You're driving through the snow in Sweden, keeping your back wheels just about on the track while you're sliding around corners, jumping over crests and listening to a voice barking instructions at you. Then, out of nowhere your co-pilot says "square right", forcing you to think, "what's a square..." But before you can finish the thought, you've flown off the tracks and into some trees damaging your car and earning a time penalty.
Sound familiar? Then you're either a rally driver, or you're a fan of the rally racing genre. WRC 8 is the FIA official rally sim, with all the teams, tracks and drivers you'd find in the real World Rally Championship. Not only is it official, but it's also a detailed and exhilarating rally sim that gave us many hours of fun.
There are several modes to choose from, but probably the most thought and design has gone into the career mode. Here you not only race around tracks in different countries such as Turkey and Portugal, but you also manage your team, level up with experience, and deal with sponsors (among other things). The team office offers a really interesting level of detail. Each race provides you with experience and money, and your experience gives you skill points which you can use you in the R&D section, which manifests itself in the form of a skill tree.
This tree is split into four sections: team, performance, crew, and reliability. Your reliability and performance are more about your car, while team and crew skills will help you off the track with options to help you find new events or better weather prediction for races. The money can be used to enter new events, such as training sessions. It can also be used to repair your car after a rally, prompting us to wonder if drivers in real life have to pay for the destruction they cause.
Answering emails and dealing with crew fatigue might not be for everyone, and to be honest, the most fun we had was on the track, but things like sponsors offering you race objectives, or racing in-between rally events to impress a new manufacturer made career mode feel a whole lot bigger and more detailed. We liked it, even down to dealing with crew fatigue or hiring new meteorologists to predict the weather - it's just that every now and then all we wanted to do was race.
Luckily, there is another mode where you can just race the rallies and not worry about the team (more about this later). When you do head to the track, we can tell you that the performance is sharp. There's something exhilarating about having no mini-map and listening to your co-driver give you instructions. There are also arrows at the top of the screen that help you to follow the instructions of your number two, otherwise, it's all about your reactions on the track.
Something we like is the inclusion of the mid-rally repair session, where you can choose to fix your car for a time penalty or drive on in a damaged ride. It added an element of management that we thought was rather thought-provoking; repair your engine and you might stand a better chance in the next stage, but the overall time it takes to fix your car could lose you the race.