While I've become bored of Assetto Corsa and other racing games, I felt an awakening during the preview of the new EA Sports WRC title. I felt a strong hook, and it seemed that it would never become boring. So, when I was told that I would also get the chance to do a review of the game, I jumped at it.
When in doubt, flat outThe last time I played the game, I didn't get a sample of the new "Moments" feature. It's a very cool concept that feels like a trip down memory lane, with actual footage from older events to get you all enthusiastic about the upcoming challenge. The first Moment takes you back to the 1992 Finnish Rally and puts you in Colin McRae's shoes. Rolling the car didn't stop him from pushing faster and faster.
And even though Didier Auriol won the race, everyone was ecstatic about the Scottish man's performance. This was a brilliant move from EA Sports and Codemaster, and the fact that they plan to bring new challenges daily makes it even better. I failed the task miserably and decided to try the 2023 Iberia Rally, driving Dani Sordo's Hyundai.
It all went well until my codriver said: "Hard left, don't cut." I should've listened to him, as my inexplicable lack of faith (or maybe I wasn't paying attention?) led to terminal damage to the car, and I was out of the race. At this point, I decided to go back to school. After all, with no assists and the AI set at 50% difficulty, I could pick up a trick or two.
Group B was for menDeep down, I yearned to return to the Group B Audi and tear up the Swedish stages. For me, this is the best part of the game. I'll take any AWD or RWD car in the snow, and I'll never get bored of it. With the graphic settings on Ultra, it's nice to see snow falling, and the scenery is simply breathtaking. I know it can be challenging to look around when you're constantly sideways, so do yourself a favor and look at the replay.
I switched back to career mode and the seemingly harmless historic Peugeot. An asphalt stage with a lowered-power car feels like a walk in the park after the Swedish experience. As soon as I started relaxing, I crashed the car, and it was all downhill from here, literally and metaphorically. The second stage had me racing at night, and having poor visibility made my small-screen problem worse. Do yourself a favor and play on a big screen so you can adjust your steering and throttle inputs accordingly.
At least it was fun while I was at it, as the whole scene resembled one of the touges in Initial D- it might have been Irohazaka. I went back to the main menu and fiddled around with the builder for a bit. This is an excellent option whenever you become bored with all the cars in the game. Just be sure to use the proper layout, as it will determine your upcoming stage results. And the builder wouldn't have been complete without a livery editor. This allows you to recreate your dream rally car, which further makes sense when you use Photo Mode.
Faster, faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of deathI stalled the engine and barely made it out of the pit. I laughed as I realized I had forgotten to properly use the clutch, as if I had never driven a stick shift. Colin's Citroen is much faster than I thought it would be, and it all quickly turned into the most intense race of my entire life. I didn't know that this rally had such high-speed sections, and this is undoubtedly a "Go hard or go home" kind of game. I incurred a five-second penalty at one point but kept pushing like a maniac until the last moment. I finished 1.9 seconds behind the winner of the stage, which means I'm either getting good at this game or I was simply lucky.
But I've never felt so alive while playing a racing game before. At this point, I wanted to push my luck even further. So I started a new Quick Race, with a stage in Rally Scandia, driving the BMW M1 Procar Rally over snow. I knew this would be wild, and I didn't expect to leave the computer behind. As long as I didn't crash, I was in the lead. But RWD cars are quite twitchy on snow, and it takes a simple error to wipe you out of the game. But practice makes perfect, and I will keep training until crashing will be a thing of the past.
The last time I tried Photo Mode, I was slightly annoyed by the Preview notification on-screen and the counterintuitive functions. But I was stunned to discover that you can rewind the replay by simply turning the wheel. This is another brilliant feature, allowing you to select the exact scene where you want to take photos. It's funny that Photo Mode will allow you to choose the amount of dirt on the car.
ConclusionI haven't been as excited about a video game in 10 or maybe even 15 years. It provides a truly immersive experience, and it has made me think about trying the sport in real life, too. As addictive as it is right now, I'm sure it will be even better once playing in VR becomes available, and I'm eager to test my skills against my friends once they get their copy of the game.
The only way this game could be any better is if EA Sports introduced the Pikes Peak Hill Climb and associated vehicles. If that happens, this title could keep me entertained for years.