Simulation racing wears many faces in gaming with several franchises focusing on different parts of the world’s racing scenes. With WRC 9, Nacon (formerly BigBen) once again proves they know what’s what when it comes to rally racing.

In the racing genre, expectations from a content standpoint are pretty straightforward. The question comes down to does it deliver in experience. After spending some time behind the wheel, I can say WRC 9 delivers.

Skill versus Mechanics (Gameplay)

If you have played other games like Forza and Need for Speed, then you know there are many ways to make racing games feel unique. From responsivity to car weight, a lot of factors contribute to making racing games more than just accelerating on a track. WRC 9 brings a lot of these factors together for a very unique and very rally experience. While featuring a lot the mechanics expected in a racing game, WRC 9 also places a large focus on player skill. If you are new to rally racing as a whole, this will definitely catch you off guard. I can confidently say your Need for Speed skillset will not help you here.

WRC 9’s approach to driving is about simulation. In pursuing this, the control scheme is very simple. You have the basics like brake and handbrake, accelerate and steering. There on are some additional options like the clutch and manual button mappings for specific gear settings, but these are largely unmapped by default. At least on console. With such simplicity, it immediately becomes apparent that the skill is in knowing these fundamentals and how to apply them accurately on the track. In the course of the event, you can be faced with many ‘on-the-fly’ driving decisions, all the while your assistant is calling out track conditions and upcoming turns. It can be a lot to take in, but if you stick with it, you will get there. Hence the title “practice makes perfect timing”. And I assure you, you will want to practice.

the mechanics are not there to make up for a lack of skill but rather provide the tools needed to conquer each event

As I said, WRC 9 is about simulation through and through. This means the mechanics are not there to make up for a lack of skill but rather provide the tools needed to conquer each event. The game even begins with an optional tutorial complete with a practice event so you can get a feel for the vehicle, the controls, and of course, many of the factors you’ll be presented with while driving.

What I did admire most is the accessibility of a game that could lend itself to be quite difficult for new drivers. WRC 9 will feel like a different beast and can be unforgiving, but Nacon put in a lot time in makes sure the game offers ample opportunity for willing players to better themselves. Keyword is willing.

Veterans of the franchise will know how to make use of the changes featured with WRC 9, but for newcomers, it may be beneficial to play at the game’s novice level. Sure, the onscreen help can be a tad obnoxious if you’re a quick study, but knowing what the verbiage of rally racing means and how to interpret them is invaluable once you enter Career and Season mode. Practice runs, even in Career events, are opened so take the time to get it right.

Presentation

Admittedly, I was not floored by how the game looked. That is not to say it looks bad. WRC 9 looks about as great as any racing game of this generation would be expected to look. The cars and liveries are presented in great detail. The tracks and special effects are a bit lower in quality by comparison, but this by no means detracts from the game. Lighting is superb, making the differences between night and day events as drastic as they should be. This all plays into how WRC 9 presents itself as a true simulation.

The same fidelity carries over into the user-interface. Menus are sleek and simply with recognizable icons. If it is unlikely any one would find themselves lost. This includes while working you way through mode like Career which can a have several menu items you’ll need to become accustomed throughout your journey. As small piece of advice, the tooltips in WRC 9 are actually useful.

All this is coupled with a surprisingly great soundtrack. Most (if not all) of the tracks are non-lyrical and offer very pleasant and sometimes intense music scores for activities on and off the track.

Game Modes

Obviously, in WRC 9 players will be taking part in rally events. Nacon presents these events in several ways over various formats making sure there is something for everyone.

In Career, players begin their own driving experience where they will need to manage both their skills and their crew on the path to become world champion. This where I spent a lot my invested time. Like most sports career modes, it’s a balancing act. You have your team morale and needs, as well as the needs of yourself as a driver.

Of course, the crew needs to be paid and better crew members means more money. You’ll be faced with deciding between taking a hit now to cash in later or reserving cash as you’ll find prospects are not available forever. On top of that is the progression system. As you level up, you acquire points. These points unlock all kinds of additional benefits for your team, crew, vehicle performance and reliability. How deep this mode goes is arguably the best part of the simulation experience in WRC 9. I highly recommend giving it a try.

Don’t want to take charge of a crew? That’s fine. In Season, drivers can take part in rally events across a calendar without the crew managing portion.

Of course, there’s Quick Play where drivers can choose their track, car, and weather conditions. And when you’re looking to simply improve, there’s Training and Test Area modes. Training will feel much like the practice events of Career mode with closed tracks. Test Area gives you the freedom of Quick Play and Training while allowing you to fine tune on the go.

Online modes are also available including: Online Multiplayer, Online Events, eSports WRC and leaderboards. Basic Online is like Quick Play but for those who wish to compete with other WRC 9 players. Events offers daily and weekly challenges to earn points based on leaderboard standings. However, if you want to do some traditional head to head with a friend, then WRC 9 does offer a local split screen mode.

Finally, there’s the showroom. In Showroom, driver can view the game’s vehicles at leisure under different weather conditions.

The Verdict

Simply put, I like it. WRC 9 is a fine additional to franchise. Nacon brought passion and care into the project and it shows. Simulation racing is at its finest and there’s plenty game modes to go around. The revamped Career mode is rich with immersion. It may take a minute or two to get used to all the available options and responsibilities as manager, but the onscreen help and tooltips make it easy to learn as you go.

WRC 9 is modern in its presentation and solid in its understanding of what makes a rally racing simulation game. Controls schemes are simple and intuitive, while more advanced options allow veterans to take their game to the next level. Skill is favored over hand holding, but WRC 9 considers drivers at all levels. Whether bought on sale or picked up at full price, I doubt fans will be disappointed.


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WRC 9 Review
  • 9/10
    Gameplay - 9/10
  • 8/10
    Game Modes - 8/10
  • 7/10
    Presentation - 7/10
  • 8/10
    Longevity - 8/10
Overall
8/10