REVIEW – While WRC 8 (again, trying to avoid writing down the full name each time) has its issues from the previous three games, maybe we see the beginning of some improvement that is noticeably present in the career mode. In return, we got a game that needs to be learned.
On Wednesday, I got an email with a code. „PC Epic” – this subject will be discussed in-depth, as it deserves a page on its own -, which got the following text as a comment: „let’s hope that it will be slightly better than the previous titles.” By Thursday, I managed to get WRC 8 Press (it’s interesting how Epic Games Store has a separate press version…), and now, on Monday afternoon, I start translating what I began writing on Sunday morning. Prepare for a 12K character thingamajig, as I went through a complete season to gather enough thoughts to write about the game…
After starting the game, you immediately get a question: are you a beginner, intermediate, or an expert? As the previous Kylotonn games (especially 6 and 7) had a harder, somewhat boxy physical style (the best way to describe it is that they needed a sterile, relentless driving style), I set it to beginner, because let’s face it, playing a rally game on keyboards on a higher level isn’t that good. Then, the game threw me on a test stage to go through it on my own. The co-driver was muter than Helen Keller. That is… a somewhat weird start. Then, I got three options as helpers (ABS, TCS, launch control), and there are four difficulty levels (easy, medium, hard, authentic), and there are five physical damage levels (visual only, low, medium, hard, realistic), plus there’s the permacrash option (one crash means the rally is over for you). Then, you can decide whether you go to Junior WRC or become a WRC 2 Privateer – I picked the latter, but I can already tell you that the game will not bring you immediate success, as it is sim-cade styled. It’s not entirely a simulator, and it’s also not exactly an arcade game either. Going through the different types of roads (gravel, asphalt, snow, etc), the difference can be felt in how our car reacts, and we might end up losing control over it with a spin or by going through a puddle. The driving model doesn’t feel stable, but I think some improvement can be felt here.
There are different specializations between the teams: performance, team, reliability, or durability (I might be remembering one incorrectly here.) Depending on which you pick, you will have a few options complete by default on the skill tree. The career more is extremely deep – you can’t just sit behind the wheel, get the trophy, and go home. On the calendar, you have to choose what to do. During training, you get more XP that can result in R&D points (I’ll get to it later), and, like in Gran Turismo, you have a gold, silver, and bronze time to beat. With resting, your team rests to gain some stamina back (as they can be exhausted over the events, if it happens, they go into the reserve). In extreme conditions, you have to complete a short section of a stage with a highly damaged car in terrible conditions, and it gets you XP, money, and morale. I think it’s entirely stupid, but it provides variety. The manufacturer challenge allows you to get the attention of other manufacturers, and the manufacturer tryout helps you to get on good terms with your current one. When you reach WRC 2 Pro, there’s also the maintenance event where you can improve your car’s status by going through a stage, but, again, without your co-driver (why…?).
Our team can consist of six members: mechanic, financial director, physical therapist, agent, meteorologist, and engineer. Going by their symbols, you can get perk bonuses, you can get perk cards after completing rallies (for example, +3% grip in snowy, icy conditions – the cards can be used once), and everyone has a separate level and stamina, and the higher their number, the better their skills, and they will require more payment. You can put a lot of them into the reserve, and since they all act as cards, wow, you get to collect rare cards. Hiring them once costs 200% of their per rally payment, but then, you can hire them at any time, so if say, a meteorologist of yours gets exhausted (and they can give bad weather forecasts), then you can call the other one before the next rally. Micromanagement. Then, there’s the skill tree where you can improve a lot of things (such as the stability of your car when driving through puddles), or improve your team’s stamina, or get more cash per event, and, usually, you get a level up and a skill point per each rally. There are also the emails, some of which will require you to reply (those usually mean that you must pay the repair costs of the previously rally), which can be done by pressing the Enter key once. There’s also the objectives menu point, where there’s a WRC-exclusive point (that needs at least two seasons to even get there!), a short-term objective (for example, do not use hard tires during the next two rallies), and a medium-term one (rest twice in six weeks with your team). Completing them gets you money and improves your relationship with the manufacturer.
Then, getting to the track, you notice that your tires get down to low grip fairly quickly, and you can see their condition per wheel. Not bad. Your co-driver… well, he is detailed and he has a good voice, he might be slightly slow, and, at one occasion (the early part of the fourth Finnish stage), the game stopped displaying the next few turns. Thanks for that. The stages still feel quite narrow – you don’t have much chance to make mistakes, and the game punishes your mistakes quite heavily. Do you fall to a pit? 9 seconds. You get stuck behind a tree and need to respawn? 5 seconds. One time, I ended up on my roof, and when I got respawned, I was on my roof again, resulting in me getting a DOUBLE penalty. Thanks for that! The damage model isn’t perfect, but I think it improved, so under a beginner, the car can get worn down fairly quickly. Some car parts can only be swapped (suspension, brakes, spoiler, headlights, bumpers), but others can be repaired by percentage, meaning you do not have to go overtime with the repairs, as that also results in a time penalty. For the beginners, I also have to mention the Power Stages, which is usually the final leg of the rally – the five fastest drivers get extra points depending on their position.
