Full of thrills and spills, WRC 9 aims to put players in the driver seat of the world’s most advanced rally cars to conquer harrowing rally stages across the world. As the only rally game carrying the official WRC license, WRC 9 offers fans the chance to live out their high-speed dreams with real-life drivers and teams. This year’s edition delivers a layer of refinement for the big improvements to the physics and driving models advancement from the previous game while including a few more rally events to match the real-life race calendar.
The art of driving out of control
You have to be a little crazy to participate in motorsports competition. After all, piloting a motorized vehicle while pushing its mechanical limits presents a fair amount of danger, even when done under closed track conditions. Anything from simple driver error, mechanical failure, or changing track conditions can lead to catastrophic consequences. It takes a certain type of person with a special mindset to filter out the potential danger and compete at the highest levels, but even those folks think professional rally racers are crazy and for good reason.
Competing at the highest levels of rally is insanely dangerous as victory can really only be achieved if the car teeters on the edge of disaster for an entire stage. Most times, there are no safety barriers, only trees, boulders, or cliffs awaiting those who misjudge a corner at breakneck speeds. The stages come at participants so quickly that co-drivers must ride along and rapidly relay information to the drivers in a constant stream of rally gibberish in order for the fastest possible times to be achieved. Predictably, being able to manage this amount of stress and expeditiously pilot a rally car to the end of a stage is exhilarating.
WRC 9 does an admirable job of translating the anxiety and excitement of rally to the digital realm. The driving model returns from WRC 8 with some small refinements to physics and the like, which should please returning fans. This year’s game takes the opportunity to flesh out the package with more features and content. The most important additions are the three new rallies, located in Japan, New Zealand, and Kenya. The Kenyan rally in particular is a welcome addition thanks to its stages featuring wide-open sections unique to the location. Most rally stages are no wider than a typical road (or even smaller on off-road stages) but the sprawling sections of the Kenyan rally offer their own unique challenge and are a welcome change of pace. At launch, WRC 9 has just over 100 different rally stages available, so finding places to drive is no issue.
Perhaps the biggest selling point is the integration of the official WRC license. There are 52 real-life WRC teams in the game across the WRC, Junior WRC, WRC 2, and WRC 3 series. Loads of the real-life cars are available for use as well. Rally fanatics will be happy to hear that WRC 9 further expands its collection of classic rally cars with the 1984 Audi Quattro A2, 1999 Toyota Corolla, 2005 Citroen Xsara WRC, and 2007 Ford Focus, bringing the total number of classics up to fifteen. The Career Mode from WRC 8 returns mostly unchanged and gives players the chance to participate in all parts of running a major rally team. Offline players will likely spend the most time here and its inclusion is welcome, especially considering no comparable mode exists in Dirt Rally, the series’ main competitor.
The visual presentation of WRC 9 is very similar to its most recent predecessor, though it does pack a few new wrinkles. DirectX 12 support has been added for the PC version of the game, which makes better use of modern CPUs (and likely lays the groundwork for next-gen console versions). Each of the rally stages has a unique look and the graphical effects like dust particles work in tandem with environmental art to help sell the immersion that you are in these cars.
Night driving is probably the most visually appealing part of WRC 9, with bright highlights and good shadow projection. Rainy evenings, in particular, stand out. That said, the overall look borders on bland, but it gets the job done. The depth of field effect on replays is particularly bad, only helping to make the game look worse than it does during live racing. The audio presentation does nothing to stand out on its own, but the engine sounds good and you can clearly hear your co-driver’s information, so it all works.
The front-end menus are still a sore spot. While they look okay at a glance, navigating them with a mouse and keyboard leaves much to be desired. The mouse works on some things and not others. Custom configuring controllers or wheel setups is needlessly involved compared to any other modern racing title, though thankfully you really only need to go through the process when you first start playing.
While it's not exactly a kick in the pants, WRC 9 manages to build on the solid foundation of WRC 8 and simply give players more to do, which is never a bad thing. The WRC license is a big deal and the roadmap for post-release support looks promising with new rallies slated to arrive by year’s end. It certainly won’t win any beauty contests and rough edges abound, but when things come together, it can turn your knuckles white with fear. Isn’t that what we want from a rally experience in the first place? 8/10 hay bale chicanes
This review is based on the PC Epic Games Store release. The product key was provided by the publisher for review consideration. WRC 9 is available now on PC, Xbox One, and PS4. It will be available later this year on Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X, and PS5.
- Solid driving model and physics
- WRC license
- New rallies for 2020
- Solid career mode returns
- Lackluster visuals
- Poorly designed menus & keybinding