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WRC 9 review: Serious sim racers only, please!

With COVID-19 upending the 2020 race calendar, motorsports enthusiasts have been forced to stay home while they painfully witness the cancellation of one racing event after another.

WRC 9, available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC (from the Epic Games Store), offers an immediate reprieve to racers who can’t hit the race track, and sim racers looking for the next challenge.

Therein lies the beauty of WRC 9, which features a host of gorgeous landscapes sprinkled throughout the world. Here, quarantined motorheads can put the pedal to the metal while navigating nasty hairpins, twisty roads, quick straights, and tight corners.

A big plus of WRC 9 is how it celebrates the best of the FIA World Rally Championship. But it is incredibly challenging, and make no mistake – This incarnation of the WRC series is not for the faint of heart.

I struggled to make headway with my dainty PS4 Dualshock controller as steering the car was painfully difficult to master. It was impossible to navigate gentle turns without oversteering or understeering.

Unlike a traditional steering wheel where one can maintain an angle by holding the steering wheel in place, the same painlessly fluid action on a steering wheel was simply insurmountable on a controller. I could not maintain a consistent turning angle because the in-game steering wheel would rapidly revert to the neutral position at the slightest adjustment.

ChainsawSGP wrestles with his PS4 controller in this comedy of errors!

If that wasn’t enough, mastering the game takes real dedication. A key difference between rallies and permanent circuit driving is that rally courses are significantly longer. Perfecting a crucial corner might shave a second or two off your race time, but that doesn’t count for much on a 10km course with more than a hundred corners. A course of that length could take about 10 minutes to clear… And another 4 retries to gradually improve your time.

I fell short, almost always, and clocked times that often placed me in dead last, or somewhere in the middle of the pack in the best of times. And this was only compared to the NPCs. This tragedy was undoubtedly a deflating and humiliating experience.

The shortened track in Sardegna was a pleasure to drive, mainly because I achieved my personal best… Of a fifth position. :/

Yet, I was pleasantly surprised that I was not alone! In the first week after the game was released, I realized that winning rallies was particularly rare. Only 3.5% of gamers won in Turkey, 4.7% did in Japan, and 7.8% triumphed in Argentina. The easiest PS4 trophy for winning a rally saw just 44.5% of gamers emerging victorious in Sweden.

Whilst largely bug-free, I did run into a couple of issues with the game. I needed to restart the game whenever I resumed it a day or two later, because it lost its connection to the server and couldn’t seamlessly restore it. There was also an instance where the sound was cut off midway through a course, and the game crashed soon after, ruining that stage of my rally. Overall, these were minor issues compared to my never-ending rodeo with the controller.

This rally started innocently enough, but a sudden loss of audio was soon followed by the game crashing out altogether. Fortunately, such incidents were rare.

Nonetheless, WRC 9 has some serious positives, such as the multitude of game modes offered. These include daily and weekly online challenges, quick play rallies that allow racers to get into the thick of action, training and challenge modes to help newcomers incrementally improve their sim driving skills, and the obligatory “Career” mode that comprehensively covers all modes of play for gamers to experience the ups and downs of entire seasons in the WRC.

My favourite game mode was the Extreme Conditions challenge, where you race against time, in a beaten up car, in the middle of the night. To make matters worse, you start in the midst of a thunderstorm, on a thoroughly flooded track, somewhere in the wilderness, with your headlamps affording you the visibility of a myopic seabass.

My only success in WRC 9 came in the form of the Extreme Conditions challenge, which is particularly ironic given that I failed at everything else.

All things considered, this is a good game that is best enjoyed with a proper steering wheel and pedals. Serious sim racers will appreciate the numerous game modes, but the barrier to entry for casual gamers playing on their laughably inadequate controllers squarely places WRC 9 in a niche market.

That said, dedicated sim racers who have already flocked to WRC 9 certainly know how to execute their Scandinavian flicks! I’ll leave you with a video on how PM_DraZyBa cruises through Monte-Carlo to grab his morning coffee.

Here’s how a true expert, PM_DraZyBa, executes a proper run through Monte-Carlo.

SataySauce

Guest writer for Here Be Geeks. SataySauce was once active in the online gaming community but now prefers to spend his gaming time offline so that young punks don't chew him off for being a n00b. He believes he is a geek at heart because he responded with a resounding "Yes!" when asked whether he considered himself a geek during his first job interview.

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