If you go back about 15 years in time, the rally racing genre was all about the name Colin McRae and the games that Codemasters built around that name. Well-received and commercially successful, the game later spawned spin-offs like the Dirt games and still has the original developers working on new games in the genre. Today, however, there is more choice for the gamer – with the WRC franchise now firmly established and, now, the release of Sebastien Loeb Rally EVO. Having a choice, as it turns out, is a good thing.
The WRC series is relevant to this release in more ways than one, since it’s not just about diversity in the genre. Before Kylotonn took over development duties for WRC 5, developer MileStone was responsible for a handful of WRC games as well. Now with Bandai Namco, MileStone is staying loyal to the rally genre with Sébastien Loeb Rally EVO, loosely based around the career of one of the world’s most successful rally racers of all time.
The best way to look at Sébastien Loeb Rally EVO, with all the competition currently on the market, is to compare it to games like WRC 5 and Dirty Rally. Though all three deal with rally racing, they are distinctly different in their approach towards the sport. Dirty Rally is for the purist, and aims to simulate the sport as accurate as possible, whereas WRC 5 is much more arcade-oriented – making it far more accessible for novices and casual racers. Sébastien Loeb Rally EVO sits comfortably in the middle of that spectrum, offering a more realistic approach to rally racing than WRC 5 does but never being as ‘hardcore’ as Dirt Rally.
In terms of graphics and overall presentation, the game is comparable to WRC 5 but falls a bit short of the mark when compared to Dirt Rally – though that is not yet available for consoles and we haven’t seen it in action on a PS4 or Xbox One. Although designed from the ground up for next/current gen consoles and PCs, Sébastien Loeb Rally EVO isn’t the graphical leap you’d expect when comparing it to MileStone’s WRC 4 – their previous rally racing game which came out for last gen consoles as well. In terms of the visual simulation, the approach is more arcade-like – which makes driving a little easier and more accessible. Compare this to a video of Dirt Rally and you’ll see what I mean: the driving experience there is as shaky as you’d expect from the real thing, while Sébastien Loeb Rally EVO offers a smoother and less difficult drive.
The Loeb name also echoes through in the gameplay, with a career mode and several special “Loeb challenges” offering diversity that will add to the game’s lasting appeal. Where older rally games didn’t offer much in addition to time trial races, Sébastien Loeb Rally EVO has a wide collection of (multi-part) events to choose some – most of which will also unlock new cars/content for you upon completion.
The controls are smooth, with the option to use a steering wheel for the real driving enthusiasts. This makes the game an excellent choice for those who prefer a more sim-based approach than WRC 5 offers, but feel like Dirt Rally is a bit too daunting. In that sense, Sébastien Loeb Rally EVO is the perfect middle ground. It’s not revolutionary in any way, but it echoes the sport’s challenging nature pretty well without scaring you away. There was definitely a place in the market for another rally game, and this is it.