Developed By: Kylotonn
Published By: Bigben Interactive
Release Date: March 3, 2017
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One (Reviewed)
Auto racing has been popular for decades with Formula One and NASCAR, as fans were drawn to the outright speed and danger of the events. These two styles of racing sit atop the hill in Europe and North America, but a new challenger is taking some of their viewership. The World Rally Championship–simply known as WRC–is an entirely different beast in that driving teams take regular old four-cylinder vehicles like the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo and turn them into million dollar speed demons. These cars can handle asphalt, gravel, dirt, and snow, sometimes during the same race. WRC is downright fascinating simply because of the required driving and engineering prowess, and as such has inspired a series of racing video games. Bugbear, Evolution, and Codemasters have all created Rally games in the past like Colin McRae Rally, but there is a developer named Kylotonn that has recently entered the fray.
Based in France, Kylotonn took over the series last year with WRC 5 and enjoyed decent success by reaching the top 10 of UK sales charts. However, the critical reception wasn’t as amazing as WRC 5 earned a 6/10 from Game Informer and a 6 from IGN. Kylotonn is back once again with a new entry, and they are looking to exceed expectations with their second crack at this franchise.
So how is the new version?
Following the official 2016 Rally Championship series, WRC 6 sends your racing team to locales all over the globe. Included in this list of 14 races are Rally Australia, Rallye Deutschland, and Tour de Corse, all of which are quite different from each other. Tour de Corse is completely made up of mountain roads with rocks on one side and ravines on the other. The tarmac roads and little maneuvering room make Tour de Corse one of the most difficult series in the game. Rallye Deutschland, on the other hand, is an even mixture of tarmac and dirt set against a backdrop of vineyards and military training grounds. Some stages take place at night, which makes racing full speed a little harrowing at times, while a few signature events take place in arenas.
Of the included events in WRC 6, my personal favorites were Rally Australia and Rally Mexico. Both are set on mainly dirt and gravel stages, although the scenery is quite different. Rally Mexico is mainly dirt roads in the desert, so the scenery is very desolate. However, the dirt surfaces make sliding through every corner very easy and really entertaining. Just don’t end up bouncing off rocks.
Rally Australia, on the other hand, takes you through the Outback at full speed, sometimes at night. These stages seem to be faster-paced than Tour de Corse or Rally Finland, but they are also very dangerous. The roads wind through wooded areas, so misjudging a corner and flying off into a tree is all too easy. Ironically enough, moments like this are still entertaining even though they force you to restart the stage. Of course, the moments are entertaining to you, but they completely irritate your driving team. There is a morale meter in the championship mode that reflects your driving ability. If you win every race, which only seems possible in Easy mode, the team will be stoked on life. Losing frequently, which I did for the first six hours or so, leads to your team being completely miserable.
Thankfully, WRC 6 has quite a few options for offsetting the early difficulty. You start by taking a driving test that tests your ability to drive around a track without wrecking. Setting a time on this assigns you one of four difficulty levels between Easy, Medium, Hard, or Expert. Next up, you choose to be a driving style between Amateur, Semi-Pro, Pro, or Simulation. Each of these affects the number of included aids. Finally, you choose a transmission for the car between Semi-Automatic and Manual. Most gamers, myself included, will automatically choose Medium for the difficulty and Semi-Pro for the driving style. However, I would recommend at least switching to Easy and using some of the practice stages until you figure out some of the systems. This way, you won’t crash and burn the first time you enter the stages at Portugal Rally.
