WRC: World Rally Championship Review
Bearing those hallmarks in mind, there really isn't anything especially good or bad about WRC. It's has the typical "you against the time clock" format that all rally games seem to follow. You see "ghost" cars ahead of you while you're traversing course segments, but there aren't any actual opponent vehicles to speak of. Advancing to the next stage is entirely a matter of beating the designated time.
Courses are lengthy and twist every-which-way. The controls are responsive. The handling is bouncy and slippery, which seems to be the norm for rally racers. Compared to similar games, you really have to finesse the brakes in WRC. Some cars are easier to spin and flip than others, but the game does tend to be very forgiving with regard to time penalties and speedy re-spawns.
Unfortunately, the benchmark times that you have to beat in order to advance to the next leg of a race or championship are excruciatingly difficult to reach. On the novice setting, you have to be near-perfect just to advance. On the three higher settings, near-perfect just isn't good enough... and sometimes perfect doesn't quite cut it either.
All of the courses and car models look great. WRC beautifully replicates the scenic European backroads, villages, and mountains of the FIA circuit. Cars accumulate body damage as you interact with the terrain, and there are all sorts of tapes, markers, signposts, and barricades you can knock down (if you want to). Terrain-specific dust, mud, and splash effects are liberally employed. It's just too bad there aren't any other cars out there to mix it up with. The sense of speed is good and the framerate is exceptionally smooth, likely because there aren't any CPU vehicles hogging any display resources.
Audio is the usual mix of Euro-rock and co-driver comments that every rally game seems to have. The co-driver does a good job of quickly and accurately announcing the upcoming turns, but his accent can sometimes make him difficult to understand. Sound effects for things like car engines and skids seem authentic.
Features are also about what you'd expect for a game of this type at this price point. Six teams, 30 cars, 15 drivers, and 16 real world locations from the actual FIA circuit have been included. Play modes include the mandatory quick rally, single rally, and championship options, as well as local wireless and turn-based modes that let you try your luck against a single human opponent. The lack of a true online mode is a bit of a letdown.
All told, WRC: World Rally Championship doesn't break any new ground, but it is, nevertheless, a solid rally racer. The only major complaint I have with it is the same one I have with every game in the genre. Racing against a time clock isn't as fun as trading paint with other cars. If you agree, you'll probably want to skip this game. Conversely, if you enjoy rally racing, this'll probably be the best $20 you've spent in a while.
6/13/2006 Frank Provo