World Rally Championship Review (PS2)
In early February, Bam! Entertainment announced that they had received the rights to bring the highly acclaimed World Rally Championship racing game to the United States. Little did I know at the time that it would be coming as early as March. While rally racing isn’t overly popular here in the States, there are many fans of the sport in the world of videogames. Unfortunately, the PS2 hasn’t been populated with many quality titles from the genre………yet! In the coming months, that is all about to change and first to hit the streets is Evolution Studios’ World Rally Championship.
Let me start off by saying that I don’t think you will find a racing game on the PS2 with better presentation. From the moment you put this game into your system it screams quality production. The introduction movie is over 2 minutes long, filled with highlights of the WRC. Also, prior to entering each rally, you are presented with a nice introduction that gives a brief history of what that particular rally is all about. Evolution Studios were able to acquire the FIA license, so all of the real drivers, along with their co-drivers, and team manufacturers are included in WRC (minus Colin McRae due to having his own rally game). The only real hit I can give when it comes to the presentation is the long loading times as they can range anywhere from 30 seconds to almost a full minute. It is nothing major considering the rest of the package, but I feel that it is something that needed to be mentioned. Overall though, this title features some very fine production that really gets you into the mood for some rally racing action. Evolution Studios has gone through great lengths to make this game appear just as the WRC does on The Speed Channel and they have done a find job in doing so.
World Rally Championship features some impressive graphics. Are they the best we’ve seen on the PS2? Nope, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t nice just the same. The car models are nicely done. The car interiors are done fully in 3D and include driver models that are rendered after their real life counterparts. While driving, you will notice your driver shifting gears, fighting the bumps in the road and reacting to the environment as one would expect in real life. What I really like about the game though is how each country has its very own unique feel to it. The environments are incredibly done. Whether you’re racing in Sweden cutting through the snow or in Africa fighting the heat and sand, you can tell the developers really did their homework to make these environments look almost lifelike. The environments in WRC really do look nice, but don’t take your eyes off the road for too long to enjoy the scenery because if you do you’re going to pay for it.
WRC features races in 14 countries across four continents modeled after the actual 2001 WRC racing season. What does that mean? Well, for starters some are now racing for different manufacturers, but let’s be honest though shall we? How many people in here in the States really would know the difference? Other than the few true hardcore WRC fans that exist out there, nobody is going to know the difference. Game modes include World Rally Championship, Single Rally, Time Trial, and a 2 Player Mode. The World Rally Championship pits you up against the field as you follow the calendar for the 2001 season. Each rally consists of 5 stages and your object is to complete the 5 stages in the fast time. Each stage is broken into legs and you are updated as to how you are doing compared to the rest of the pack. This really is the meat and potatoes of the game. Before the start of each rally and between each stage, you will be taken to the service area where you will be given the option to change your car set up. You will have 3 options or settings for the following categories: Gear Ratio, Brake Strength, Steering, Tires, and Suspension. It’s important to consider the weather and conditions you’ll be racing in, the surface you’ll be driving on, the layout of the track and so on. Well, at least it should be important to consider these things while setting up your car, but unfortunately, for some reason, Evolution Studios defaults the settings for each stage or rally to the ideal settings automatically for you. It really makes the set up option pointless in the big scheme of things. All you really need to do to succeed in this game is to pay attention to the road and stay on it. It really is that simple.
While having real cars, real drivers, real sponsors, and real courses make this game seem like a simulation from a distance, once you get on the course you will soon see that it’s just not that way. It appears the developers have toned down the controls to make this game more appealing to a wider range of gamers. .What they really have done is turned off a lot hardcore rally fans in the process. The controls in WRC are way too forgiving to even begin to consider this a true simulation. While racing you will seldom, if at all, find the need to use your breaks. You will be able to make almost every turn, except for maybe turn U-turns, with just a quick lift up off of the gas pedal. Once you learn the course, there really isn’t much skill at all needed to be successful, which brings me to another complaint many will have with this game. You cannot rely on your co-driver’s call to get you thru the course wreck free as some of them come as you are already into the turn. It doesn’t happen too often, but it does lag behind at times and you will pay for it if you do not thoroughly know the course you are racing on. WRC also includes car damage, but unfortunately it’s not done very well. There will be times when you roll off a cliff to find nothing wrong with your car, not even a scratch. Yet there will also be times when you may barely brush against a fence post only to find that you’ve all but totaled your car. I’ve got to be honest, the damage does look nice, but there just doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to the way it is calculated. Yet another gripe is that the damage is automatically fixed between stages without any penalty what-so-ever. I would really have liked to see some sort of time penalty or something when it comes to fixing damage to your car. Hopefully the next installment will include such a feature. One last gripe, which is a major one, is that the game is just too easy. The computer opponents in the WRC mode pose absolutely no challenge. Professional mode, which you must unlock by completing the normal difficulty, tends to give you a little more competition but not enough to consider this game at all difficult. Basically if you just stay on course you will find yourself near the front of the pack, if not the leader at the end of each stage. The only true challenge found is trying to better your own times or those of friends who also play. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially for the hardcore rally fans. Isn’t that what rally is all about anyway? Learning the courses inside out and bettering your times. It’s been keeping me interested in playing the game at least, even after completing the professional mode.
Another area where WRC shines in, is its sound. Everything from how the engines sound, the shifting, and even hearing the clanking of the chassis sounds authentic. The weather effects also come into play as you will clearly hear your windshield wipers as they work to keep your windshield free of snow or rain. The only hit against the sound is how, like I mentioned earlier, the co-driver calls will lag behind. I put that hit more on the gameplay though, as it is the gameplay that is directly effected by that, not the overall sound of the game itself. Even though it does not support DTS 5.1 or even Dolby Digital, WRC needs to be heard to be believed. It really captures the sound of rally racing almost to perfection.
I find that WRC will appeal more to the casual racing fan instead of the hardcore rally fan. Even with all the things it does right, like its great presentation, sound and graphics, I just find too many loopholes in the gameplay to be completely satisfied with this game. I think Evolution Studios set out to make a total simulation of the WRC, but what they did is deliver a great atmosphere with arcade like gameplay. There’s no doubt that World Rally Championship is the best rally game on the PS2 to date, but it will also disappoint as many people as it impresses. My recommendation is to rent first, purchase later.
- Fully Licensed
- Great Presentation
- Nice Graphics
- Logitech GT Force Wheel Compatible
- Floaty Controls
- Too Easy
- Slow Load Times