World Rally Championship


Review by Greg Wilcox

Evolution Studios


Graphics: 8

Sound: 10

Gameplay: 9

Overall: 9

The best pure racing experience of 2002, WRC (World Rally Championship) earns the title simply because it doesn't pretend to be anything resembling Gran Turismo 3. Focusing squarely on the 2001 season WRC cars, drivers, and events, Evolution Studios outdoes GT3 in a number of aspects while creating a racer that stands tall without comparison. Even more amazing is this is their first game, yet it feels like a title crafted by seasoned pros. WRC will challenge you with 80+ tough courses, cars with solid handling, and cars that can (and will) become damaged during some of the trickier stages. It's an addiction wrapped in a guilty pleasure, and all it takes is one drive to grab you for hours.

The game captures the spirit of the sport perfectly with some excellent live action footage from each of the WRC events. You'll see cars sailing over jumps or sliding around curves, and crowds of happy spectators getting splashed with water and mud or coated with dust as a car races by. You'll also find out that rally racing demands more skill and precision than simply driving in circles for 2 hours in a pack of similar-looking cars. It's just you and the track here, with jumps, rocks, insane twisty curves, and other hazards as you race against time to the finish line. If you've never played a rally game before, think of it as a one car chase flick, or pretend that there's a nude beach at the end of the course filled with models. Hell, you'd drive like a maniac for that, right?

The handling of the cars in WRC is very nearly perfect. You can practically feel the tires bite into the tarmac courses, while ice, mud and snow will either bog you down or cause you to slide a bit more than you'd like to. Courses with irregular surfaces cause you to fight to keep the car stable, and yes, you can leave the road surface temporarily by sailing over a cliff or hitting a nasty jump on the track. The damage model isn't 100% perfect (you can't lose a door or wheel), but after a bad race, you'll definitely see busted windscreens, smoking engines, smashed lights and the like. Before and between events, you can tinker with your ride using a very streamlined interface that's designed to get you racing as quickly as possible. It's a bit disappointing if you're expecting a full customization setup, but Evolution obviously wanted players to concentrate more on the driving aspects of the game.

Each of the 7 cars here is a perfect replica of its WRC counterpart, and each handles and sounds completely different that the other. You'll want to go through the game with each of them, and run out to the nearest dealership to test drive the ones that are available here. Although I don't think the Subaru dealer will appreciate you going off-road with him in the car as an unwilling co-driver (before you sign the papers at least). Each course is pretty open, and there are areas where you can cut a corner or two to save time, but there are also areas where you'll go sailing off into the distance if you're careless. This leads to a brief penalty as you're reset just about where you left the road, and is one of the only arcade-style concessions made for the game.

With 5 racing viewpoints and 16 replay angles to choose from, the game's surprisingly realistic mapped terrain isn't as perfect-looking as the tracks in GT3. But WRC has two inside the car views that give you a better sense of inertia and momentum. From the driver's viewpoint, you'll see your guy shifting and yanking the handbrake all in time to your own motions on the controller (or GT-Force Wheel, if you have one), and both day and night driving show off some really cool lighting effects. It's almost hard to call this a game because you really feel as if you're in the car bouncing about on your way to victory (or a fast end).

The courses are modeled after actual WRC locations and the helicopter shots are nothing short of amazing. The only things missing are water/mud splashes and more dust/smoke effects. There are no puddles in the game to plow through, and while the cars do leave trails of dust on certain surfaces, the thicker, more obscuring clouds GT3 had during its too-brief rally sections would be more than welcome in any future sequels. The sound quality in the game is superb- all you hear during a race is your engine, the sounds of the car bouncing and the assorted ground effects. Music only comes into play during replays, and with one exception the small amount of licensed songs fit like a driving glove.

Two things make the game less than perfect- one is the loading times between races, and the other is a memory card bug that should have been caught before the game was shipped. The loading time is somewhat negotiable as an issue, as the gameplay itself is worth the wait. The memory card bug is a jaw dropper- the game says it's saving your progress automatically, and you'll even see data on your memory card if you go to the PS2 browser. But the game only saves your options settings, and you have to remember to manually save between races or all your progress will be lost forever. I found this out the hard way after six hours of hard work, and a couple of really tough races. Funny thing, though- I ended up doing better the second time around, breaking most of my previous records, and placing 1st in my zippy Ford Focus.

Of course, Codemasters' upcoming Colin McRae Rally 3 will most likely drop this game off my playlist for a bit, but then again, I'll most likely play this even more just to compare the two. Well, you've read enough for today- slide on down to your nearest game shoppe, pick up a copy of WRC, and see for yourself just how great this game is.


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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:36 PM