And speaking of stages, WRC 6 features some of the best in the world. For example, WRC 6 includes the world-famous Nambucca stage of Rally Australia, which has been hailed as the best Special Stage in the WRC. This nearly 51-kilometer stage includes multiple surface and environment changes that test driver’s limits for almost 30 minutes at a time. Apparently, it’s a beast, but racers around the world have praised its inclusion in the WRC. Thankfully, WRC 6 trims Nambucca down to two 12-kilometer pieces that only keep you racing for around eight minutes at a time. One is set during the day and is an absolute blast to race around while the other is set at night. Setting a good time on this version of Nambucca is downright scary to say the least. You will be racing along between 90-120 kilometers-per-hour trying to distinguish between shadows, trees, and embankments just sweating at the thought of missing a turn. Nambucca is truly a white-knuckle affair, but nothing quite feels as good as finishing this night time version with a solid time and place on the leaderboard. Especially if you destroy the car’s headlights, which is entirely possible.
Interestingly enough, WRC 6’s best selling point is that it draws you in with a nice balance of difficulty and entertainment. I came into this game knowing nothing about the World Rally Championship and expecting to hate every second of it. However, I quickly discovered that balancing speed and caution was downright intoxicating. It’s quite satisfying to finish a race, head to the tent, and find out that your team only has to spend a few minutes on repairs before the next day. Plus, sometimes freak events will happen during the rally, forcing a stage to be canceled. One rally was cut short after a car caught on fire. This moment was obviously created for the game, but it added a sense of realness to the Championship series.
It also helps that Kylotonn includes the co-drivers that make every WRC racer successful. This assistant rides along in the car with you and provides information about every upcoming turn. The soundtrack to each race is “right 5 over crest, left 6, right 4, don’t cut.” The list goes on and on. While these pacenotes may irritate significant others with their monotony, they actually end up being quite helpful once you understand them. To be perfectly honest, none of those notes make a lick of sense for the first six hours of playing WRC 6, but you will eventually learn that each term explains the depth and length of each corner and whether or not there is a hay bale or tractor in the way. It’s education through immersion. Plus, Kylotonn includes language options for German, Italian, French, Spanish, and English in case you want to mix up the commentary.
We’ve discussed the Championship Mode for the majority of this review, but what about the other options? Well, Kylotonn includes three multiplayer options to break up the single player racing. Offline, you have the option of split screen racing with a friend, where you are both on the same track, but you race against a ghost so there is no danger of ramming each other off the road. This mode, although simple, functions perfectly well and doesn’t get bogged down by the extra car on the screen. Come to think of it, WRC 6 had no technical issues that I could find. That’s impressive, but I digress. Split screen has two different types of available entertainment. The first is if both of the racers are decent and can make the race very competitive. The second is if the racers aren’t great and accidentally crash half of the time. At that point, split screen becomes a contest of who can have the fewest penalties. As it turns out, you can quickly rack up penalties by flying off of the track and landing sideway on a cliff face.
The other offline multiplayer mode is called Hot Seat. In this mode, up to eight players take turns trying to best each other on the same track with the same car. It’s the quintessential “I get next turn when you die” mode from when we were kids. The best part is that every track and every car is available, so you can literally come up with any combination of cars/events. Want to race a Mini around Spain and then take a Hyundai to Finland? The possibilities are nearly endless for besting your friends.
Technically, there is also an online multiplayer mode that includes both Stage and Rally events, but I was unable to try it. Every attempt at connecting simply resulted in the phrase “you were unable to join the game.” The issue wasn’t my internet connection because I could still connect to the online weekly challenges that Kylotonn posts. I just couldn’t connect to other players. Very unfortunate.
WRC 6 is a fascinating game. Given my lack of interest in Rally, I shouldn’t care at all about this game. However, I couldn’t put the controller down for days on end. Racing around unique locations was both relaxing and stressful at the same time, which was quite the sensation, and I had a blast tearing up the roads of Australia and Mexico. Plus, I was actually impressed by the lack of framerate issues while racing at high speeds. Sure, WRC 6 is no Forza Horizon 3 when it comes to graphical prowess, but the game still looks pretty good.
Sadly, multiplayer connection issues and early frustration with the difficulty and pacenotes could make newcomers bail before they truly find enjoyment in WRC 6. That’s too bad, because this is a slow burn (mostly) worth playing.