2010’s World Rally Championship was a decent game that was severely hamstrung in terms of presentation and content. In a genre that has gone beyond point to point races into more exotic ideas such as gymkhana and full-on, multi-terrain races, this pure rallying experience was always going to have a tough time trying to appeal beyond the niche audience that would be keen for it.
So with the inevitable sequel now sitting on store shelves, can WRC2 move beyond it’s traditional constraints, or is this a case of Déjà two?
Straight from the starting position, anyone who played the original game is going to be more than familiar with the sequel and it’s controls. And that’s not just because the game has been made slightly easier for newcomers and more accessible instead of punishing, but because it truly looks and feels too much like the original.
That’s not hyperbole at all. I had the original game running on an Xbox, with the sequel playing in my PS3, and the results were almost identical, visually speaking. Sure, a jagged edge here and there had been spruced up, but overall, very little has been done to improve one of the biggest failings of the original WRC game.
Evolution is clearly not a strong point here in WRC2.
Mediocre visuals aside, vehicle handling and management has seen some improvement and features added to it, with cars, while still grounded in reality, performing better and being marginally easier to manoeuvre around some challenging courses.
As for content, we’ve options such as Rally School and the road to WRC to go alongside the usual single and multi-player modes, with the varying options making full use of the fact that the game still carries the official rallying license.
Racing alongside name-brand drivers isn’t enough though, as WRC2 also features all the different car categories, from WRC straight through to SWRC, PWRC and a classic safari mode using the vehicles from yesteryear.
But if you’re looking for a game that has more thrills than spills, then the technical nature of WRC2 might not be the game you’re looking for. Once again races are a more grounded affair, with an emphasis on precision racing, lap times and point to point races taking centre stage, while a rewind feature is a merciful addition for when a corner happens to be far too tricky to take at 120KM/H.
Career mode has seen some improvements lavished upon it thankfully. You’ll start out as the usual greenhorn behind the wheel, complete with a navigator that happens to have the now mandatory Scottish accent as in every other racing game, working your way up through the ranks.
Except now players also have the option of hiring a crew to service a vehicle, helping to adjust everything from the engine to the wheels, with a few experimental parts thrown in for good measure. A team manager rounds out the crew, by being a member who negotiates sponsorships and logos for you, in order to improve your cash flow.
But to get those endorsements and fancy new equipment is going to mean that players will need to really hone their skills on the track. Building up both your skill and reputation level unlocks the goodies, but the manner in which WRC2 tasks a player with doing so results in a rather odd-handed approach, with periods of inactivity taking the fun out of what could have been a great way to make ladder-climbing/grinding an enjoyable experience.
There really isn’t much more to say about WRC2. It tries to include some new content and make better use of its official license, but it lacks any real spark, any real attempt at improvement over the previous game.
Minor improvements and some additional content make for a welcome inclusion into the game, but instead of taking the ball and running, developer Black Bean goes and fumbles the pass, resulting in a game that once again has the potential to be a quality alternative to the superb DIRT series of games, and comes off more as an expansion pack disguised as a sequel.
Design and Presentation: 5/10
A year after the previous game, and it still looks exactly the same. Tracks, cars and spectators boast the same dull, lifeless animations and colours from 2010. While it isn’t a step backwards, it’s most definitely not a step forwards either. It’s as if the development team was wearing concrete boots when they approached the visuals.
On an audio level however, things are surprisingly quite good. Cars roar to life with an impressive sound, and avid petrol-heads will no doubt appreciate the subtle differences between motors, gear changes and crashes.
At least something came right with this game.
For the more serious rally enthusiast, this is probably the title that they want to play. A decent online section complements the racing, what little there is of it, but for those players who want something more, there are plenty of alternatives out on the market right now.
It’s a niche game alright, and after this lacklustre effort, that market will most likely be even smaller.
WRC2 Has a solid foundation, but it just seems to be incapable of adding to it, resulting in a boring experience that has no real meat to its bones and is visually appetising as haggis. Its a shame, because this could really be a franchise that helps drive the competition to be a better game forward between rivals, much like the friendly competition that Forza and Gran Turismo create, resulting in better games with each sequel.
But for WRC2? It’s left to eat the dust of everyone else in the genre.
Reviewed on PS3
Last Updated: January 9, 2012