I have to admit I had my doubts: Would Codemasters lose its essence by putting EA Sports in the foreground? Would we end up with a game full of “cards” but with car parts? Would it be limited, requiring DLCs to access all the challenges?
The answer is simple. In fact, we’re facing their best rally game. A direct heir to their most classic tradition in this type of driving game, leaving aside its more “arcade” aspect to bring us the most comprehensive game made to date in the rally genre.
Everything you imagine in a rally game, it’s here
It’s amazing to hear about your journey through Codemasters’ rally games, starting from the classic Colin McRae Rally. The evolution from that point to their more ambitious creations, splitting between the Americanized off-road competitions (Dirt) and the classic European stage-based rally games, like the outstanding simulation in Dirt Rally and its sequel, is quite a journey.
For this particular game, Codemasters seems to have amalgamated all the experience gained from their other games, especially the F1 series, presenting us with more than just a rally game—it’s an entire experience. The career mode is a prime example. It’s more comprehensive than anything we’ve seen before, with divisions, upgrade management, and even the ability to create our own rally car, akin to what Colin McRae did with his team.
But there’s more: if the career mode isn’t your cup of tea, there are other equally noteworthy modes like championships, individual stages, and yes, online modes as well. I can’t miss mentioning a specific mode called “Moments,” which I particularly enjoyed. Moments mode immerses you in historical rally situations, perfectly recreated to showcase the sheer difficulty depending on the car or the track.
The Simulation: as challenging as Dirt Rally or as arcade-like as Dirt
When you get behind the wheel, there’s something the game invites you to do first: a test to determine your level of difficulty or simulation. In this game, you decide if you want an experience closer to Dirt Rally, where simulation is prioritized to the maximum, or more in line with Dirt, where there’s a bit more simplified driving, although the feeling remains that of driving a rally car.
We need to talk about three main changes when comparing it to other games in the series: the championship’s extension, stage length, and driving.
Regarding the first aspect, Codemasters, just like in the F1 games, now allows extending rallies to the actual size of real tests. This means we can stretch it over several days and stages rather than summarizing it in a couple of stages. This requires more dedication from fans – which shouldn’t be a problem for rally enthusiasts – and, above all, better management of everything related to the car.
With a greater number of stages, having enough tires, time for breakdowns, or even tires, becomes a challenge. We’re talking about going from 2 stages to 7 stages, so the difficulty increases considerably, resembling much more what a real rally is like, where you have more than one stage without being able to stop for mechanical checks, tires, etc.
However, what we’ve discussed so far is somewhat “easy” to execute. It’s very different when we focus on the stages themselves. Because the stages are gigantic. This is where EA Sports WRC stands out as by far the best rally game I’ve seen in a long time. Some of the stages are so vast that just one of them can take you between 10 and 15 minutes to complete, and they are exceptionally well-detailed and challenging that you might end up in trouble if you’re not careful.
Additionally, there’s the variety of stages because absolutely all the rallies from the world championship are included. This means you’ll be able to “enjoy” all surfaces, and I put that in quotes because driving on each surface isn’t easy.
Asphalt offers a driving experience that might seem familiar, but in rally cars with very tight curves and narrow roads, it’s a very different world from when you play on a racing simulator on a circuit. But within the same game, and this is where the magic of simulation comes in, you can clearly feel how the car drifts and slides according to the different surfaces.
Not only that, but also how the tire behaves depending on the surface. In this aspect, we’ve noticed significant improvements compared to its direct predecessor, Dirt Rally 2.0, where the differences between wet gravel and dry gravel weren’t as noticeable, or in the case of asphalt sections, the behavior wasn’t as realistic as we wanted.
The third point – which I briefly mentioned – is how our rally car handles, and again, here we have an incredibly diverse range of cars. Not only do we have the current championship cars, but also classics like the Lancia Delta, the Subaru Impreza, or the incredible R5 Turbo, among others. And these cars aren’t just a simple “skin”; there are variations in driving each of these machines.
Furthermore, it’s worth mentioning that driving them, even in the aspect with less “simulation,” is worthy of the best drivers. While playing with all the assists makes it quite accessible, driving through some of the stages can really test your patience if you’re not careful. As an example from my own experience, I thought Finland would be a real torture – I never did well on snow – but it was almost a breeze compared to the Acropolis rally, where even a slight oversteer could render the car completely unrecoverable.
Because EA Sports WRC stands out as one of the best and most accessible rally simulations we’ve seen, but it’s also worthy of the most demanding drivers when we push the simulation level to the maximum.
The visual aspect: we were expecting even more
A few years ago, Codemasters made the decision to abandon their proprietary graphics engine and start using the Unreal Engine for their games. We were curious about how it would fare with EA Sports WRC, and there are both good and bad news. The positives lie in the scale and detail of the stages, as well as the density of elements that make this rally game a unique experience.
However, there are two elements that have disappointed us. Firstly, the typical popping of the Unreal Engine that occasionally occurs – even if it’s right at the start of a stage – and secondly, occasional slight stutters that can disrupt your gameplay at certain moments. On another note – and this might be getting overly nitpicky – the volumetric smoke in some stages doesn’t seem realistic and feels lacking at times.
Regarding the sound department, it’s notable, but once again, Codemasters repeats mistakes from other games, such as the repetition of certain phrases in career modes. Hearing them once or twice isn’t an issue, but they’re repeated almost every stage or every time we achieve an objective. On the notably positive side, I can’t help but highlight how distinct the engine sounds are for each car and the incredible work on the co-driver’s instructions.
The ultimate rally game
EA Sports WRC is, without a doubt, the ultimate rally game experience. It’s not perfect, but it’s VERY close. Its variety of modes, the well-crafted career mode, the vast array of rally cars that offer distinct feelings, and above all, the length of the rallies and stages, make it an absolutely essential game for any fan of this sport.
Its minor flaws do not tarnish an overall impressive result, and I’ll continue playing it eagerly until its next installment arrives.