Title: WRC 9: World Rally Championship
Developer / Studio: Kylotonn (KT Racing)
Genre: Racing (Single & Multiplayer), Simulation, Sports
Available on: Nintendo Switch, PC (Epic Game Store), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/Series S
Official Site: https://www.wrc.com/en/more/gaming/wrc-9/
When you think of racing games, what franchises come to mind? Typically, most gamers will say one of the following Forza, Forza Horizon, Need for Speed, Midnight Club, Gran Turismo, Blur, The Crew, and Mario Kart. These franchises have the power of AAA publishers behind them to market the franchises to a wide audience. Earlier this year in July, WRC 8 FIA World Rally Championship was free to Xbox Live Gold members. You can read our review of WRC 8 here.
Earlier this month, Kylotonn Studios alongside Nacon (formerly known as BigBen Interactive) released WRC 9. WRC 9 also known as WRC 9: FIA World Rally Championship is currently available for PC (Epic), PS4, and Xbox One. WRC 9 is a racing simulator that focuses on Rally car racing. Prior to going into this review, Need for Speed Heat was the last racing game I reviewed. With racing, coming in first has been all that matters; it did not matter if you hit against walls, trees, or even your opponent. WRC 9 focuses on precision driving rather than your driving speed.
Game Hub & Options
At the start of the game, the player is asked what level their racing experience is. If the player chooses novice, they are directed to the test area to learn the basic controls. Once the player exits the test area, they are brought to the starting menu. The starting menu is laid out similarly to windows 10 tiles where each page features a variety of options. On the home page, the player can find the last race type they competed in, a rally, clubs, driver card, and news; the following pages are Drive, Competition, Options, and Showroom.
The Drive page focuses on solo play. On this page, you can find Career, Season, Quick Play, Training, Test Area, and Challenges. Under Competition, the player can find Online Multiplayer, Online Events, another Rally, Split Screen, and Leaderboards. The Options tab allows the player to change the controls, race settings, sounds, and save data. Finally, the Showroom tab allows the player to see all the cars in the game in different weather conditions.
Without even starting the Career or Season mode, the player has access to all 37 cars, 11 areas, and 94 races. In quickplay or split-screen, players can choose the course they want to race on and the weather settings. WRC 9 offers a variety of weather options and time of day settings. The available weather settings are clear, cloudy, threatening, rainy, storm, sunny spells., snow, and snowstorm. As for the time of day options, the player can choose between Dawn, Noon, Evening, and Night.
The game features a variety of game modes but the primary focus is on Rallies, Career mode, and Season mode. The online multiplayer isn’t completely inactive but you will have to host a lobby to get others to join. Training and Challenges allow the player to practice and fine-tune their driving.
In season mode the focus is strictly on driving. The player can alter the racing difficulty, damage effects applied, and permanent crash options. After those settings are manipulated, the player can choose between their entry point, either Junior WRC or WRC 3. Upon choosing their racing classification, they are tasked with choosing a racing contract. The racing contracts allow players to choose their rally car, team member, and specialization. Once that is select the player will race in a variety of rallies. Before each rally, the player can adjust their tire selection and car set up. Under the car setup, the player can modify the car’s suspension, differential, brakes, and transmission.
In WRC 9 Career mode, the player is tasked with controlling the racing team and the brand. The manager must set the calendar, the Research & Development team (R& D), crew members, emails, objectives, statistics, and standings. Outside of the managerial position, the player can either start the events planned in the calendar or drive in the test area. The test area is a decently sized open-world environment, that shows off the compound and its surrounding area.
Events planned in the calendar can be anything from a rest day to a rally race series; in addition to those two, the player can schedule training, historical races, hazardous weather drives, and manufacturer races. Manufacturer races can improve the teams standing with partners and make new ones as well. As the player levels up from events, they can assign their experience points to one of four trees, Team, Performance, Crew, and Reliability. If a driver’s performance is to low the manufacturer can cut ties with the racing team ending the season. The player is tasked with maintaining the team’s happiness and repairing the car after each event.
Gameplay and Controls
After laying out all the game modes and race types, the main questions you probably have are how does WRC 9 look and how is the gameplay? Going in, you have to realize that WRC 9 is not like most racing games. The game focuses more on the slow and precise run rather than the first to finish. Each run, the player is penalized each time they crash, hit a viewer, have to reset, and a variety of other factors. Setting out, we did not realize how important it is to take turns easily. Despite lowering the game’s difficulty to the lowest setting, we were still owned.
Despite slowing down our speed before taking turns we were still rather unsuccessful. This issue comes down to how cars respond in WRC 9 and its controls. WRC 9 feels like a game that is meant to be played on a racing setup rather than a controller. On the controller, the slightest touch of the left stick can cause your car to drift if not spin out. In addition to touchy steering, the controller layout feels a bit off. Like most other racing games, this game uses the left trigger to brake and the right trigger for acceleration.
Oddly, when the player must reverse, they must downshift completely before they can whether in an automatic or manual. Despite using automatic transitions, the player must still control their gear shifts to succeed. Shifting in the game feels odd too since it uses the A button for an upward gear shift and X to downshift. A better place for the gear shifters would have been the left and right bumpers. Instead, the left and right bumpers control the windshield wipers and the car’s lights. These two features only matter when driving from a first-person perspective.
Game Visuals & Sound
Visually the game is rather impressive. In fact, it is one of the best-looking racing games within the last five years. Each car is highly detailed. Even the impact of collisions on the car looks realistic which leaves you to wonder how many wrecked cars did they look at. Outside of the cars, the terrain and the environment are well detailed. They do not match Forza Horizon 4‘s but they do surpass NFS Heats. The weather in the game is well detailed and when driving in first-person, visually the weather conditions feel the same as if really driving. When crashing into the game’s environment, things do not move as you would expect and can fly off or move weirdly. The game’s career mode office visually looks like it came out of The Sims 3.
The game sound effects also give the feeling that you are behind the wheel. While racing, the co-pilot will give instructions on what the player should expect next on the course. If you change WRC 9‘s speedometer from km/h to mph these instructions make very little sense. They do however give you an idea when to turn and if the terrain will be difficult to drive through. Sadly, something seemed to be missing as we raced through. So what was missing? The answer is music. WRC 9 does not have its own soundtrack which makes driving feel like a chore rather than something enjoyable.
WRC 9 works well as a rally racing simulator but fails an enjoyable driving experience. If the game had an option to have an AI race the car rather than forcing the player to always drive it, career mode would have been more enjoyable. Sadly, since the player must do all the races, the game feels more like a chore rather than a fun experience. The game is visually impressive between its detailed cars, impact damage, weather, and environments, but because of the game’s controls, you do not really get to appreciate them as much as you should. Between the game’s inhibiting controls and limited online community, WRC 9 is definitely a wait to own title.
Every time, I started to play it, I would come out more exhausted than I went in. Music could have livened the experience and kept us feeling fresh. These factors made it a good game rather than a great or even an amazing game; it would be interesting to try WRC 9 with the Logitech G923 Racing set up and see if it feels any better.
So if you are a diehard Rally racing fan, then WRC 9 can be enjoyable in strides. If you are looking for an enjoyable racer that you’ll keep saying one more race, then it is something to wait on or skip. The base version of the game is available on the Epic Game Store, Xbox Store, and PlayStation store for $49.99.
- A variety of cars and tracks available at the start
- Great car designs and special effects
- Courses are mostly different so courses never feel repetitive
- The game's controls are sensitive and feel off
- Feels more like a chore than a relaxing experience
- A limited online experience