle itself.
So without going too much into detail in this area and spoiling some of the other nice additions like the perk system, let us instead concentrate on how the game actually handles when you get out and decide to race, and well it's not a pretty picture at first to say the least. The reasoning behind why I say that is purely because as it stands there are quite a few bugs in the game, some of these we ourselves have raised with the publisher who has told us these will be patched shortly and are known issues, so I won't go on about it too much for now.
But as you drive occasionally you will be on a track, and it won't matter if it is gravel, dirt or ice but sometimes you can ever so slightly clip the smallest piece of scenery and get spun out into a million flips before landing and either badly damaging your vehicle, or losing a lot of time due to a time penalty. Sometimes it can even be both, which in an instant will in part destroy any hopes and dreams of a finishing well in this rally.
On top of these times that can be infuriating to say the least, the games physics model can at times feel like it is working against you. Sure at times it feels weighty like you need to really balance your car going into those turns or risk veering off the track. But at other times especially when I would be driving in a straight line I would just randomly start to veer off course and as I tried to correct it I would then spin wildly out of control as if I was driving on ice. Something about the whole handling model just seemed off and the only way to correct this was to slow down to a near crawl to try to line up again before wheel spinning off.
It is too easy at times to get caught up on a piece of the scenery in some stages too, I once got caught on the edge of a rock and couldn't move despite having three wheels free, and then I veered my front end over a garden wall into a garden in one of the stages and again got stuck causing me to reset my car and pick up a time penalty. These are small issues I feel will need to be addressed as especially on the higher difficulties little things like this can be the difference between first and last place.
Watch out for those stones on the left, if you feel dizzy now you won't like what is to come by hitting them!
When the game does run well though you won't have any issues, it can at times be really fun to just use the ebrake to spin directly into a u-turn before accelerating. harshly away, you will at times get annoyed by the words of so called wisdom from your co-driver but more on that later on in the review. But as one final thing I would like to mention regarding the general racing aspect of the title, and a potentially game breaking one at the time being which I have been assured is being fixed as I type this. Sometimes you can be racing along and ever so slightly clip something and then the graphics engine will just seemingly all out die on you. The only way to resolve this is to either restart your console, and if the menu doesn't work correctly, you get left with deleting your save and starting again.
So then with all of that taken care of, let us move into the realms of different events you can do as you play through WRC 8, you have your standard rally fare, race from one end of a long trail to the other trying to get the best time on each of the stages different sectors in an effort to get the top spot on the podium. However an interesting event type that can be found in this game is the Historical Rally event.
This event lets you try to recreate a race from a number of different eras and a number of vastly different rally cars, each being famous for one reason or another. I found these to be rather fun as you never knew which race or car you were going to get until the game had loaded up and you was sat on the start line. This is where you can see just how much the handling can feel different on the older generation of rally cars compared to the newer generation and at times I even felt like this events were harder than the main game.
You also have an event type called the Rare event and these can be a number of different events, a prime example of this would be the extreme conditions event that put you in a car in the dead of night normally, with conditions of rain pouring from the skies and very little visibility and you are tasked with getting to the end of your run as quickly as possible, and again these events can sometimes be quite brutal to match the time limits on offer. Similar to this is manufacture events where you get tasked with jumping into a car from a team who may or may not be interested in signing you and again seeing how far you can get on the track, however I found this event to be quite simple.
I will say that anytime you want to head out to a course and race however, the games loading times can at times feel overly long. You can sometimes be sat on a loading screen for nearly 2 minutes waiting for a stage to begin and in my opinion this feels like too long. I would understand if the game was the best looking game ever made with, but even though it is a good-looking title there is no reason as to why it takes so long to load.
Lastly we come to the multiplayer section of the review, and in truth this is where I spent the shortest amount of time. Not because I wanted too but because it was at times hard to actually find a game online to play. This leads me to worry that this game like others in the series could end up losing its online community after a couple of weeks apart from a select few fans who will play until the next big racer is out. Saying this however the times I did get into a stage with other people, the game was fun and in a way felt more amped up then when you play alone. Battling other people in real time trying to beat each others sector times has never felt so fun, and when you do end up losing out to another player you know it is because you did something that was your fault.
