Codemasters have had a monopoly on good rallying games for quite a long time now. Even If you were into the sport back in the 90s then you probably tried out their Colin McRae Rally series. That pedigree has been bought under the not-inconsiderable bulk of EA, which means we have the long-standing skill of Codemasters bringing us EA Sports WRC. This is the first time they've released a game with the proper WRC license since 2003.
I was lucky enough to get some 1-on-1 time with the game before it hit store shelves to see if the company still has that magic touch when it comes to rallying.
Gunning It Through The Mud in WRC
One of the first major obstacles most realistic racing games suffer from is their impenetrability. In other games, such as RiMS Racing, it can be difficult for a completely new player to even get started with the basics, let alone turn into a full-on professional. It’s a tough balance to strike, the battle between realism and accessibility.
EA Sports WRC manages to dodge the issue by sort of just letting you do it yourself. When you start the game, you’re basically given a full panel that allows you to adjust everything from AI driver ability, to how harsh/realistic you want damage simulation to be or how many restarts you want to be allowed.
As someone who loves rallying games, but generally sucks at them, it was nice being able to tailor my own experience down to what I wanted it to be. There’s also an extensive training school that covers almost everything from the basic foundations of rallying, to the pro tips you’ll need to actually win any events or championships.
Starting your EA Sports WRC Career
Speaking of championships, the main bulk of the game is in career mode where you start out as a new rally team. It’s just you, a faceless sponsor you have to keep happy, and your team engineer. Mostly it’s up to you to buy cars, select events for each week of the season, and, build up to bigger and better things.
The driving gameplay is the primary attraction and it should come as no surprise that Codemasters still seem to know what they’re doing. Driving feels realistic on all three ground types - snow, asphalt, and gravel - providing a decent amount of challenge but without becoming completely overwhelming to newbies.
Being able to set your own level of generosity with the restarts and damage physics means you can afford to make mistakes and learn the ropes without threatening to upset the delicate balance of the meta mechanics like your teams’ fatigue or your relationship with your benefactor.
Adjustable to a Comfortable Level
If you do want the true hardcore experience you can get that as well. Just crank up the sliders and away you go. It ties in well with the huge amount of extra features and side mechanics available, such as micro-managing your car’s tuning or even building your own from scratch.
Even more impressively, the advanced features like the rally car builder can even be relatively simple to understand thanks to the tooltips from the team mechanics. That said, these systems are dense, so if you’re a bit mechanically clueless you can mostly just stick to the pre-gen cars and still have a good time.
As part of the career mode, you have a variety of different events to choose from, each with different requirements for you to take part. The events offer a nice assortment of different track types with some beautiful scenery at famous locations, meaning you don’t get too bored with the same thing over and over again.
You do have to consider the requests of your benefactor and team's health while making decisions though. If you want to do well you need to complete the various missions they lay out for you, but it’s not too difficult to juggle it all.
EA Sports WRC Preview | Final Thoughts
Overall, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with EA Sports WRC. It manages to be in-depth and realistic without making it impossible to just enjoy rocketing around winding hairpin turns in a European mountain range without worrying about flying off the precipice. There's also a wealth of different side mechanics to enjoy and more depth than I know what to do with. I can't wait to get to grips with the full release, and there's always Forza Motorsports in the meantime.
EA Sports WRC was previewed on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the Developer over the course of 8 hours of gameplay - all screenshots were taken during the process of preview.