Winding roads, burnt rubber and texture pop-ins.
When it comes to rally racing I am no expert. Colin Mcrae in the PSone days were as far as it got in terms of experience with the sport. So when it came to powering up WRC 4 and the opening cinematic played showing real-world intense races through lush, wild landscapes, powering through death-defying corners and sliding to victory I felt a sense of excitement, if this game could replicate the emotions and adrenaline attached to that footage it’d have me sold within a minute.
I was given the choice to name myself, the driver, along with choosing a photo to match (apparently I have a moustache now) following that I had to choose my co driver and manager. Neither affects the gameplay in any way except for a change of name in the textual dialogue. After this I was rushed to a visually striking menu with rally cars tearing up the tracks in the background.
"The gentleman flagging the start of the race next to my car looked something similar to a blurry Slenderman-esque figure. The mannequin like spectators lifelessly flailed their block limbs around in a lackluster attempt to ramp up the now rapidly draining excitement."
After a short audio introduction the options laid out in front of me. I chose to immediately delve into the ‘Quick Stage’ option and have a blast at racing through one of the random tracks I was assigned. After a fairly lengthy load time helped by the option of reading through various interesting facts on the sport I was dropped straight into a timed race through a track in Spain featuring tight, winding tarmac roads. Immediately something was off, the gentleman flagging the start of the race next to my car looked something similar to a blurry Slenderman-esque figure. The mannequin like spectators lifelessly flailed their block limbs around in a lackluster attempt to ramp up the now rapidly draining excitement.
Obviously it’s not all about graphics and presentation these days when it comes to getting enjoyment out of a game, just look at Minecraft to support that. But when it comes to a racing simulator that aims to throw you into the driver’s seat we expect a certain level of polish to the cars and to the environment. This is not the case with WRC 4. The environments are often drab and flat with muddy textures which are often still rendering as you whip past them in your speedy Ford. The cars themselves have had more attention than the environments but still look like assets ripped from a late Playstation 2 game.
The thrill of a rally game comes with blistering through the sudden curves and turns in the track with a trail of dust and burnt rubber in your wake. Luckily, developers Milestone have done a great job with the handling of the cars in WRC 4. It’s a challenge to master the perfect corner yet extremely satisfying when achieved, using the right amount of break and acceleration. The sense of speed is greatly conveyed with motion blur and feels thrilling yet dangerous as you careen down narrow paths.
"There’s nothing inspired about anything in WRC 4, it’s all very by the numbers. A touch of visual flair and a few more inspired design choices would have took this game a lot further."
In career mode we have the standard affair for racing games, a story in which you are placed as a rookie driver working up the ranks. Unlike previous installments the process of working from rookie and being offered WRC2 contracts has been reduced meaning you’re moved up the ranks faster at the start of the career. This may annoy hardcore rally fans that feel the process has been diluted and simplified however it’s a much more newcomer friendly way of encouraging progress.
The races in WRC 4 are timed therefore you’re never racing against a physical AI opponent. However their difficulty can be fully customized from difficulty level 1 up to 10, 10 requiring perfect runs of every level with every single corner mastered to even match their times. This allows WRC 4 to be both newbie friendly as well as challenging even the most hardcore of rally fans.
While the game may look visually terrible it certainly plays decent. With that said there’s nothing inspired about anything in WRC 4, it’s all very by the numbers. A touch of visual flair and a few more inspired design choices would have took this game a lot further.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Perfect handling, Great amount of customization, Satisfying career mode.
Uninspired, everything feels a little bit dull, Poor graphics.
WRC 4 FIA World Rally Championship is recommendable to any rally purist however only feels incrementally improved from the previous entry in the series. For those who only dabble in rally racing there are far more exciting offerings out there.