Some of these cars look purely gorjeous in these different conditions!
When you have Code masters who are arguably the best racing developers in the business churning out title after title, making cars endlessly look good with their Ego engine. How do developers try to top that? Well you will be happy to hear that Kylotonn did an awesome job in both not only the design areas of the game but also graphically.
Let us start off with the center piece of the title, the cars. Each car is modeled to perfection, be it a car you choose from the WRC 2 class, to the slightly modified WRC 2 Pro range all the way to the more bulkier and power heavy WRC main cars. Each has looks like it would in the real world and all liveries are correctly positioned too.
Which brings us into how the general scenery of the tracks or the track layouts themselves if you were. As expected depending on where you race in the world the landscape can look drastically different from rally to rally, be it racing along the snowy Swedan tracks, to going full pedal to the metal through Norways wooded landscape. Each track really does have a unique feel to it. Not to mention that with each unique feel you have certain tasks to fight with be it the snow or ice, all of which get modeled beautifully onto the car as you progress further into the stage.
Not only does the car get more iced up or dirtier as you ride, but any damage you get can start to build up too, this can change obviously depending on the difficulty settings you have chosen but it is great to see the damage and general track wear and tear carry over from stage to stage until you can get a jet wash and quick mend in the mid section garage that is.
What's more the in game menus and layouts are all nicely positioned, there is no clutter and everything is easy to understand. Sometimes when a developer goes for a more simplistic boxier approach they can then double down on the amount of sub options within these categories and before you know it, you are wrestling with a whole bunch of other sub menus. Everything here seems to have been thought about and even menus like the upgrade menu in career are nicely positioned and easy to understand.
Kylotonn have worked wonders on the graphics charm of WRC 8, every time I was flipping my car due to reasons beyond my control, instead of getting frustrated any annoyed that I was going to get a time penalty for something I Shouldn't have been. I was looking at the game and thinking damn this sure does look good.
Drifting never felt so good in a rally game before
Unfortunately this is one of those areas of the game that grated on me for all the wrong reasons, Kylotonn for the most part had done a good enough job in the audio department, but there is one glaring problem with the audio that is bound to just strike a nerve with most people after a while.
That issue is your co-driver, the guy who is supposed to be your eyes on the road and read ahead for you the track conditions, the guy who they chose to voice him especially in the English language just sounded so robotic and uninterested in what he was saying.
When you add this to the fact that if you have a minor or major crash he stays silent with no noises of pain is another glaringly missing attribute that takes away from the so called realism of the game. Especially when titles like WRC 4 had the co driver asking if you were ok after a crash etc. This however isn't the only problem with him.
Maybe this comes more from a game play perspective but sometimes when racing I would actually end up being ahead of the directions that he was dishing out to me, which meant that anything he was saying at that point was just redundant and more of an irritant as I tried to watch ahead and not veer of the road whilst listening to his talk too.
Apart from this however the games audio is serviceable, and that is really all I can say about that. Sure the cars all sound rather good, you won't find mid engine roars or gear shifts in a game like this, however you will hear the rocks, pebbles and ice all under your tires as you race through them. If anything I would actually say the engines at times can sound a little bit under powered.
The games music is also just plain ok, it isn't anything fancy and you don't get any licensed tracks, but what is here will help you to focus or even relax between races. I will say however the narrator at the start of the game is able to give you clear and concise instructions on how to get the best out of the title. So whilst your co-driver may get annoying you can rest assured that for a little while there is a voice in the game that may indeedh elp you out somewhat
Seeing as this game takes itself seriously in the Sim department, you can rest assured that the learning curve related to difficulty on this one can be a huge to climb at first, whilst you tangle with the games icy driving controls at the best of times. However after completing your first Rally stage you should have more of an idea of when you should be starting to break and when to accelerate during turns.
