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World Rally Championship
Review By: Josh Fishburn
 
Developer:  Evolution Studios
Publisher:  Bam! Entertainment
# Of Players:  1-2
Genre:  Racing
ESRB:  Everyone
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  10-14-03

Before delving into this review, I have a confession to make.  I have a closet fantasy to become a rally racer.  There is something romantic about rallying, the race against the clock and thus against yourself, the symbiotic relationship between pilot and co-pilot, and the astonishing variations in terrain.  World Rally Championship (WRC) really starts out with a bang, with some very impressive footage of rally feats and follies.  It continues its run with a die-hard push for authenticity throughout.  Using great presentation, a large selection of courses, cars, and drivers, unlockable bonuses, and most importantly exciting driving, WRC stakes its claim as the best Rally racer that PS2 has to offer.

As I alluded to before, the presentation of this game is very striking.  The opening video is a great introduction to the excitement of rallying, both for the drivers and the fans standing by the roadside.  The game modes are pretty standard, you have a world championship mode, single rally, time trial, versus, and bonus materials (unlockable tracks, movies, etc.)  The meat of the game is the WRC.  Select an officially licensed car and driving team, and you are off to tour the World Rally circuit, 14 of the most treacherous runs in the world.  Before each individual rally, the game gives a nice video introduction of each course, with a discussion of the unique characteristics of the rally.  Before each individual race, you can adjust settings on your car (gear ratio, brake strength, steering, tires, and suspension) to three different levels.  At the beginning of each rally you have 2 test runs, or shakedowns, in order to tweak your settings.  The game sets the most appropriate settings for you before each race, and I found that sticking with those was usually the best bet, but there is still room to customize for you meddlers out there.

The game gets interesting when you actually start racing.  I have played a few rally games before, mostly the Colin McRae series, and I have to say that WRC nails the terrain effects cold, even better than Colin.  I really felt the difference when switching from tarmac to dirt to snow to mud.  The controls in this game are absolutely spot-on.  After only a few races they felt second nature.  The difficulty level is subjective, which is where it gets interesting.  This game will be very difficult if you just try and drive; listening to your co-pilotís directions is essential.  I found myself trying to drive solo on a few occasions and my times clearly suffered.  Your co-pilot will show you the course, and you can see it ahead, but if you donít control your speed it is easy to fly off course.  In this case the game gives you three seconds to get back on course and at that point it resets you on the course at a complete stop.  The challenge of the game lies in learning how to use the brake and handbrake effectively to slide through those nasty turns.  Falling and/or crashing will also bring damage to your car, sometimes greatly degrading its performance to the point where you are permanently drifting in one direction.  This makes completing the rally in a short time nearly impossible and is obviously an incentive to avoid blistering through with reckless abandon.

While the graphics in some areas are a little bland, these areas are quickly forgotten when the incredible attention to detail shines through.  Once again, authenticity is the key here.  Each race starts with a view of you and your co-pilot preparing in the cockpit.  WRC also offers plenty of different views in the one-player mode, with a behind the car, hood, ground, and cockpit view (this one being my favorite).  Each one looks great with the exception of the view behind the car, which highlights the gameís greatest graphical flaw.  Although the car models and environments look great, they just donít mesh.  The car seems to be floating above the ground, and bounces around as one unit instead of absorbing shock on each individual wheel.  This is disappointing, but since I used the cockpit view it did not affect my game at all.  The cockpit view provides a thrill because you get a narrow view, broken windshields, wiper blades in the rain, and annoying sunlight during the day, all making for an authentic and more difficult driving experience.

The menu and in game music is pretty good, a mix of techno and rock for the most part.  The sound effects are also very good, albeit a little uneven.  Sometimes parts breaking on your car sound just as loud as the dirt underneath, when they should be measurably louder, but this is just nitpicking.  Each co-pilot has a different voice (whether they are provided by the real-life co-pilot I could not find out), and the car creaks and slides like it should.  You will also hear the fans cheering for you when you drive by, another nice touch.

HIGHS:

  • Authentic, officially licensed WRC cars, drivers, and courses
  • Attention to detail
  • Near-perfect control
  • Unlockable tracks and extras

LOWS:

  • Weird, ďfloatyĒ effect when viewing the action from behind the car
  • Graphics are sometimes bland
  • Uneven sound effects at times

FINAL VERDICT:

If I drove from behind the car all the time, the floating effect of the graphics would get to me, as would the fact that the car reacts as a whole to the bumps and jumps.  This is the only glaring flaw I see with the game; an incomplete physics model perhaps?  The most important aspect, the actual racing, is quite tense and exciting even though you are racing only against a clock.  This tells me that Evolution Studios really got it right on this one.  The huge variety of tracks and terrains is overwhelming; I canít even imagine the time that went into recreating the 14 rallies, 5 sections each.  Top this off with a nice variety of cars, a perfect mix of arcade and simulation gameplay, and an official license, and you have yourself a very complete rally game.

Overall Score: 8.8

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