In September, KT Games will be saying goodbye to the WRC license after ten long years as rally experts. We've test driven the farewell note.
There was hope for a while. Real hope. KT Games brought in GTR 2 producer and Simbin veteran Diego Sartori and gradually began to put the pieces of the puzzle together so that a couple of the WRC games both entertained but also managed to give a relatively fair picture of what the identity of WRC is, and how racing really looks from inside the different rally cars.
I'm probably one of the few racing purists who has had the most patience with the KT Games' licensed series, and both WRC 8 and WRC 9 have been good racing titles, if you as a player have stuck to hand control only. The steering wheel support in these games has been quite gruesome and especially on the Fanatec side, the force feedback portion has been mediocre, at best. Instead, they great asphalt physics, good friction simulation on gravel, a lot of very good tracks and the considerable amount of content made WRC 8 and WRC 9 stick with me. But as KT Games gets ready to roll out its tenth and final official WRC game (Dirt Rally studio Codemasters has bought the license now for the next ten years), I've tired of the worries that plagued previous games, worries that are included here as well. My patience is running out. My positive view of KT Games' attempt to catch up with the genre giant Dirt Rally 2.0 no longer feels ambitious and promising. For my own part, it feels mostly just as untapped potential and from what I have tested so far of WRC 10, this feels like WRC 9, with a little different lighting.
WRC 10 contains 19 countries and 122 distances. Monte-Carlo, Sweden, Croatia, Portugal, Estonia, Spain, Italy, Africa, Finland, Belgium, Chile, Japan, Wales, Greece, Argentina and Germany, among others, are available, and the developers have already promised more "epic stages". However, I think it has become a bit too much "quantity for quality" in this game series as KT Games has put more and more rallies in more and more countries rather than going back and creating more real distances that WRC drivers compete on in real life.
WRC, WRC 2, WRC 3 and Junior WRC are all classes that are represented and KT Games talked about as many as 22 historical, classic crews during my interview last week. We can expect to drive Colin's super classic Impreza 1997, Sainz' Celica Turbo GT4, a 1981 A1 Quattro from Audi, Corolla 1999, Lancia Fulvia, Peugeot 205 T16 Evo 1, and an Escort MKII 1973. WRC as a racing organisation turns 50 this year and the developers want to celebrate with more classic rallies and more classic cars than ever in the game series' history. There will be over 20 special challenges where we will have to tackle classic moments from the sport's history, from the opening years' competitions to Group B, Group A and all the way to today's tournaments.
Another part of the WRC series that the developers promise will be improved in the tenth game is the sound, which in many ways has been the single worst part of the WRC games, along with the steering wheel support. KT Games has apparently recorded all the engine sounds again and promises gold and green forests here, even if the preview version that I spent a couple of weeks with suggests otherwise. I honestly hear very little difference between WRC 9 and WRC 10 and still experience the engine sounds as pale, thin, and unrealistic.
WRC 10 works best with hand control in Bumper Camera, which feels counterproductive considering that according to the developers it is a rally simulator. To me, this remains something of an arcade racing experience, though, with realistic framing. And I have a hard time seeing that change in the next three months before the launch. It is possible to go even faster than in previous games, now. It is possible to apply the brake on any surface without making the car wobble and there is a lack of realism more than ever in this game series - judging by the preview version. In other words, WRC 10 will not shock, right away - in September. It will be the same game as WRC 9 with some small changes, I would say. And basically it's not a bad deal, it's just that I demand something more, at this point.