Have I ever mentioned how much I hate rally games? Seriously. That said, I have to admit that the time I’ve spent in WRC 9 is time well spent. As much as I prefer the raw speed of racing on a closed track the challenge of the tight and narrow courses of WRC 9 has grown on me.
It was difficult to change my driving style at first. I often found myself trying to go full out all the time. In WRC 9 you do have to get off the gas from time to time. My overall impression of the game is very good, despite the fact that the physics of the game leave me feeling like the cars aren’t weighty enough. That might be my only complaint about the physics.
Cars react well to things like loose gravel and mud puddles but when it comes to going airborne it doesn’t feel like the car hits the ground. Often it feels like a smooth landing in a Cessna. Three new rallies have been added this year; Kenya, New Zealand, and Japan, as well as over 15 classic cars and 100 special stages to try.
Let’s get into how it looks. There are a few improvements over WRC 8, mostly small tweaks in weather effects. The biggest visual complaint I had of WRC 8 was trees popping in from out of nowhere from time to time. In WRC 9 I haven’t noticed any pop ups at all. One thing came across to me as lazy though. Much of the game looks nearly identical to WRC 8, right down to the loading screens and garage and R&D spaces. Still, WRC 9 is gorgeous to look at with some very impressive lighting effects, especially coming through the trees.
Sound wise the game is very immersive from the engine noise to the shifting of gears to the sound of the gravel flying around in the undercarriage. The one area that the sound could have been better is variety in puddle noises. To me, every puddle sounds the same. Whether you drive through shallow puddles on pavement or deep puddles in dirt ruts. In the sound category also lies my biggest issue with rally games in general, and that is the pace notes. All too often they sound very robotic and I have a hard time understanding them. And I don’t mean that I just don’t know the terminology. That may have been true in the past but my rally vocabulary has gotten better the last few years writing for the Tavern. It’s just that they are read off so fast and so monotonous it becomes difficult to differentiate one from the next. I’m often tempted to turn them off and just wing it.
Gameplay for rally games is quite simple. Get from point A to point B as quickly as possible with as little damage as possible. Rallies are often held in stages with some time to do repairs. The total time for all stages is tallied and the lowest overall total time is the winner. While unlikely, it is possible to win a rally without winning a single stage.
Personally I find the game to be frustratingly difficult on a controller. The steering feels twitchy, the throttle is hard to control tactfully and is too easy to just squeeze the trigger full on. I suggest changing from the default layout as well. Too many times I found myself plunged into total darkness as I accidentally turned off my headlights in a night time stage.
Using a racing wheel, however, is an absolute blast no matter what time of day you’re running in. I didn’t really notice a huge difference in my performance whether running with an automatic transmission, using the paddle shifters on the wheel, or using the clutch with an H-pattern shifter. Any method you choose I’ll guarantee you have a good time if you’re going to be using a wheel although you may break a sweat.
Publisher Nacon and developer KT Racing have built a very solid Rally title with WRC 9, even though there aren’t many improvements over the last edition. It’s definitely a worthy investment for Rally fans, especially if you skipped last year’s WRC 8, though I’m not sure it’s worth upgrading straight away if you’re still plugging away at that title. At least not until a good sale comes along. While it does have some multiplayer modes, at the time of this writing I was unable to find any open lobbies. But to be fair most people probably prefer the career mode, because you really aren’t racing head to head anyway.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.