Codemasters and racing go hand in hand like bacon and bread, Ant and Dec, or Gary Neville with his comments on Man United’s consistently poor performances. They rarely put a foot wrong, and EA Sports WRC is one of the best rally titles on the market. When it comes to sitting behind the cars covered in sponsorships and dirt, there are few games out there that can come close to the thrill of its latest racer, and making your way across the variety of courses behind the wheel feels like a dream.
The handling in EA Sports WRC is sublime. Regardless of the terrain; be it gravel or asphalt, it rarely puts a wheel wrong. Occasionally I suffered from oversteering, but that was more down to my overexcitement upon hitting my time on the track targets. You’ve got mountains to climb when taking on some of the longer courses, trying to manage every corner, but you feel completely in control as if nothing is going to stop you other than your own lapses of concentration.
Braking is tight, and knowing just when to take a hard right or hairpin comes from practice and familiarity. The nuance in each clacking of the analogue sticks takes time to get used to, regardless of whether you’re new to WRC or not. Rally isn’t about speed or overtaking other drivers, it’s about getting the best time through patience and resilience. It’s a tense racer, when constant observations on every part of the track forces you to hold your breath and your nerve in equal measure. Thankfully, Codemasters has nailed the controls, with fantastic responsiveness to every decision you make.
If you are coming into EA Sports WRC blind, the Rally School is a great mode that gives you the basics and teaches you every facet of rally driving. It’s also a solid tool for those who might not have played for a while, and while it shows you the fundamentals, it’s also good to see how polished the racing is. When competing in the career, knowing how to drive, when to break, when to accelerate, and what changes to make all come from knowing the foundations of what you can do in the driver’s seat, and choosing whether to persevere or reset yourself on the track is vital. While you get a five-second penalty, it’s better than crashing and continuing as your car takes damage which could cost you longer.
As for the career, it’s a relatively straightforward and bare bones experience, however, if you’re not particularly bothered about a story, there’s enough for you to get stuck into. Your chief engineer and guide, Keith, is there to assist you in the opening stages, making sure everything is “grand.” He’s so British, and I love it. Every week you have to choose between a sole activity with a selection of ones to choose from. Once you’ve made your choice, others can’t be completed, so being careful with your decisions adds a nice element of risk and reward. Another element to the career is managing your money and making your benefactors happy by not overspending, and backing up your purchases by finishing on the podium.
It’s far from exciting in terms of what goes on behind the scenes, but when the actual gameplay is as good as it is, you almost forget about the light aspects of its narrative. There are varying difficulty settings an assists that give you some control in how you perform, as well as choices to restrict severe damage and AI difficulty. For those who like their cars, EA Sports WRC has a ton to unlock and race in, and the visuals are also pretty impressive despite a lack of polish to the course underneath you wheels. There’s plenty of detail in the environments, and the cars are meticulously designed, however, they’re not quite at the level of some of the more visually appealing titles like Gran Turismo 7 or Forza Motorsport.
On top of the career, there’s also the Moments players can participate in, celebrating the rich 50-year history of the sport, letting you relive iconic races featuring legends like the late Colin McRae There’s also an impressive livery creator if you want to build your own car from scratch, which is something fans are going to enjoy. While I’m not into rally as much as others likely will be, I still found this feature a nice touch on top of the sublime racing. You also have Championship and Time Trial modes to dabble with, but the majority of EA Sports WRC players will be spending their time with in career.
EA Sports WRC is a glorious rally title that gives you impeccable control of your car. It challenges you, pushing you to the limit across snow-drenched courses and winding roads under the sun, offering tight handling and nuanced controls for every possible eventuality. The career mode is a bit dull, and despite wanting better visuals, there’s still a stunning racer at its core. Moments are a great addition, allowing you to play out important races with iconic drivers, and if you’re wondering whether its friendly to new players, Codemasters has been more than inviting in its approach to learning the sport thanks to the wonderful Rally School.
Gameplay is sublime
Moments are cool
Lots of cars to choose from
Career is a bit bland
Textures aren't always crisp