Kylotonn has been trying to get the World Rally Championship series back on track ever since some would argue that Milestone gave it engine trouble. The studio hasn't, however, been close to bringing it back to its former glory the last two years, and this year's edition hasn't changed our opinion either.
Those of us who love rally games have been very spoiled the last few years, this purple patch coming after having gone through a period with very few games in our beloved genre. Having the option to play Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo, WRC, Dirt Rally and Dirt 4 means we've got a nice selection of entertaining racers to choose from if and when we long to thrash down narrow roads at incredible speeds. Unfortunately, Kylotonn's games haven't been up to snuff compared to the competition. Still, WRC 6 improved upon quite a few things from WRC 5, and we hoped they'd been watching what other studios were doing when they developed WRC 7.
The very first thing you're tasked with when starting the game is choosing whether this is your first time playing a rally game, or if you're an experienced woodsman. We've played hundreds of hours of racing games throughout the years, and chose the latter. That choice sent us straight into Hayden Paddon's Hyundai, and we were pretty much left to our own devices. Fair enough: this wasn't our first rodeo. It did, however, make us curious about what the other option would offer, so we restarted and told the game that we're a first-time driver.
We're now back in the Hyundai, although with no obvious changes. That is until we hit the first turn; our breaks are suddenly much better, but that's about it. Going into the settings reveals that the only things that have changed are not having to use the handbrake at the start and ABS brakes. We restarted again, returning to our first choice.
This time we started off at the lowest class, so we spent our first few minutes speeding around the Junior WRC in an R2 car. Being the rally fanatics that we are, we know that the R2 is front-wheel drive, which leaves us wondering if it'll feel any different compared to the more powerful cars with four-wheel drive. The game doesn't tell us anything about this, it just sends us into the first race. Spending a lot of time in the junior league doesn't exactly sound tempting, so we choose medium difficulty. It would seem that this turned our co-driver's skills to medium as well, as kept giving us the wrong instructions! Could this actually be true, or did we hear wrong? Watching the replay reveals that it indeed was our co-driver who screwed up. Not a great start, and with the rest of career being pretty much identical to that in WRC 6, we won't take up more of your time telling you about this aspect of the game.
One of, if not the most important part of a racing game is how the cars feel and handle. WRC 7 does an okay job of making its cars react to different bumps and turns on the track, but it still feels very flat compared to many other games. The graphics are a bit crisper and show most of the minor details on the track, but it still doesn't quite feel right in terms of controls. Everything just feels kind of boring and therefore the experience isn't as immersive. Add to this a co-driver who gives you the wrong instructions and who gets overly excited by the smallest feat, and you have yourself a below par experience.
Fear not, WRC 7 doesn't get everything wrong. Kylotoon has also done a few things extremely well. The most noteworthy aspect we'd say is the sound design; our cars and their surroundings sound beautiful and we thought it was very realistic. Hearing the breaks whine like a small Chihuahua when pushing them to the limit always feels great.
The quality of the overall production is also worth mentioning because the standard is high. The game is filled with real drivers and tracks from both the WRC, WRC2 and JWRC classes. Some of you might think this is obvious because of the World Rally Championship license, but don't forget that WRC 5 took a few shortcuts in this area.
There's also an online mode to enjoy if you prefer racing against real-life opponents. It's entertaining enough but lacks online rankings and you don't get to race against drivers of a similar skill level with enough frequency. We can't choose whether or not you want to race against players that are assisted by ABS brakes either, so you never know what you're going to get. This makes us worry that it won't be easy to find opponents to race, and most will move on the other racing games.
Fortunately, that won't be a problem if you've got friends who like to visit your house, as the game can be played split-screen as well. You also have the option to race the same track with the same car eight times in a row in Hot Seat mode if the entire gang assembles for a rally night. This way, you can see the different times at the end, with the winner getting bragging rights.
WRC 7 is basically just WRC 6 with a few improvements on the audio front. The graphics are a bit better when it comes to the cars themselves, but it looks like the environments have actually taken a step back compared to last year's game. Driving into a bush will pulverise it and the trees almost like look two-dimensional in certain cases. Just having great sound design and the official license isn't enough anymore, especially when the best games in the genre are better than WRC 7 in most areas. Having a co-driver that doesn't know how to do his job, with little to no help for new players, and lacklustre physics and controls all combine to cement our opinion this as a game that should race straight past you. There are far better alternatives out there.