WRC 8 review: racing’s most underrated gaming franchise?
Kylotonn’s latest rally game boasts a revamped handling model and F1-inspired career mode
It’s been a long and arduous wait for racing game fans, but the World Rally Championship (WRC) franchise returns on Thursday after a two-year absence.
The series, developed by French gaming studio Kylotonn, puts players in the seats of today’s WRC drivers and tasks them with wrestling the current-generation of ultra-fast rally cars across a mix of tarmac, gravel and snowy stages.
Kylotonn’s rallying titles have always been particularly impressive, but they’ve been somewhat underrated in the racing game world owing to the popularity of Codemasters’ Dirt Rally franchise.
Will the new and improved WRC 8 finally put the series among the very best racing games on the market?
The Week reviews WRC 8
We trialled WRC 8 on an Xbox One X, which boosts the resolution up to 4K from 1080p and ups the graphical fidelity over a regular Xbox One. All consoles, including the PS4 and PS4 Pro, are locked at 30fps during gameplay and 60fps in the menus.
The game gets off to an impressive start, with a beautifully modelled Toyota Yaris WRC car greeting you as soon as you load up the game. Once you’re past the start screen, you’ll be able to get to grips with WRC 8’s new career mode, an area where Kylotonn appears to have focused most of its efforts.
Unlike WRC 7, where players simply go from rally to rally, the new game puts players into the shoes of both a rally driver and team manager. You’ll be in charge of hiring, firing and upgrading your team to get the very best out of your car. You can also sign yourself up for training courses to hone your skills behind the wheel of your team’s rally machine.
Another new feature is the upgrades menu, where you invest resource points into improving the performance of your rally car. It looks almost identical to the system developed by Codemasters for its F1 series, which is by no means a bad thing. The upgrades menu gives you something to strive for during rallies and adds a whole load of replay value to the game, solving one of WRC 7’s biggest pitfalls.
We were particularly impressed with Kylotonn’s attention to detail, an area that can make or break a racing game. For instance, the studio has included the Toyota Yaris WRC car that double world champion Marcus Gronholm raced during his one and only outing in Rally Finland. It’s a small touch, but it will no doubt be greatly appreciated by fans of both rallying and Gronholm.
The handling also has an element of nuance that was absent in previous games, making cars feel far more predictable. The handling model itself is commonly referred to as “sim-cade”, meaning it blends simulation elements with an arcade feel. Cars feel nimble and satisfyingly light, but you’ll need a few hours of practice to work your way through a stage without flying into the scenery.
WRC 8 isn’t a perfect game, though. The graphics and environments aren’t nearly as detailed as the ones you’ll find in Dirt Rally 2.0, which is a shame considering the game was in development for at least two years.
Another disappointment is the absence of a 60fps performance mode on the more powerful consoles. A higher frame rate is vital in racing games, where precision is key to shaving seconds off your stage times.
Nevertheless, WRC 8 is a strong rallying game that takes Kylotonn’s racing franchise in a bold new direction. It’s ideal for all manner of racing game fans looking to get behind the wheel of a rally machine - and it’s not nearly as intimidating as flinging a Group B monster through the snowy forests of Sweden in Codemasters’ Dirt Rally 2.0.
In fact, we’d argue that Kylotonn’s WRC franchise is now up there with the very best racing games on offer today.
- Stunning car models
- F1-inspired career mode
- Improved handling model
- Smooth menus
- Graphics look outdated compared to other racers
- No 60fps mode on Xbox One X or PS4 Pro
Where to pre-order and release date
WRC 8 can be pre-ordered from Amazon for £49.99, with the game set to launch on 5 September.