More pol­ish = more succ ess. Just like real ral­ly­ing

XBox: The Official Magazine - - START - Justin Tow­ell

By rights, hurtling down nar­row roads lined with trees and dense veg­e­ta­tion should be au­to­mat­i­cally ex­cit­ing. But some­times, in their hunt for au­then­tic­ity, rally games lose sight of what makes a videogame fun. WRC 7 doesn’t.

In some ways, it’s a throw­back to the rally games of the early 2000s. It loves to splash beau­ti­ful lens flare over the camera, the con­trols are for­giv­ing enough to let you re­cover from what would usu­ally be a com­plete spin, and there’s a very slight-yet-tan­gi­ble ar­cade feel to every­thing, even in sim­u­la­tion mode. This is not a bad thing. It means we have a li­censed, au­then­tic rally ex­pe­ri­ence that’s got all the sim­u­la­tion el­e­ments you’d ex­pect, like time-lim­ited re­pairs, dam­age­based com­po­nent fail­ures and even a team morale me­ter that af­fects your me­chan­ics’ ef­fi­ciency (nice touch), while be­ing far more ac­ces­si­ble than the class-lead­ing Dirt Rally.

The han­dling is ul­tra-re­spon­sive de­spite the 30fps frame rate, though it’s dis­tinctly less pre­cise than the two re­cent, 60fps Dirt games. The cars seem al­most slot­ted into a line when they drive straight, and de­vi­at­ing from this ar­row-like tra­jec­tory re­quires a big­ger pull on the steer­ing than you might ex­pect. There’s a 5% dead­zone on pad con­trol by de­fault, which ex­ac­er­bates the prob­lem, but even when that’s turned off, you still need to ex­ag­ger­ate your move­ments to

“In some ways, it’s a throw­back to the rally games of the early 2000s”

get the car to turn. While it’s worst on tar­mac where the grip is great­est, it’s al­ways there to some de­gree, and makes for un­pre­dictable steer­ing. Wheely good As a re­sult, cou­pled with nar­row roads and the strict, au­to­matic time penal­ties for mild mis­de­meanours like driv­ing over a cliff or hit­ting spec­ta­tors (sheesh), you’ll likely find your­self driv­ing well within the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the car, just to min­imise ex­cur­sions into penal­tyville. And since early cars in ca­reer mode tend to wal­low in lowrev states, keep­ing the power flow­ing and feel­ing truly sat­is­fied with a turn is rare, at least to be­gin with.

Rest as­sured, such things do im­prove with prac­tice, and af­ter a while you’ll find it’s pos­si­ble to keep the revs high and at­tack the cour­ses rather than tip­toe around them, at which point the game re­ally comes alive. You’ve got to be prop­erly dar­ing to win – ex­actly how it should be.

The weather ef­fects are well­re­alised (and af­fect han­dling nicely), re­plays look solid and as­sured, and in­ci­den­tal de­tails like in­sects play­ing in shafts of light in the even­ing are re­ally pretty. The en­vi­ron­ments are large, dense and de­tailed, the frame rate’s con­sis­tency is ex­cel­lent, and you’ll only oc­ca­sion­ally no­tice seg­ments be­ing re­drawn as you ap­proach. Even so, the light­ing and tex­tures don’t look re­al­is­tic enough to be truly con­vinc­ing, which does af­fect im­mer­sion. It’s nearly there.

In­deed, ‘nearly there’ is def­i­nitely the key phrase for WRC 7. A quick com­pare-and-con­trast ex­er­cise with Dirt Rally re­veals there’s still a clear gulf in qual­ity be­tween the two games, but WRC is clearly an im­prove­ment over last year’s game.

If you love ral­ly­ing but still want to play an in-depth, videogame ver­sion of the sport rather than an ul­tra­hard­core sim­u­la­tion of it, WRC 7 will keep you very happy in­deed.

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