Despite the real season not going ahead as originally planned, fans are still getting a brand new WRC rally racing game this month. We check out WRC 9, developed by Kylotonn.
While nine seems like a high number in any franchise, this is actually the 16th game in the WRC series of racing games, with the series ‘rebooting’ their numbering scheme when Milestone took over ten years ago. Five years ago, Kylotonn took the reins, and this is their fifth entry into the franchise already. Though it’s a slightly subjective opinion, we feel that they’ve been getting consistently better, so we were eager to try WRC 9 as well.
As expected, WRC 9 builds on the foundations of last year’s game, and the heavily expanded career mode returns. Allowing you to build a career and rise through the ranks of the various WRC divisions until you reach the top tier and fight for the title, it’s a solid implementation of a career mode that is bound to hold your attention for many hours. This is, at least in part, thanks to the little side objectives and extra challenges you get, although some seem nonsensical in the sense that they only seem to exist for the sake of offering you an objective. Why would I refrain from using certain types of equipment if it wasn’t for the objective you just gave me. In an otherwise fairly realistic depiction of racing and team management, these can seem silly. From that perspective, being confronted with challenging weather conditions is far more interesting and feels like a more natural fit to the campaign.
Audiovisually, building on the foundations of last year’s game means that things aren’t strikingly different this time around, but my guess is that we won’t see big leaps forward in this area until we get a new console generation – optimizations for which should be coming to WRC 9 as well. For now, there are subtle improvements, which are more or less noticeable depending on which track and which conditions you pick. Some tracks are pretty bare, while others have some new detail in their scenery but unless you see the games side by side you won’t notice a big leap. One exception, however, is racing at sunrise – which looks absolutely gorgeous no matter which track you’re on.
The big leap forward this year is in how the cars handle, which now feels much closer to the industry-leading Dirt Rally and less arcade-like than previous Kylotonn WRC games did. You’ll notice big differences in power and weight when you switch between classes in the career mode, and the experience works very well using a standard gamepad as well – though the game also supports steering wheels.
Because of the pandemic-influenced season, the roster of tracks isn’t entirely accurate, but this is something that’s easy to forgive when taking global affairs into account. You still get all the drivers and cars and a multitude of classes though, and new locations in Japan, Kenya and New Zealand have been included as well. Also new is the Clubs mode, which lets players set up the parameters for their own mini-championship – which can then be shared with others online. As such, WRC 9 takes another step forward in the online department.
There are a few technical issues in the release build of the game though, including scenery elements that are out of place and a AI skill level that feels inconsistent. Luckily there’s room for these things to be addressed post-release, because the developer has already indicated that we’ll be seeing new content and features in the coming weeks and months. Another slight improvement then, and we can’t wait and see what next year’s version is like.