While rally racing isn’t that popular here in the US, I’ve been a fan of the sport for as long as I can remember. There’s just something magical about the way these skilled drivers make their way around these crazy dirt and gravel tracks at speed, sliding sideways into blind corners, it’s just an adrenaline rush like no other!
I actually had the chance to do a little rally racing, courtesy of Team O’Neil’s Rally School, and it’s SO. MUCH. FUN. But I wasn’t about to subject my real-life rally car (a 2011 Subaru WRX) to that kind of torture, as it would destroy the already crappy paint on my car. But with WRC 9, I can still get my rally racing fix, while my car stays safe and sound.
Back in the 90’s, I used to play a rally racing game that was pretty fun, but it very rudimentary in terms of what it offered. You could go into a corner, hit the e-brake, and get the tail out. That was about the extend of it. WRC 9 on the other hand is ULTRA realistic (frustratingly so at times), using physics to deliver a true rally racing experience.
WRC 9 holds the lead on the market for being the most in-depth, realistic sports rally game, building on its predecessors with major physics improvements, redesigned environments & engine sounds, changes to AI with custom skill sliders taking place of named difficulty levels, an excellent sound mix, and new pace notes. All of these in-game engine overhauls create a much deeper sense of realism, providing complete immersion for the player while exciting returning WRC franchise veteran racers.
Building upon its newly added technical improvements, WRC 9 comes packed with content to instill a naturally high level of replay-ability and excitement for the player. WRC 9 provides three new rally locations in Kenya, Japan, and New Zealand. These 3 geographical additions to WRC 9 can be experienced while racing in over 15 different classic cars with 100 special stages available for the player to complete, 35 of which are completely new to the WRC franchise.
These new landscapes introduce a major aesthetical shift from the typical European rallies we’ve seen in past titles, and the cars in the game have even been tweaked to emphasize these environmental changes by improving the sense of bulk as your vehicle treads over different ground surfaces such as gravel. From the coastlines of New Zealand to the African countryside, WRC 9 will visually impress with its geographical vistas and wildlife, just as much as its plethora of included gameplay content will and it will feel great to the player while doing so.
Career mode is back in WRC 9, with many of the same enhanced additions that WRC 8 brought to the franchise. This mode has players not only race and compete for the championship over the expanse of all 3 new rallies’ regions, but they will also have to do simple tasks, such as rotating your staff members out for vacations and choosing which tires to use depending on the occasion and weather of the particular race.
A new English co-driver has also been added to the game to provide a dialogue with your racing experience, but this co-driver doesn’t necessarily respond or react in real-time to your driving habits, good or bad, but there is definitely an organic improvement from the previous title. WRC 9 even expands beyond its Career Mode by including new game modes that were designed with the community in mind, where players can create their own championships that they can then use to compete against other players online and even join social Clubs.
Some returning players may be disappointed by the return of the infamous bonus objectives, but thankfully, the punishment for ignoring them is subtle this time around compared to WRC 8. For example, gone are the days of being deeply punished for failing a bonus objective or ignoring it by not using the specific tires the game wants you to use for a race when they are clearly the wrong tires to use under that circumstance.
Overall, these bonus objectives definitely increase the difficulty of the game as a whole, but at least they can be ignored more openly in this latest WRC title. The introduction to a more specifically customized difficulty slider does allow for more “fine-tuning” to match your current skill level, but in Career Mode, the AI does tend to be inconsistent.
Regardless of where you settle your preferred settings for the difficulty slider, the AI drivers can range from impressive to confusing. In one race, the AI may be hot on your tail, but in the next, they may be miles behind you, all without any changes to difficulty. The introduction to a more specifically customized difficulty slider does allow for more “fine-tuning” to match your current skill levels, but like real-life people, AI may also have their “off days”.
If there’s one thing that is an absolute must for this game, it’s a racing wheel, as it’s damn near impossible to play smoothly with a gamepad or keyboard. But if you’ve already got one, and you’re into rally racing games, WRC 9 is sure to please, giving you endless hours of enjoyment. If you’re still unsure, just check out this trailer:
WRC 9 is available on Xbox, PlayStation, and PC platforms, and you can pick up a copy today.