Anyway you slice it, motor sports are pretty damn exciting. You’ve got the speedy glamour of F1, the tight corners of the MotoGP and the off-road thrills of the World Rally Championship. For four years now, developer Milestone have been trying to capture that licensed glory in their WRC games. And once again, they’ve failed spectacularly to do so.
Once again, it’s the exact same game. Hell, I could have slapped a 4 on my last WRC review and called it a day if I wanted to. WRC 4 once again puts you in the shoes of a hotshot racer, much like any other racer, by getting players to customise their driver and co-driver with a system made up of public domain photos and names.
It’s a start to a game that will have no real impact whatsoever, and that feeling of mediocrity continues as you go further into your career. Milestone has obviously been paying attention to what Codemasters have done with their racing game franchises, as you’ll find a menu system which looks remarkably familiar.
From there you can set up your races, cars, sponsorships and check the news, before working your way up the ladder to WRC glory. Starting seasons are now slightly shorter in order to make up for time spent once again building up a racer, before heading out to lengthier events when you hit the pro circuit.
And after a well edited video showing off all that sweet rally action, you’re going to be pumped up. Oh yeah, this year is going to be different. This year I’m going to slide around the corners with some crisp graphics and decent handling physics.
Sweet Colin McCrae, was I wrong.
As a racing game, WRC 4 tries to balance itself between a faithful simulation of the sport and an arcade racer, succeeding on neither front. The game just doesn’t feel technical enough for your garage tinkering to actually create a real difference on the track, while the attempt at creating a more exciting race with light arcade physics feels dull and lifeless.
Races are still point to point affairs, taking place on tarmac, dirt and hybrid roads as players race to achieve the best possible time while a Scottish co-driver once again yells at you about something to the left like a bad Beyonce song.
You look at actual WRC races, and you’ll feel just how exciting those courses are, with cars taking perfect slides around dirt corners and leaping over hills in an effort to grab first place on point to point races. WRC 4 completely fails to capture that feeling, and should be marketed as a sleeping aid instead of a game worth your hundreds of Randelas.
Rally tournaments are all about momentum, and WRC 4 just cannot seem to find any of that, from both a technical and metaphorical viewpoint. The handling is as notoriously as stiff as ever, never loosening up to give players that thrill of dirt road racing, while your co-driver is as annoying as ever and repeats lines over and over again in his usual monotonous tone.
Likewise with the damage model, something just doesn’t feel right, while the game is also host to some mind-numbingly long loading screens. There are courses which are uglier than human nature, track designs which seem to think that flipping a course backwards is an improvement and visuals which belong to the Playstation 2 era.
Sure, your rally vehicle looks solid, and some nice weather effects make themselves known, but the rest of the game looks like a dog threw up its breakfast as you wind your way through some narrow courses. If you’re still sticking around to see if the game will actually open up to add something more to the overused formula, then you’re wasting your time.
A laggy online component with basic ideas in place and quick races where players can take part in full races and championship basically rounds out the experience. I could go on, but really, the biggest problem here is that WRC 4 has no real competition, leaving that game to have a tight monopoly on all its licensed content and no real motivation to actually improve.
After four years it’s still the exact same game, with no effort being put into to making a solid foundation actually more exciting and intriguing. It’s the very definition of cashing in on annual franchise, making for a game that is average at best.