WRC 7 is the latest instalment in the World Rally Championship series published by Bigben Interactive, giving us the chance to chase our dreams of being a rally legend, from humble beginnings in the WRC junior series, all the way through to the monstrous WRC cars following the new 2017 regulations.
WRC 7 features all the modes you can expect from a modern racing title, with single race, custom championships, live events and full multiplayer. The games most attractive mode however has to be the game’s career mode. The career starts you off with 3 offers from Junior WRC teams, each with their own goals you can choose from based upon your driving style. One team has no regard for car damage as long as you’re at the front, while another wishes you to put damage prevention above all else. The third team sits as a nice middle ground between the two. You’ll be signing a 2 year contract taking you through the events of the JWRC, giving you a nice insight to the structure of a rally event, from Goliath 18km stages, down to tight, technical special stages.
You’ll have your own goals to achieve at each rally, and it is through the accomplishment of these that you progress your career. Completing three challenges in your first season will grant you some new contract offers, giving you the choice to stay within Junior WRC or move on up to the WRC 2 class, featuring the ever popular R5 rally cars (which for reference, are the top flight modern rally cars featured in Dirt 4). Then the cycle repeats. The higher the tier you race in the more difficult the challenge. This is where the approach of multiple events with a few stages does give you quite a repetitive experience, with the special stages quickly becoming an article of memory.
Throughout your career you’ll be accompanied by your trusty co-driver, who will be barking the upcoming corners at you, with varying degrees of precision. This is an issue I’ve had with multiple rally titles. Despite the offering of altering the note pacing to arrive sooner or later in relation to the corner in question, they never seem to keep a consistent pace to the notes offered. Through faster sections you can feel like you’re hearing the corner on the Apex, through slower sections you feel like you’re thinking 6 corners down the road. Despite various adjustments to timing, it just never quite sat right with me. The game uses a 1-9 system, which offers I nice introduction of detail, however harsh calls of ‘BRAKE’ just felt jarring and unnaturally spoken. The pace notes often get lost in the games sound, and really require some sound balancing to get them to sit nicely. I tried this though a few devices to make sure it wasn’t a hardware issue, but no matter what I tried I found the same.
WRC 7’s sound overall is a little bit of a let down, and really does fall behind its competition. The game sounds generally muted, almost over compressed. The cars lack that thunderous burble that you expect from even the modestly powered Junior cars, and with the distinct lack of anything clear in the way of turbo whine, the experience really lost some immersion. The cars sound somewhat electronic, and could do with sounding a little more raw and mechanical. The sound of the car bottoming out over jumps is fantastic however, with a nice echo that gives the impression of the sound reverberating around the cabin.
Visually, WRC 7 is a vast improvement on the previous title. The car models look polished, the drivers and engineers are very nicely rendered, and the surface of the stages is most definitely the crown jewel. The game isn’t going to be winning any visual awards however. While a much-needed improvement upon the previous title, the game still lags behind other competing titles when it comes to graphical fidelity. The screenshots show a lot of snow and dirt being thrown by the cars as they traverse the stage, yet even in chase cam, it just feels lacking. The ‘chased by a dirt cloud’ feeling that many associate with rally, and which was ever-present in the Dirt series, is not replicated here. I feel as if they’ve gone for a slightly more realistic approach here, but just underdone the effect. The game benefits from some nice lighting In places, with the darkness of entering tunnels well executed, while the effect of the low evening sun peering through the trees can seem sporadic and flashy, as opposed to natural, smooth transitions. The night stages pose a real challenge, with pitch darkness enveloping the night stages of rallies like Monte Carlo, and the moon providing some assistance on the more open rallies like Poland.
WRC 7 features a nicely overhauled physics engine, with the team working with rally engineers on the physics engine for the title. The physics perform a lot nicer than I expected, with the cars breaking traction and finding grip on gravel with a great degree of accuracy. The same can be said for the ice and snow stages, however the tarmac rallies feel a little too loose in places. The cars behave nicely with the tires Cleary wearing, extremely noticeable in the R2 Fiesta, as the front wheel drive car becomes a little more prone to sliding wide on all 4 wheels than you’d expect as the rear tires lose the grip, and the front tires wear even harder due to the impact of the drivetrain. This all makes the tire choice on a rally actually important, if you’re not one who’s keen on adapting your driving as the tires wear, you might want to be avoiding the soft’s in exchange for the slower yet more durable hard compound.
Sadly the new development in the physics engine is let down by rather mediocre force feedback, which really lacks the detail and depth to portray all that the new physics have to offer. The cars steering often felt vague, leading to frequent over and under correcting when the car got lose, with that on the edge feeling unfortunately missing when tearing through stages at pace. This is unfortunately the same on both controller and on a wheel (tested with a Thrustmaster TMX) and left the driving experience to feel a little lacklustre. It’s passable don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t have that pick up and go feeling that I got when driving Dirt 4 or Dirt Rally. With a just a little more detail in the force feedback the new physics would feel fantastic, sadly they end up feeling a little underwhelming.
WRC 7 could do with some enhancements in the control and interface department, with some irritating wheel compatibility issues plaguing the first few hours of gameplay. The absences of any clutch override featured in the Dirt series was a bit of a let down, feeling like some form of control was being taken away. The car set-up menus lack some of the detail on offer in other titles, and lack the depth of explanation that other titles have been providing for years. The game’s menus work well and run smoothly, providing a clean, attractive presentation.
Overall WRC 7 is a fantastic title for fans of the World Rally Championship and the higher level of international rally in the modern-day. The career mode feels accomplished, however some more immersive elements wouldn’t go unappreciated. The games new physics is nice but let down by some lacklustre force feedback and limiting controls. Those after a more general, all around rally experience will want to look elsewhere, but those after a clean-cut experience of the WRC will find themselves satisfied.
WRC 7 is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.