WRC 8 Review – PS4
A fun and challenging ride
WRC 8 is KT Racing’s fourth attempt at emulating rally racing, and the once-yearly series has taken a two-year break to try and upgrade its engine to the level of its competitors. The series is the only one with the official WRC license, allowing use of all the real-word teams, tracks and cars - something DiRT Rally doesn’t have. But a license alone doesn’t make or break a game. With painstakingly recreated, authentic environments, an extensive career mode, and true-to-life physics, how does WRC 8 stack up next to its competitors?
Even if you’ve never played a rally racing game before, this game is really fun. I’ve played a fair amount of racing games, including all the Gran Turismo and DiRT series, and WRC 8 is one of the best “sim” racers I’ve played. It’s certainly not the easiest, however. WRC 8 is very realistic and totally unforgiving. This is no Need For Speed, and if you speed down a rain-soaked track and try to hit a hairpin turn, prepare to fly right off a mountain and get a 9-second penalty. This is a death sentence in most races, but the game is so enjoyable that you want to keep trying and learn how to race the tracks properly. I recommend first-timers put on ABS and TCS assists with permacrash off on Medium difficulty.
Career mode keeps you engaged with chasing car upgrades, recruiting team members, keeping your manufacturer happy, upgrading your crew, and more. With WRC 8’s RPG-style skill tree (the first I’ve seen in a racing game), you’ll unlock crew professions, improve your car’s durability, make your mechanic work faster, and more. You’ll get financial advisors that improve your prize winnings, meteorologists to keep you up to date on track conditions, agents, physical therapist to lower yourself and your crew’s fatigue, engineers, etc. All of these crew members are integral to improve your chances of winning, and they’ll need to be switched out every race, and you have to pay them a good portion of your hard-earned winnings every time as well. Teamwork makes the dream work, but it’s also expensive.
Some races in WRC 8 can last close to 20 minutes, and it’s tough to pay close attention to the road and weather for that long. When you’ve been death-gripping your controller for 15 minutes and sweating profusely, the slightest bit of rain can completely throw you off your game. You’re always wanting to go full throttle and shave a few seconds off of your race time to get a leg up on your competition, but it’s always a huge risk. As they say, slow and steady wins the race, and honestly, that’s how I’ve won most of my races in WRC 8. Just a few seconds of extra speed can wrap your car around a tree in no time flat, at which point you may as well restart. The difficulty of the game makes it feel that much better when you finally manage to get first place. It gets addicting quite quickly.
You’ll have to manage a calendar in WRC 8’s career mode because you can’t race in every event due to crew fatigue and lack of funds. You can choose in-between rally events to rest for team recovery, do manufacturer challenges, or train. You won’t unlock a whole garage of cars and cosmetics in WRC 8, you’ll just drive similar-looking cars and improve your racing skills until you’re worthy of being on top of the podium, which always feels like an event.
A very important aspect of rally games is your co-driver. This is your passenger who is constantly calling out turns and danger zones while you race. Personally, I found the co-driver in WRC 8 pretty bland, with no personality to him at all. I found in more realistic in DiRT Rally how the co-driver would react to car damage, and give you some notes before and after a race.
Graphics are another category that I feel are a bit lacking here compared to DiRT Rally. The cars look great, and effects like rain and snow are realistic and well-rendered, but the environment just doesn’t have the same level of polish and detail. In fact, compared to PS4 racers like Gran Turismo, DriveClub and DiRT Rally 2.0, environments in WRC 8 are at times decidedly last-gen. While damage modeling on yoru car can look impressive, it doesn’t seem like other cars in the races are affected this way. You’ll mostly be focused on not blowing your car to pieces though, so it isn’t a huge deal. A lot of the stages look great though, and the lighting in night races is really well done. The physics feel just right, whether trudging through snow, riding through water or careening through a muddy corner at high speed.
Prior to reviewing the game, my favorite rally game was DiRT Rally 2.0, but I am equally as enamored with WRC 8 now. This rally racer manages to compete with the best of them, with true-to-life physics, a deep career mode, and very challenging yet fun gameplay that will test even veteran rally fans. A deep career mode with RPG elements has you taking a small team from humble beginnings to worldwide fame and glory. The graphics could use a little fine-tuning, and they desperately need to find another voice actor for the co-driver, but overall WRC 8 has risen to the top as true competition to the other leading racing series.
WRC 8 can be purchased here on the PlayStation Store.
Review copy provided by the publisher.