There’s no debate that it’s the F1 scene that is the very pinnacle of racing. It’s the one sector of the motorsport industry where everyone wants to be; the team owners, the drivers, the fans. It’s where the money is and, for the most part, the thrill of speed.
But it can be boring. Races can pass with nary an overtake to consider, flat lining as inclement weather blows in.
Boring is something that can never be labelled with rally racers and with the World Rally Championships, you are pretty much guaranteed edge of your seat action.
In fact, it’s a mad sport. Car, driver and co-driver, all at one, looking to shave milliseconds off the clock, cutting corners, sliding around others, nailing the throttle and taking jumps like they were on a Sunday afternoon drive, all whilst completely out of their mind. There’s danger. There’s excitement. There are crashes and there are some of the finest driving skills on show.
It’s that which Nacon and KT Racing have tried to replicate with their WRC series of games; an officially licensed line that gives gamers the chance to prove themselves against the clock. Yet for all the annual instalments, if we’re honest, it’s still the old DiRT Rally series which has been able to deliver it best. We can’t fault Nacon and KT for continuing to try to overhaul that though.
Their latest effort is that of WRC Generations, a game in which they look to take all the best bits of the series so far, building on it with just enough new ideas to tempt racers back in. After playing, we can’t help but feel that it would be best if they skipped a year or two, revamping the franchise as a whole. And it seems as though our thoughts will come to fruition too, with Codemasters taking over the WRC license going forward.
There’s nothing wrong with WRC Generations per se. In fact, it’s a pretty good rally effort, one that will have you occasionally feeling like a proper rally driver. At the same time though, there’s just not enough to separate this from games gone by. If you’ve played a WRC game from the last couple of years, you’re probably best off skipping this ‘generation’ and waiting to see what the racing champions at Codies will come up with.
It’s all very much the same old, same old, and we’re struggling to see where Nacon have upped their game for this year. The usual game modes play out, with a deep career working a calendar system in which you’ll get to go into the intricacies of team ownership. Playing with R&D teams, picking the best from skill trees, earning – and spending – cash, picking up moral points, running manufacturer tryouts and participating in test drives. All the background bits and bobs are there.
Full on rally weekends exist too, taking you through shakedowns, special stages and more as you and your car become one, all in hope of navigating to the end of point-to-point races with four wheels left on your wagon. And believe us, that ain’t all that easy and so dropping cash and time into fixing up car parts between stages is a necessity.
That career is big and will most definitely be your first port of call with WRC Generations. It’ll probably make up the majority of your stop in fact, as not only is there enough about it to keep you coming back for more, as your team starts to prove itself on the world stage, but a lack of ideas elsewhere in WRC Generations near as demands it.
See, there are Quick Races that let you set up custom rally events to your own specific demands, pretty much working as a testbed as you get to grips with the varying surfaces and distinct requirements of racing in different countries. For many, that will be seen as a quick hit to accompany the main event. Of course, if you want to turn those into a full Season, you can.
More appreciated is the inclusion of Challenges. These solo events throw you behind the wheel of multiple different cars as you go on the hunt for medals and points. Do well, earn enough and further events will unlock, allowing for some seriously extreme events to take place. It’s a good way of allowing the player to bear witness to everything that Generations can offer, outside of having to deal with the stresses and strains of a full career. Again, it’s nothing new. But this time around it feels hidden away, and you need to go on the hunt from the main menu to find them.
Similar is the multiplayer world. Rally doesn’t particularly lend itself well to online racing and so WRC Generations just handles solo and team options, dropping in ghosts and letting you work through daily and weekly challenges in a league format. It just feels a bit staid, a bit boring. Something you wouldn’t usually associate with a rally title.
Get down to the racing and you can’t fault WRC Generations for not providing variety. There are a ton of cars included, all set across the varying forms of rally – WRC, WRC2, WRC3 Junior, Legends and Bonus – ensuring that newcomers to the franchise can work their way up, slowly and surely, whilst the veteran rally fans can jump straight in to the fastest, twitchiest of motors.
All the usual manufacturers and cars are here too, and you should expect to see the iconic Lancia Stratos HF and the Audi Quattro’s of this world sitting pretty alongside more modern offerings from Hyundai, Ford, Toyota, Citroen, Skoda and the like. If you’ve got a favourite rally car, Generations probably has it. Just don’t expect to get too attached to one specific vehicle; we’ve struggled to really care too much in regards to the cars we have been driving.
What we have cared for are the locales and again Generations excels. You can drive at various times of day, across a multitude of weather conditions and through a ton of countries. Reading them out and it’s easy to imagine the variety found in rally events, with them taking place in – deep breath – Monte Carlo, Sweden, Croatia, Portugal, Italy, Kenya, Estonia, Finland, Belgium, Greece, New Zealand, Spain, Japan, Argentina, Chile, Germany, Mexico, France, Turkey or Wales. And yes, of course it always rains in Wales. You’ll need to hone different skills for each of those countries too, as you race across snow, dirt, tarmac, gravel and more.
It’s that which brings us on to how WRC Generations handles and, for the most part, it feels good. You can really open your cars up if you want, piling down some straights, listening out as your co-driver calls ‘left six, over jump, right two tightens’, letting adrenaline levels rise. But similarly, taking it steady, weaving your way through the tightest of chicanes and through villages is where the real time is made up; put a wheel wrong and you’ll know it.
Or of course, just let Generations pick and choose when things should go wrong. See, there have been times we’ve been left flabbergasted by certain in-game actions. We’ve barrel-rolled into fields and flipped our car multiple times only to be left hunting down the road that we long left, without the game even considering us to be off track. Other times we’ve put a wheel over a line as we’ve slid around a bend, only to be penalised, reset on track and given a stage killing penalty. It’s all a bit inconsistent for our liking as you never really know when you can hoon it, or when you just have to play it safe.
It’s not helped that sometimes event scenery gets involved too; barriers bring us to a sudden halt when they should really let us smash them out the way and continue on. We’ve even had a traffic cone get stuck under our car, leaving it up on two wheels, halting all progress. Perhaps these ones are made of some super reinforced steel but you’d normally expect such a thing to crush easily, letting the driver get on with things.
Those inconsistent elements stretch to the audio and visuals. In terms of sound and WRC Generations brings the immersion in spades, with engines screaming, tyres crying as they give up the ghost and co-drivers calling the shots, hoping you’re going to take their input as read. Occasionally we’ve had some weirdnesses in rev drops, but mostly all is fine.
It’s not quite as good news in the visual department though. Cars look great, there’s no getting away from that, and even though we personally always drive in either cockpit or bumper viewpoints, scanning external cameras proves that KT Racing and Nacon have put all their eggs into how these vehicles look. They are highly detailed, crumple when need be and are kitted out in some good liveries. It all looks real.
But, look away from the cars – and perhaps the stage surroundings – and Generations disappoints. Crowds are cookie cutter at best and lighting is sometimes off. We’ve raced a few events where the glare of a wet road is like racing on a mirrored surface. It just looks a bit, well, crap frankly. It’s with that in which the realism comes grinding to a halt.
On the whole, WRC Generations takes a decent stab at the rally scene with some great clock-beating racing, a deep career and a beefy challenge system. Away from that though and it all feels as though the series needs a little reset – which plays in perfectly to the WRC license moving stables. And that’s because there’s just a bit too much randomness for WRC Generations to be considered as one of the best rally racers out there.
WRC Generations is available from the Xbox Store