This title comes in the way of having very little in the way of driving aids to help the gamer, instead really throwing you into the realism end of the spectrum. You won't find driving lines here, but you will find a automatic braking and steering assist, but neither I found were up too much. With this it means you will need to start to take those corners slower than you think you need to and also watch out further ahead of the track to see what is coming.
You can tailor the game how you see fit if you want to play on any of the games different difficulty settings, by playing on easy for example you can still turn off the ABS assists, which again won't do a lot to actually assist you as you spiral wildly out of control from time to time. But by turning off some of those sssists you may have a harder time of beating the A. I
The A. I for the most part seems to race the same no matter what difficulty you play on, you will never see another car in game, apart from two occasions that I witnessed with the first being, you may see a scripted career DNF from another drivers crashed vehicle. The second of these is the head-to-head rally stages but again you usually see very little of the other car unless the race is close. But apart from that the A. I always seem like it is set on a certain time scale to hit each checkpoint at.
By no means however does this mean that if you play on easy you are going to get a good +10 seconds per sector on each rally, sometimes when I played on easy I would struggle to even win a sector before winning say the next three and losing the final one. All whilst driving perfectly around the track.
The game comes down to easily just learning each route, perfecting those corners for max acceleration and then trying to beat AI set to harder difficulties, whilst I don't think playing on authentic with no assists on is for everybody, it will really enhance that sim feeling. That is until you get hurled 20 feet into the air before crashing down and getting a DNF due to a stone.
When it comes to achievements it is always good to add some diversity to the mix, challenges that not only reward simple tasks, but sometimes takes that can take a long time to achieve, and then there's the cumulative achievements to make up everything in between. WRC 8's achievements really do fit into all of these categories however, this does not mean that the list is a good one.
You get achievements for doing simple tasks regarding simply progressing during career mode, well in fact a lot of the games list is devoted to career mode. You can get awarded for meeting a certain set of season objectives per a single season as well as meeting an overall team target for that season too. You also rewarded for beating special challenges that are littered throughout the calender, be these the rare or historic events that we mentioned above.
If you are able to overcome each of the games different rallies during your multi yeared career however, just by finishing first in each of these rallies. will award you an achievement for coming first. Obviously if you play on easier difficulties than these shouldn't be too much of a hassle for you.
As you work your way through the career mode and aiming for 100% completion of the games achievements however, you will probably find that you will earn each of the games distance related achievements for miles traveled. And with that as you can tell already this isn't really much of an imaginative list, instead it just ticks all the usual racing game stereotypes you tend to get in games.
You can get rewarded for certain tasks like rolling your vehicle which really isn't difficult in this game as well as also beating stages with a repair time penalty which is slightly harder to achieve. All in all there is plenty to aim at, and if you play well you should never be too far away from your next achievement.
We went into WRC 8 with an open mind, We had played all of Milestones previous releases of the series before they handed over development duties, and we enjoyed each and every iteration despite how the series did begin to stagnate by the fourth annual release with little in the way of improvements.
So it is nice to see that Kylotonn have added their own spin to the series over a number of years. WRC 8 cans at times look great but looks are nothing when at times you can just flip out the car for clipping a slight piece of scenery, possibly smaller than a stone. That and then sometimes you literally feel like you are driving on ice even when you are not, and adding in the various times we had to either reload the game or restart a save because the games graphics engine had stopped working could all hinder the playing experience.
As you read this you probably already assume this title to be a hard pass due to the issues described throughout the review, however if you can look past all the grime and technical issues that sometimes arise, there is a deep and challenging game to be found here with a nice breadth of content to keep you busy for many hours. I have no doubt that these issues I encountered will eventually get sorted, and because of that I am happy to keep on playing this title until at least WRC 9 comes out next year
It may never have the same budget has some of the bigger racing titles on the market, but WRC 8 is worth a play if you are a fan of the series or just looking for something a little bit different to play. Especially if you are more into Sim racers than opposed to arcade.