WRC 7 released in 2017 and averaged a 70 on Metacritic. The then-yearly series had iteratively improved, but evidently developer Kylotonn wasn’t happy with that, as they took two years to deliver WRC 8. Did the extra development time result in a better game, perhaps one that even gives Dirt Rally 2.0 a run for its money?
A Good Look
WRC 8 certainly looks the part of a rally racer. It appears the KT Engine is used again, which seems to be made with rally racing in mind. While Dirt Rally 2.0 may have the slight edge in graphics (especially environment detail), WRC 8 is no slouch. Specifically, weather effects are more believable in WRC 8. The extreme weather events, where the player is challenged to complete as much of a challenging stage in intense weather while using a crippled car, are showcase events that really allow the player to experience all that the KT Engine has to offer. Rain realistically falls on the windshield, which also quickly piles up and generally makes visibility an issue, as would happen in real life. Dynamic weather is perhaps less intense, but also realistic and can add a variable challenge to some stages.
The driving in WRC 8 feels about as realistic as one can expect. You may find this hard to believe, but most people don’t know what it’s really like to drive a rally stage, and this writer is no different. But Dirt Rally is the standard these days, and for the most part WRC 8 feels similar. Cars are likely to get airborne when approaching a sharp crest, while turning around a sharp corner accurately requires precise braking and turning. This is a simulation first and foremost, so most players will find a nice challenge in WRC 8.
Paging Mr. Roboto
Just as important as the driving in a rally game is the co-driver. These are teammates who sit in the passenger seat of a rally car, and call out the course’s turns and other features as the driver makes progress on the map. A good co-driver can make a big difference in a team’s time, since the driver can be confident that the upcoming bend in the road is a short, gentle turn as opposed to a sharp, banked corner that shouldn’t be cut. WRC 8’s co-drivers are accurate, but a bit robotic. The Dirt Rally series gave their co-drivers some personality, as they spoke before and after a stage, and reacted to parts being damaged on the car. The co-drivers in WRC 8 only speak about what’s coming up on the course, and never react to anything going on around them. They feel a bit lifeless by comparison. Still, they are at least functional.
WRC 8 has perhaps the best career mode in a rally game today. It starts off simply, as the game guides players through the basics of picking events on a calendar, racing through these events, hiring team members, answering emails, maintaining sponsor relationships, and more. It also reflects some of the real-life aspects to a career in this sport. Sure, real-life owners of teams may not do the actual racing, but other than that it does show some of the realities of running a team. Each team member, whether that’s a meteorologist, mechanic, or engineer, costs a salary. These salaries increase with their skill level, but conversely, the more skilled members add value to the team in the form of more accurate weather forecasts, more experience gained per event, or more rewards earned.
Engineers Are People Too!
These team members are also human, and they require breaks in between strenuous events such as rally races. Otherwise, they become exhausted and are automatically placed on reserve. So, using a highly skilled team member for a weekend of training and manufacturer tryouts may make them unavailable for an actual rally, which are the events that have the most impact on earnings potential. Thus, there is a balancing act of which events to choose to run through, versus when to simply take the day off and give your team time to recuperate.
In between events, players can level up various aspects of their character, unlock new team members, or other options in a rather robust skill tree. Not all skills can be unlocked until reaching a certain driver level, and the skills can be re-specced at any time, for a price. This one screen makes the entire game feel a bit like an RPG, but in racing form.
Outside of the single player campaign, online multiplayer is also an option. Your mileage may vary here based on your internet connection and server status, but the very nature of rally racing means that asynchronous play is not only doable, but the preferred way to compete. Playing against others is essentially a leaderboard contest, as racers see who can post the fastest times. But then rally fans will expect nothing less.
WRC 8 PS4 Review - Dirty Competition | PlayStation LifeStyle
Grab a Friend
Surprisingly, there is also split screen! Two players can duke it out on whatever course they desire, selecting from a range of cars and driver/co-driver combinations. Races are done in real-time, with ghost mode activated between the two cars – there is no risk of running into your opponent, which makes sense in a rally racing game. Since both players race through the course at the same time, this is not an asynchronous mode, as the first player to reach the finish wins, though penalties still apply. Players who are particularly rough on their car can also still wreck the vehicle in this mode, thus disqualifying themselves. Overall, split screen handles much the same as the single-player game, just without the co-driver reading out the pace notes.
WRC 8 is a rally racing fan’s dream. This is a game that will test the skills of even veteran rally fans. Those who are looking to live the dream of taking a team from relative obscurity to championship winners will enjoy the extensive career mode. There’s even split screen! In 2019! Split. Screen. While the environments may not seem as detailed as in Dirt Rally 2.0, and the co-drivers are a bit robotic, these are smaller issues and by are no means deal breakers. It seems the rally racing genre just got competitive for the first time in a while with the release of WRC 8.
WRC 8 review code provided by publisher. Version 1.02 reviewed on a PS4 Pro. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.