After downloading and installing the 77GB bulky data pack, a simple but interactive menu of a fresh venture simply named EA Sports WRC will launch on your gaming device. Those who are not familiar with this will remember that the Codemasters studio (Colin McRae Rally and DiRT) was bought by Electronic Arts and took the entire project under its wing.
And anyone who knows EA knows they’re behind the Need for Speed video game titles, which is a fun arcade series but has about as much to do with reality as a buzzard has to do with motocross.
Anyway, after the first demos, you will be greeted by a simple interactive menu where you start choosing what to do. You can embark on a classic career, drive for the championship, or jump straight into real historical moments and try to repeat the racing successes of the original crews in rally.
There is also the creation of a fast race, a time trial, or a rally school, where you will learn basic controls and game principles. If you don’t like racing or have only played Need for Speed or Grand Theft Auto, this school is a highly recommended program for you.
Advanced users will certainly welcome building their own car, which is not just about visuals. You gradually insert various parts into the skeleton, for example an engine from Toyota or a radiator from an unknown manufacturer from Asia. Components have a certain quality, durability and functionality, as well as a (game) price. The final assembly will then affect to some extent how the car will behave on the track.
Finally, you can edit car decals, or even edit your character in terms of clothing or appearance. The remaining items are generally about settings, graphics or the level of how much the basic assistance techniques should help you.
In the races themselves, you can choose between two modes, either between the classic rally, where you drive for the best time, or the regularity rally, where it’s about completing the section in the ideal time and average speed. And both are not always quite as easy as flipping through an elementary school reader.
In any case, the categories WRC, WRC2, WRC Junior, Rally 2, Rally 4, S1600, S2000, Group S, Group B, Historic cars and others are available to choose from.
You must be interested in cars. Of course, who doesn’t. Practically everyone immediately jumps at the current top WRC, which is represented in the game by the hybrids Ford Puma, Toyota GR Yaris and Hyundai i20 N.
Czech Škoda cars are in other groups, with the whole game offering three types of the Fabia competition model. In WRC2 there are Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo and Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, against which, for example, Hyundai i20 N or Citroën C3 Rally2. The third Fabia, the number one model, is then found in the WRC championship from 1997 to 2011.
Other playable cars include classics such as the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo or Subaru Impreza/WRX STi, but you can also ride small hot hatches à la Peugeot 207/208, Opel Corsa, Ford Fiesta and others.
Lovers of youngtimers will find their way, because they can sit behind the virtual steering wheel of models such as Citroën Xsara WRC, Ford Focus RS or MINI Countryman. In the kit-car category there is, for example, the Peugeot 306, the fourth Volkswagen Golf, the Vauxhall Astra, the Ford Escort or the Renault Mégane Maxi.
Alpine A110, Talbot Sunbeam Lotus, Abarth 131, Peugeot 205 GTi, Volkswagen Golf GTI, or MINI Cooper S are then playable among the pure history players.
There are also legends, such as BMW M1, Lancia 037 Evo 2, Porsche 911 SC RS, Lancia Delta S4, Audi Sport Quattro, MG Metro, Ford RS200, BMW M3, Opel Ascona, Renault 5 Turbo, Ford Sierra Cosworth and others. Well, golden times, right?
On the route, we will look at, for example, Monte Carlo, Sweden, Mexico, Croatia, Italy, Kenya, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Chile, Japan, the Pacific, Oceania, Spain, but also to Central Europe, where some routes are supposed to lead through the Czech Republic, but these tracks do not correspond to reality, however, you can safely recognize our traffic signs, bollards and roads in fifty shades of gray here.
Half way between
We come to the very physics of driving. If you’re worried that it’s going to be another Need for Speed, just in WRC guise, don’t worry. However, we must also assure die-hard Gran Turismo lovers that EA WRC is something between an arcade and a real simulator.
In fact, you can tell from the first meter whether you are driving a playful Opel Adam R2, the latest hybrid Hyundai or an old special from Group B. In short, modern cars are much easier to drive than old ones, especially those with single-axle drive. And you can have the assistive game technology turned on at full capacity.
Another thing is the choice of environment, when on asphalt the cars hold comfortably, in Kenya they bounce on dirt roads and stones, and in icy Sweden they slide again. But again, not so much that you slam the controller/keyboard after 10 minutes of playing and never put the game down.
Can you overdrive the front wheel in the wet with speed? The skid of the front axle will not miss you, and the car simply does not turn, but continues straight. Will you load your car with a rear axle skid? Especially with old back wheels, the punishment will come in the form of oversteer. In short, the physics here work quite realistically to a certain extent, but balanced towards the player’s entertainment.
After a few drives, you will find out that the much-admired BMW M1 is actually impossible to drive, that flying through the tracks in a winter rally can turn a racing special into a set of spare parts, but you will also find out how much the fourth Fabia is a worthy and manageable rally car.
God, what about the graphics?!
The game also allows you to set the time of day, so you can drive in the morning, in the afternoon, at dawn, but also at night, when the racing models are supplemented with additional lighting. There are really game passages where you see about as much as Stevie Wonder knitting. And compete in that yes…
If you drive a multi-stage race, you also have to deal with car repairs, which costs you some time. This is also related to such a small thing as a spare wheel, which adds extra kilos to you, which in turn will slightly affect the final behavior of the car.
By biting into the repairs, we get damage, that is, destruction, which is shown by a fairly sophisticated damage model, when body parts fly off you in an accident. By doing this, you can also damage the engine, break the cooling system, or completely destroy the entire car. And again, there is a slight effect of damage on the behavior of the car on the track.
The collisions themselves are sometimes a bit sci-fi, but the game likes to punish you for a mistake with a trip off a slope or a triple somersault with five screws, modeled after Aleš Valenta. It just depends on how (un)skilled you are.
The big negative is the graphics, which are outdated for today’s time. They saved not only on textures, but also on effects. After all, real screenshots from the game at standard details simply do not show what you would expect from a recently released title.
Even the optimization is not completely successful and the game jerks slightly here and there, even if you have a powerful enough iron. This is partly solved by patches, but this important neglect of image perception brings down otherwise quite successful races.
EA SPORTS WRC is a dividing line between a simulator and an arcade, where you can adjust the scales to your liking in the settings. However, this is not a game for the automotive masses, here, frankly, all those to whom rallying at least means something will have fun.
On the other hand, you don’t have to be a game master to enjoy the game to your heart’s content. After all, we also smashed a few cars to scrap, but they also won several virtual trophies. Players will definitely be hit by a nostalgic note, because chasing older racing icons is simply a pleasure for every car enthusiast. Just the graphics and optimization…
The EA SPORTS WRC title is intended for the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series platforms as well as Microsoft Windows. The game will cost around 700 CZK on game consoles, while it is practically twice as much on computers. However, the publisher is gradually releasing additional content (racing seasons), thanks to which it can extract more crowns from you for optional unique clothing or car decals. And the overall rating? We give it 7/10.