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WRC: World Rally Championship (PlayStation 2) artwork

WRC: World Rally Championship (PlayStation 2) review

"Rallying is one of the most demanding and dangerous motor sports on Earth, involving some of the world’s best (and bravest) drivers battling against horrible weather conditions, tight roads and slippery surfaces. The World Rally Championship takes place throughout the year in fourteen of the world’s most diverse and beautiful locations, from the snow and ice of wintry Sweden, to the dust and dirt of the scorching Kenyan Rally, its an extremely exhilarating, yet potentially life-threatening car s..."

Rallying is one of the most demanding and dangerous motor sports on Earth, involving some of the world’s best (and bravest) drivers battling against horrible weather conditions, tight roads and slippery surfaces. The World Rally Championship takes place throughout the year in fourteen of the world’s most diverse and beautiful locations, from the snow and ice of wintry Sweden, to the dust and dirt of the scorching Kenyan Rally, its an extremely exhilarating, yet potentially life-threatening car sport. The opposition is not lax, either. Rallying places the world-class drivers against the most unforgiving opponent – time. Each of the fourteen rallies are split into five stages, and the time you manage to achieve is carried over onto the next stage, culminating in a nail-biting final stage where one crash could mean the dream of winning the Championship quashed. So, all things considered, it would seem logical to think that games based around the idea of rallying could been brilliant, and it also seems many developers think the same, judging by the number of rallying games being churned out nowadays. But does this offering, aptly named World Rally Championship, do the rallying genre any justice?

One thing that gives World Rally Championship a leg – up and a help from the start is the fact that is has every licence the sport has to offer. It sticks as close to the official 2001 season as jam sticks to bread, boasting every driver, team, car and circuit down to the last gravity – defying hairpin. Licences add another dimension to the game and, while no game needs a licence to be great (Pro Evolution Soccer, anyone?), licences give authenticity to the game. Licences also have their downsides too, as developers then must stick to the licence they have bought; restricting freedom to mould the game exactly the way the developers might want it. However, SCEE (or Bam! Entertainment in North America) have done a good job of keeping everything licensed but not skimping on actual game play, both of which are vital factors in the creation of a must – have licensed game.

The first thing the player will notice upon booting the game up is the sleek, modern, accessible menus. These also keep with the TV shows tables and charts, which again feels great if you watch the World Rally Championship on the television. The menus (and, undoubtedly, the game itself) are incredibly well-presented and oh – so – easy to become accustomed with. Again, the developers get another thumbs – up for the simple, yet sleek, way they have presented the menus, tables and charts. The good news, however, is that this very high level of presentation and attention to detail can be found not only in the menus, but throughout the whole game too. The cars are very realistic and quite awesomely detailed, especially when you consider the age of the game, and the technical limitations of the console. They are characterised and made to match their real-life counterparts in every possible way. The accents on the wings of the Subaru Impreza WRX are there in all their glory. The curvaceous body and styling of the Hyundai Accent is as impressive and awe-inspiring as ever. The “mean” face and general grunt of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is still as straight-to-the-point as it always has been. In fact, you’ll need to go some length to find even the slightest mistake they made while producing the cars. All this adds a unique sense of racing in cars you’ll find out in your street with awesome easy, a feeling even the mighty Gran Turismo sometimes has a problem recreating. The stages and tracks themselves are all created with extreme care and have been faithfully produced in absolute synchronization with the real rally stages and tracks. The graphics as a whole, generally, are luscious, vibrant and a joy to watch. The backgrounds are very, very scenic and panoramic, and really give a feeling that you are watching television. This is awe – inspiring in itself, make no mistake. The sun lens flare is wonderful to look at as well, blinding you for a few moments as you turn a bend, making everything feel living, breathing and real. However, that’s were the games graphical wonder comes to an end and, like every game, the bad points have to be addressed. The frame rate is one thing that is very disappointing when you get on the wrong end of it, sometimes slowing to a jittery 5 frames per second that just isn’t good enough. A few crashes, a run off the course or even hitting a wall can send the frame rate into overdrive, which often wrecks the gaming experience. The frame rate sometimes drops so low as to the game halting altogether, thus increasingly the chance of a Disc-Read Error by about quadruple. This will definitely decrease your graphical impression of this game, which is a shame, because in all other respects, the graphics are quite beautiful.

