WRC Powerslide Review (Xbox 360)
Rally games are a rare breed nowadays. The past several years, Milestone has been releasing rally games in Europe, but few of them have made it to American gamers. WRC Powerslide is Milestone's first Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network game to have a worldwide release, and it's unlike any other rally game you have ever played.
As soon as you start the game, you will immediately notice the handful of power-ups available to you on the track. They range from a battering ram that drives through opponents to a rain storm that slows down your opponents. Although they are nothing new to kart racers, mixing them into a rally game actually works out surprisingly well. In the career mode, which is the only offline mode by the way, you can race without the power-ups, and even without the collisions. I found the game less interesting to play and much easier to win if you got rid of those options however.
Of the power-ups available to use, only one seems to be incredibly over-powered; the "cloud" attack. This specific power-up emits a cloud out of the back of your car, making your opponents have almost no visibility. This power-up really hurts you later on in the single player when the tracks get even more narrow.
During the first few races, the way the cars handle can take some getting used to as they are extremely loose. Thankfully, even with different surfaces like snow, mud, and pavement, the cars act the same on all of them. So once you get down the feeling of the cars, you can really start enjoying the game.
No matter what surface you are on, the car physics can get weird at times -- with erratic flips making an appearance every so often during races.
Aggressive A.I. can always be a pain, but the AI seems stable as it never ventures into being erratic. And the AI driver's aggressiveness actually fits this game nicely. Since there are only four total drivers in each race, the A.I. keeps each race competitive, even if you choose to race with power-ups and collisions turned off. They might be a little aggressive, but I did not notice any rubber-banding A.I. in the single player mode. During the few times I got out to a lead, I was able to keep it for the rest of the race.
Unlike other rally games such as the DiRT series, the camera used in WRC Powerslide is far off from the vehicle, making your cars feel more like toy RC cars at times. This approach does fit Milestone's more arcade approach to the game. There are times when the camera gets blocked by a tree or bush which can obscure your line of sight. Thankfully, your view isn't blocked too often, but it's something I did notice on the later tracks in the game.
The gameplay featured in WRC Powerslide is definitely entertaining to play at times. The only annoyances are the bizarre physics at times and the few power-ups you are given. What's here is great for Milestone's first foray on XBLA and PSN to a worldwide audience, I just hope with the next iteration from Milestone there are more than just six power-ups.
What plagues the single player in WRC Powerslide is the exact same thing that plagued FIM Motocross. For starters there is only one mode and to keep unlocking new areas, you have to race on the same tracks two or three times. This ends up making what is otherwise quite enjoyable gameplay more and more tedious as the hours go by.
You have three car classes to choose from: Class 2, Class 3 and WRC . You unlock new cars, crews and teams by winning races. Each car class matters because every course has three gold medals that need to be earned, one for each class. Car manufacturers such as Ford, VW, Mini Cooper and others are represented within the game. These cars do receive damage, but it's all purely cosmetic and does nothing to hinder you in an event.
WRC Powerslide sees the majority of its tracks taken from WRC 3, Milestone's latest rally-simulation game. But since WRC 3 is still not available in North America as of this review, most people probably won't notice that little snippet. The tracks have the aforementioned snow, mud, and pavement terrains and none of them are particularly difficult to race on at first. As you progress, however, the tracks get even more narrow and winding, create a greater challenge for you as you progress. Most of the tracks hold up well to the arcade type of atmosphere WRC Powerslide creates.
The structure of the single player will be perfectly fine for some, but racing on the same few tracks over and over again does begin to weigh on you and can become tedious over time.
Power-ups and collisions can also be turned off in online play, but honestly, what is the fun in that?
WRC Powerslide was designed to be an arcade racer with power-ups and playing the game without the power-ups just doesn't make sense to me. When I played online, it seemed as if a lot of people had disabled the power-ups and collisions. Competing in races without either simply made the game boring, as it took out a key element of what WRC Powerslide was meant to be.
When I was successful in finding lobbies with power-ups and collisions turned on, the connection held up, even when racing against people from other countries. And even with the four-player limit, the game does a decent job at making sure you're always near the action. While I didn't notice a lot of rubber-banding in the single player; in the multiplayer you do notice it. The rubber-banding is not something which eventually becomes a frustration, as there is only just enough of it to make each race a bit more competitive.
During the first few days with the game the online audience was never huge but there were always lobbies up. After almost a week, the community has seemed to die down and it's now hard to find a lobby with any players. So although the game is a joy to play online, it is hard at times to find a room full of players.
WRC Powerslide combines rally racing with power-ups and does it well. Though, there are some downsides to consider. While the gameplay is good, it is surrounded by a pretty mundane single player structure; something that seems to be a common occurrence with Milestone developed games (see FIM Motcross). When it comes to the multiplayer, taking that gameplay online against friends and other human players is where the most fun will be had. The problem is -- and likely will continue to be -- finding opponents to race against.
Even with all of that said, the first few hours spent with the game can be a satisfying experience. After that, your mileage will vary with the single player.
Learning Curve: The only learning curve here is trying to figure out what each power-up does and getting used to how the cars handle. The game does a superb job letting you know the former prior to each race. When it comes to the latter, it only takes a race or two to get that down.
Visuals: As a $15 XBLA/PSN game, WRC Powerslide looks pretty incredible. Each backdrop to each event, whether it's the snowy mountains or sandy deserts, Milestone made sure the game popped with vibrant visuals.
Audio: Developer Milestone seems to always do an outstanding job with their soundtracks, and it is no different this time around. The title menu music with its guitar solo is rather soothing and once in the game, the music picks up the pace. Each car sounds decent, but they actually take a backseat to the soundtrack.
Value: Power ups and a unique perspective make WRC Powerslide a little different, and quite fun at times. Adding in the $15 (1200MSP) price point and it has the necessary components to be a great racing game, but the few issues highlighted in this review ultimately leaves it as just a good game.
Score: 6.5 (Above Average)