The win animation and music is always the same, but, thankfully, you can skip it by holding the Shift (and you can also skip the logos when you boot the game, thank God). So the physics are good, but I don’t think it’s up there with DiRT Rally yet. It is getting close, though. The beginners will also have no braking help as seen in Milestone games, so make sure to keep an eye and ear on your co-driver, and you can stay on the ground by taking turns a gear lower than what he says (so Left 6 while being in the 5th gear, and so on). The sounds… they aren’t outstanding. The background music (none during rallies) are average. At least we get all teams and cars, and – as with WRC 7 – a separate eSport mode, and I can’t say much about online, as it feels like a patience game in the lobbies. Is WRC 8 The Official Game a niche title? (That’s how it calls itself on the title screen where a camera pans around a car – it can’t figure out its name?) One more thing: the dynamically changing weather is brilliant! Kylotonn picks up a fight here with Codemasters – you might see several times that you start on a dry track and then end up in heavy rain by the end of the stage.
Back on August 26, WCCFTech wrote about how three games became Epic Games Store exclusive. One of them being WRC 8 is. The same WRC 8 that came out on September 5. I believe that is a ridiculously big hell turn on the Steam users, as I don’t think we have seen anything similar now: less than two weeks (!) before the game’s release, Bigben Interactive, the publisher, decided to move the game from Steam to EGS for a whole year! I think this is an anti-customer move, and while I know I got the game code for free (I didn’t ask for it – I got it via the distributor, mind you!), I’m fairly sure there are a few readers that are against the EGS due to the alleged Chinese ties and them spying on people. Whether this is true or not, it’s bullsh_t to ditch Steam in favour of EGS this close to the game’s launch for bags of money. Dirty money. There should be some regulations in place to not see this ever happen again – if you already pre-ordered the game on Steam, you should have access to the game there by now, and not get screwed over because Tim Sweeney happened to pay off Bigben, who is quickly becoming one of the publishers on my garbage tier list. (The other one could be Focus Home Interactive – their The Surge 2’s closed beta had Denuvo in it, and they say they will take it out. First, it’s a waste of money, and second, I’ll see it when the game is out.)
There’s a good thing to it, though: WRC 8 does not have Denuvo! Perhaps they should have came up with this idea before (with F1 2019, I also mentioned that it is pointless, and there, I also had to modify a game file to get stable performance…), as WRC 6 and 7 both had this unnecessary, unwanted DRM. (Ghost Recon Breakpoint’s Exe files are both 600+ MB. How much of it is the unnecessary Denuvo? Oh my God… oh, and that is an always-online game. Why use DENUVO then?) Thanks to the lack of D, the game had decent performance, and while it didn’t look outstanding (I recommend disabling motion blur), the frame rate was good enough for me. (Then again, back in 2005, I played Need For Speed: Underground 2 with 6-8 FPS on an FX 5200…)
One more thing that I need to mention: why were there 6 DLC already for the game on launch day? Okay, there’s the Deluxe version of the game for 60 euros (or even more, because Epic pushes the payment processing fee on us here on the Balkans), but let’s see what DLC are there: Legendary Car Pack (Alpine A110, Ford Escort MkII 1800, Lancia Delta HF Integrale Evoluzione; 10 euros), and these three cars separately (4 euros a pop); RWD Legends (Lancia 037, Porsche 911 GT3 RS RGT, 5 euros), and the Senior Staff Members Unlock (3 euros). Now, this last one is unbelievable: you start the career with better team members. Bigben deserves a huge slap on its face, as the press version of the game did not contain the DLC (this is what I got from the distributor, it’s not their fault!), and I’d have had to pay 18 euros (10+5+3) to gain access to that content, too!? I’m not paid enough to do that. So after Milestone, Bigben also deserves the middle finger because Codemasters offered me the complete version of F1 2019, several days before its launch. The other two publishers? Nah. They have a few things to learn… after all, customers usually decide by the reviews whether they want the games or not. I checked my list of cars and none of the five DLC ones were there…
WRC 8 FIA World Rally Championship (or WRC 8 The Official Game?) has improved, and I’m not doubting it. Therefore, it deserves a seven out of ten, but it’s still almost frustrating that a car could barely fit on the road here or there. However, if you get to tame this horse, it will offer you a decent outing, and while the online is not the best (at least there are weekly challenges, not to mention the split-screen local multiplayer!), you get a deep career mode, which will require at least 15 hours to complete (three seasons, after all – might be even more than that). It’s good, but I think it’s not as good as DiRT Rally. If it would have been a little more open-armed towards the beginners, then it could also compete with Milestone’s WRC 3 (which, mind you, is no longer available for sale…). Let’s leave it at that – it’s a decent title, but it needs some time to get used to. It might have also been a good idea to add a level editor, but then again, it’s a licensed title… however, Milestone’s motocross titles both had it this year. (What gives, Kylotonn?). Thanks for Magnew for providing a review code.
+ We might have never seen such a deep career mode yet
+ Varied stages, local, split-screen multiplayer
+ Dynamic weather!
– Beginners might have some problems in the first hours (narrow stages)
– The co-driver might be a bit slow…?
– Online deserves some life
Publisher: Bigben Interactive
Developer: Kylotonn (KT Games)
Genre: Arcade, Driving/Racing
Release date: September 5, 2019 (Epic Games Store), September 2020 (Steam)