The audio in World Rally Championship are very well recorded and a great deal of effort has gone into it. The cars all have a distinct engine roar that separates them, all of which are true to real life (provided the car has been modified enough!). The engines sound gutsy and throaty and add an atmosphere that is very good to have in a driving game. The soundtrack in the game is, surprise surprise, totally official. The introduction is also ripped straight from your television onto the game, which is mightily impressive and something I really liked. The in-game sounds are all good at representing realism, too. All the crashes you induce will be greeted by rather over-the-top scratching, ripping, smashing and screeching noises that erupt from the television, which is exhilarating at first but quite annoying later on. And, everyone will be glad to hear that the co-driver isn’t the slightest bit annoying and very helpful for the first time in a rally game! The only thing here to complain about is the gaps in music in the menus that sometimes make everything fall out-of-sync. But, that aside, the audio is more than acceptable in World Rally Championship.

World Rally Championship has an very intuitive control system, which is very easy to pick up. Everyone, from beginners to masters, should be able to play the game from the moment they pick up the pad. Obviously, a good control system means gameplay is a lot easier, and you don’t lose interest in the game quickly, unlike some titles. The difficulty level in World Rally Championship does leave something to be desired however, as “Easy” difficulty is a piece of cake, “Normal” isn’t much harder and in “Professional” mode you’ll be struggling to score a single point in each rally. As a result, the difficulty levels feel very unbalanced, almost unfair at the worst of times. The game’s physics are represented fairly well by the developers, too. A slight bump will cause realistic damage, but, as touched on above, the noises are chilling and really far too over-the-top to be taken seriously. In fact, in some bigger crashes, (i.e flying off a cliff) the car will barrel roll, flip and tumble about like a rag doll, which can be hilarious at first, especially with mates, but gets tedious and really quite annoying the more the physics play up. As you play through the rallies, the general competition level raises, which will come as expected, however, in the last rally (the British Rally) the difficulty level flies through the roof, and it does feel incredibly unfair as you find yourself coming in fifth after plugging the course with all your might, and it can be very disheartening. However, these minor points shouldn’t really put a dampener on what really is a rallying success, certainly in the gameplay category, as the game has something many nowadays fail to see the point of – good, old – fashioned enjoyment and fun. Sliding around the corners gives a feeling of expertise and makes you look very professional, even although its as easy as it comes. Throughout the course of the long season of rallies you will find yourself cheering on your team mates and booing your opponents, creating special bonds with some of the lowly drivers and being bolstered by the cheering crowds at the beginning of each rally all add up to a subliminal experience and a great feeling that you are actually involved in the real – life rally. Overall, the gameplay aspect of World Rally Championship is accomplished and probably exactly what the developers wanted, but some minor points that really should have been addressed haven’t, bogging the gameplay down.

World Rally Championship is a deep, deep game. There are hours of fun to be had in the game and you most definitely won’t get tired of it quickly. Just the single – player Championship, or Season, mode will more than likely suck you up for a fair few amount of hours at a time, and you will want to take your driver to the end of the championship. As detailed above, there are a huge amount of tracks and rallies that will take a long time to completely master. Even once you have played through the six to eight hour single – player Championship mode, you will also find yourself wanting to perfect each of your favourite rallies in a new car, and you may even decide to replay the whole season again. And, on top of all that, there is vastly comprehensive Time Trial mode, popular with all die – hard racing masochists, and the Licence mode, which sees you pitted again a rally, a time, and a car chosen at random (within reason of course) and if you pass, you are granted a password which you can then use as a means of signing on to the World Rally Championship forums and gameplay tips to find new friends and give tips on the game. There is absolutely nothing to complain about on the lifespan area of this game.

Overall, World Rally Championship is a huge game that you will take time to play through. There are many good points about the game, and unfortunately some bad points as well. Sega Rally Championship and Colin McRae Rally – beater this is not, but a good attempt at the rallying simulation. If you happen to see this in a bargain bin or sale in a store near you, get it in. If not, don’t pay the full asking price. World Rally Championship is by no means a failure, but it is a disappointment.


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Community review by timmyvermicelli (February 05, 2006)

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