Before you get started in WRC 9, the game asks you to select your proficiency level in driving games. I implore you to not overestimate yourself here. I considered myself fairly proficient in racing games… notice the use of past tense there? WRC 9 taught me I was not as proficient as I thought I was. Realism is clearly at the heart of WRC 9 and it’s a punishing but rewarding ride.
And what a rewarding ride it is. WRC 9 introduces three new courses: The legendary Rally Kenya with its exotic landscapes alternating between wide-open savannah and small villages with very narrow roads. New Zealand, a very technical gravel rally with multiple bends in quick succession and Japan, a rally on asphalt based in Nagoya with narrow mountain roads. All new courses are recreated faithfully and look absolutely beautiful. These new countries bring the total to seventeen.
Given we’re living in a world where a lot of us are in lockdown due to Coronavirus, having the option to drive around these gorgeous landscapes in WRC 9 provides some welcome escapism.
Make no mistake though, WRC 9 is not for the faint hearted. In fact, up there with the F1 series, it’s the most difficult driving game I’ve ever played. My first race saw my car more banged up by the end of it than I care to admit. Through trial and error, I quickly realised how steep the learning curve really is in WRC 9. This is a rally simulator that places a lot of emphasis on realism.
As the title gives away, this is now the ninth entry in Nacon’s WRC series. WRC 9 includes many improvements in vehicle behaviour, driving realism and new game modes – including Clubs, a free roaming zone to test cars’ settings, and an enriched Career Mode – allowing players to truly put themselves in the shoes of a rally driver.
The Career Mode allows you to play out an entire season of rally racing. The Career Mode features various calendar races as well as side events to earn extra cash and skill points.
Racing in WRC 9 requires your utmost concentration and focus. Even the slightest of movement on the DualShock 4 controller sticks can be enough for you to oversteer. This can be calibrated to be less sensitive which I recommend doing as the out-of-the-box settings really are too sensitive, in my opinion. Alas, I feel like having the benefit of playing with a steering wheel accessory would elevate my experience massively but alas that was not currently an option for me at the time of reviewing.
Again, what we see in WRC 9 is a genuine strive for realism. The driving mechanics to the visuals all lean into realism. WRC 9 redesigns multiple elements particularly suspension and weight transfer. Sounds of the engine, exhaust and even the sound of hitting the barriers all sound authentic.
WRC 9 is also committed to a long-term content plan with free updates. WRC 9 promises regular free additional content added over forthcoming months to extend WRC 9’s lifespan. This includes new special stages in Finland and Portugal and a co-driver mode, which allows a fellow player to read pace notes to the driver.
To be perfectly frank, I did find WRC 9 to be a very difficult game. Maybe it’s partly down to my rustiness in the racing genre, and the fact I’ve been playing more arcade racers like Forza lately, but it’s safe to say it’s a difficult but rewarding learning curve. Authentically, it’s a faithful recreation of rally racing. Visually, it’s a gorgeous game with both vehicles, tracks, and environments all impressing. There’s a few nitpicks with features I’m used to in other racers being missing and content missing at launch but otherwise it’s a great rally racing game.
*Review copy kindly provided by the publisher for this review.