We play video games so that we can escape reality, so we can become someone else, try something else and do something else outside of our normal lives. We also sometimes play video games because of its beautiful graphics, amazing depiction of reality and powerful consequences of decision-making. Kylotonn has made WRC 8 FIA World Rally Championship and it is easily the most realistic rally/racing game I’ve ever played, for better or for worse. It may not be the most perfect In visuals or have the vast number of modern and classic cars compared to others, but the interaction with management and crew that comes with being a real life race car driver takes this game far above the others while every moment behind the wheel feel like driving a real car.
In an open world game, there is normally a main story line and branching side quests that allow you to get to the ending anyway you want while shaping your character in various ways. I would compare WRC 8 to a fantastic open-world RPG because of the branching activities that a player can choose to do. A player beings a new career either at a beginner, intermediate or advanced level. Then through a number of “days,” you choose to either train, race, rally or rest to best maximize your team’s experience, money earning while keeping everyone well rested and in good spirits. Although there is no embodiment of a character (the player), all these things in balancing a working team and crew comes through various interactions with your emails, conversations about recruiting new crew members and negotiating with your mechanic what to repair etc. All this makes your career seem very real and tangible, it feels like your story, your options and your path, delicate and important. Every single little decision affects your career very heavily and choosing the wrong or right things can put you in terrible situations or lead your team to glorious victory.
As much fun as all of the team management and career building is, this game absolutely relies on whether it is a good driving simulator. And without a doubt, it is the most realistic driving experience I’ve had other than actually being in a car. There were times, honestly, where I got the same feelings and worries that I would while driving a real car while just sitting on my couch holding my controller.
The first thing to address is the actual driving itself, the steering and movement. All the controller inputs feel seamless to the car on screen, in other words, very pull of the wheel, tap of the break or smash of the accelerator felt perfect. The different wheels, the different terrains and even the slightest amount of moisture, snow or dirt on the ground made a difference and the player can feel that as they drive. The level of detail in everything is astounding. It didn’t matter if I was driving a Ford Fiesta, a Lancia Stratos or a Citroen C3 R5, each car felt like a real driving experience while being unique. I can’t explain how much this game felt like I was driving a real car. This is both very impressive and somewhat scary because of how delicate cars were at times. I am clearly much more of an arcade racer, but can easily appreciate the unbelievably realistic gameplay here and see how truly impressive it is.
The maps are all very unique and keep a player punishingly engaged. This is not a casual game at all. The tracks range from snowy mountains to gravel loops. Each track feels like it tests a player in a very specific way, either by having lots of sharp, short turns or longs stretches with jumps and everything mixed and in between. The tracks always felt fresh and difficult while mostly feeling fair.
The weather and different terrains or conditions on the streets became far more important than I imagined. Those things make you consider various many things as one would do in real life. In other recent games, a player could just push through poor weather conditions or differing track types like mud or snow, but not in this game. One must carefully consider every small change and engage accordingly to all the information given to the player. It may seem overwhelming or excessively brutal at first, but this game pushes your ability to be more technically perfect and reach higher levels of reaction time and judgment.
In addition to their actual driving weather conditions and varied tracks, this game has something very unique compared to other racing games not of this genre. There is a constant guide while driving that lets you know of upcoming turns, their distance, their angle and what will be coming up after the next turn. I found it to be extremely accurate for the most part, but there were times that I felt some turns should’ve been expressed in a different way or earlier, leaving me to runoff the road or having to stop my car abruptly so I didn’t smash into a wall. But overall I felt like there was a real person talking to me and giving me a very specific instructions on how to best approach every single turn in a race, some other voice options would have been nice though.
As mentioned above, the career mode is the main activity for this game. There is an incredible and almost unreasonable amount of detail and tasks to take care of while playing this “racing game.“ In the career mode, players must take care of the crew, which includes things like a mechanic, a meteorologist, physical therapist and a few others jobs. All of these different crew members help keep your car well tuned, find good events to participate in and predict the weather conditions and many other things. At first this all seems like a lot, recruiting, paying them, and having to let them rest or replacing them with other crew members, but the depth and very direct to connection to performance in actual races made it an interesting juggling routine. I began to care about their morale and make sure I have enough money to pay them as much as actually driving well and trying to win. My career and progressing in the career became my motivation for winning races, not just an exhilarating desire to be first. I was surprised at how much I cared about keeping my team afloat. Even things like responding to emails and other things seemed just as important as actually learning how to drive in the game.
Along with the crew management the other major part of the career mode is the player’s (for lack of a better term) ability trees. As a player progresses in their career they will grow in level and earn a development point which can be used in various ways, in either the team section, the crew, the performance, or the reliability section. Each of the sections have various small ability trees with bonuses like gaining more money at the end of an event or that crew members will fatigue less after event. These various abilities have huge impacts and make the experience more personal and focused on what players wants to do and how a player wants to play.
The game does also come with a great split-screen mode, players do not physically interact or share the same space but simultaneously race down the mountain or push through a track as fast as possible. The online modes and various rally activities that are shared by community add a fair amount of variety and activity outside of the main campaign, however they never felt nearly as important or interesting as my personal career journey.
I had mentioned that the game does not look as good as some of its other counterparts currently. But that in no way means that it doesn’t look amazing. The tracks and environmental interactions with snow or rain or sunshine all feel and look as if it was filmed and not computer generated. The cars look great on the outside and the damage on the cars looks great. The only sections that looks lackluster are the car interiors. They are passable, but the detail, texturing and overall design on the inside of the car clearly has less attention than everywhere else.
All of the cars sound just like they would in real life. Even being in different positions, inside the car, in front of the car or far behind the car all sounded real no matter what. The crispy crunch of the car smashing into trees or the loud rumble of tires over rocky gravel all sounded as if I was experiencing it in my own car (almost too loud and noisy in the car, but that is realistic).
The online and split screen modes would keep a player busy once in a while, but choosing to start over a career and focus on various team members, abilities and trying again and again to reach higher and higher statuses in the World Rally Championship will keep players and fans of this genre very busy for a long time. After the initial breakthrough, the difficulty wall and very specific type of gameplay in management, the game is extremely entertaining and easy to pick up and start up a new career. It is fun to see your interactions with the new crews and efforts to make the best team as possible while growing a personal career.
What It Could Have Done Better
The biggest issue with the game is the difficulty level. This is unlike other racing games obviously, but it is still very demanding. General tutorials for an even easier career mode would’ve been very welcome so that players who are new to the genre could still enjoy and understand what is happening in the game.
The racing as fast as possible with terrifying turns on the edges of mountains while relying solely on a voice telling you what to do can be extremely difficult. The reliance on a voice telling you all of your turns and how to engage them can be very foreign to new players, and for those who aren’t gamers or don’t play racing games very much, WRC 8 can be extremely punishing or almost unplayable.
Kylotonn shouldn’t dumb down the difficulty. But they could allow some settings that would help a player in free play, a “super easy” career mode and split-screen making turns or accelerating and decelerating at the right times with more clear instructions that general audiences .
Never would I have expected to care so much about my physical therapist and meteorologist in a racing game. Never would I expected seeing 10% humidity and possible light rainfall worry me so much (more in this game than real life). Never would I have expected to find so much enjoyment in going 30 mph in a Ford Fiesta down the snowy hill then planning to pay crew $10,000 and let them sleep for a day. This game is a testament to the power and importance in detail. WRC gives everything that a person could imagine or want in managing and having a true Rally Car career. It may be brutal and too realistic at times, but there is a real gem of an experience in this game.