WRC 9 is currently the best rally experience you can get this year, but there’s still room for a much deeper and more detailed career mode.
KT Racing’s latest attempt in simulating one of the toughest racing segments in the world has resulted in a rewardingly challenging experience where the more you play, the more you love it.
Driving an agile car at high speed on a narrow, slippery road designed with many hairpin cuts and corners covered by snow, gravel, or rain might be the simplest definition for rally racing, but when it comes to the action, you get to understand that it’s more than just driving.
The reason why I think of WRC 9 as one of the greatest rally simulations of this year is the fact that it teaches you how cruel a rally tournament can be when a very small mistake costs you a lot. With F1 2020, this year has already been a favorite one for me in the case of racing simulations, and with WRC 9, it’s even better now. If you know nothing about Rally and its rules, it doesn’t matter. You will fail dozens of times, but you will also learn dozens of tricks to avoid failure as well.
WRC 9 never gets easier, not even on the lowest difficulty levels. It’s you who needs to master his/her own skills to beat the opponents. As you may know, rally is a race against time. You aren’t supposed to overtake the rivals directly on the road. It’s the overall time that determines the winner. So, there is an unintentional scripted AI system in here. Simply put, there’s no encounter between you and an AI-controlled opponent. It’s a race between you and yourself. You want to be the champion? You need to beat your own records again and again.
The difficulty system branches into two parts: the first one adjusts the records hit by opponents and the second one adjusts the impact of car damages. The destructibility of cars and its impact on the vehicle is undeniable. Sometimes you may reach a great record on a track, but it wouldn’t be worth it if you damage your car more than a certain amount. Repairing cars in the middle of a tournament has some limits, and if you go beyond those, you will earn a penalty in your overall time. So, it’s a challenge to spend your limited repair points in a way that benefits you the most.
After an initial test at the beginning of the game, there are two options to start your career. The first option is WRC Junior, which is the shortened version of a full rally season, which has less powerful cars and easier track roads. On the other hand, you can choose to take part in three WRC seasons with a full list of locations, complicated track roads, and hard-to-beat opponents.
There’s no complaint about the handling of the cars. Each manufacturer is skilled in a particular area that directly affects your skill-tree. Other than that, each car feels different which makes it take a bit of time to get the hang of in the career mode. Participating in a historical race or a manufacturer’s tryout during your optional events is a great opportunity to understand how uncomfortable it feels when you drive with a different car for the first time. And it’s not a bad thing. It’s exactly the way it should be.
During the season, you should handle your crew and your skill points in order to have a better understanding of what awaits in each rally session and how you should prepare. There are four different skill-trees that each expand your abilities in a certain area. You can unlock new positions at your crew or strengthen the existing ones to get new events, detailed weather forecasts, veteran mechanics, experienced agents, and more. But if you value your car more than other things, you can start upgrading the manufacturer’s car in different ways. You should also keep an eye out for your own reputation if you want to get better offers from top manufacturers.
The managing section in WRC 9’s career mode is a worthy feature, but it still needs more depth. It doesn’t really give you huge control over everything, likely because you are only a driver of a manufacturer, but this mentality doesn’t work out well. Nowadays, every career mode in the sports genre allows you to be the general manager of your team while playing a direct role in matches or races. Of course, it’s not realistic most of the time, but that doesn’t matter when it gives the player a lot of options to customize their career the way they want.
So, I think WRC 9 lacks a MyTeam-style mode where you would be able to set up your own team, recruit new drivers, and take part in the tournaments. Without such an improvement, the managing board in WRC 9 doesn’t feel much different when compared to WRC 8.
When it comes to graphics, WRC 9 doesn’t look like a late 8th-gen title, but it’s still a good looking game. I mean, there’s nothing about visuals in WRC 9 that are jaw-dropping as it lacks a realistic look when it comes to the cockpit view of the car, but it’s not that important. During a race, you are so concentrated on your driving that you can barely pay attention to anything other than the road, and barely listen to anything other than the rally navigator’s voice.
Oh, and I said rally navigator. WRC 9’s biggest miracle for me is the fact that I knew nothing about what the rally navigator’s details meant. As I kept playing the game more while listening to his navigation, though, I learned what he meant more quickly than I would’ve ever expected. Definitely, it’s admirable that the developers have built the track roads precisely enough that it completely matches the navigation.
For the fans of the official rally championship tournament, WRC 9 is likely a must-play title as it doesn’t have anything bad enough to keep you from buying it. But for newcomers, I have to admit that you need to have some grit if you want to play the WRC series for the first time. It really requires a very high level of concentration while playing. If you are not in the mood for this style of play, you may want to just skip WRC 9.