WRC 2010 Preview

October 5, 2010 | 13:08

Tags: #racing #rally #simulation

Companies: #milestone

WRC 2010 Preview

Publisher: Milestone
Platform: PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: October 8th, 2010

We love rally racing games but finding a good one has always been difficult, as they've never had the support of the larger, more popular F1 series or 'fancy-driving in exotics' titles. We were a fan of the old RallySport games on the original Xbox, especially the superior second iteration, so it was inevitable we’d look at WRC 2010 in the hope that it could top that.

The chance that WRC could better RallySport seemed thin based on the initial trailers though, as they made the game look as if it were rendered on a failing PS2, but we decided to put those thoughts behind us and go hands-on with the game instead.

First impressions? Well, WRC’s engine isn't that demanding and if you own a graphics card made in the last three years you should be able to crank it up full, with anti-aliasing on as well. The game looks good too, with the car nicely detailed and the local blurring providing a pretty good sense of speed. When you’re playing though much of the finer details become largely irrelevant as you’re constantly focused on the distance – you’ve got to keep your eyes on the road.

WRC 2010 Preview WRC 2010 Preview
VROOM

Unfortunately, doing that lets you see that, while the cars look nice, the graphics elsewhere are in need of an overhaul. Not only does WRC suffer from poor draw distance (which is a fixed setting by the way), but the DirectX 9 engine causes pop-up problems too – items will often pop-up twice, with low-res versions jarringly replaced with more detailed ones as soon as you get close. If any game ever really needed tessellation and fade-in effect, it was WRC 2010.

The standard in-game filtering setting is truly awful too and, again, there’s no option to tweak it. You can manually force it to 16x AF with Nvidia drivers (we haven’t yet tried it with AMD drivers), but that’s a little beside the point, isn’t it? The lack of available settings in the demo version we were looking at was enough to make us suspect a lazy console port.

The sounds are pretty terrible too. To give you an idea of how behind the times the sound system is we’ll tell you that the most advanced setting is just “64 voices". The co-pilot can be clearly heard which is always useful, but even with every effects volume slider maxed the cars sound like they have five drunk bees under the bonnet, not a turbocharged monster. The environmental noises are similarly far from making our hairs stand on end as we power-slide around corners.

WRC 2010 Preview WRC 2010 Preview
VROOM, again

All this could be forgiven if the gameplay was good and the cars handled with the ninja responses we'd expect from a highly tuned rally vehicle, but unfortunately that’s not the case either. All the tracks and cars we tried felt like rollerskating on ice and, though we tried various setup options and vehicles, we were always either understeering into pits or torque-steering into slow-motion spins. Heavy braking is almost impossible unless you use the handbrake, which always throws your back end wobbling out as if your axle had just turned to jelly.

On the plus side, if you turn the assistance on then everything handles perfectly, with cars gliding around corners in long arcade-esque drifts. They still can’t stop properly though.

Creating a decent racing simulator is a challenging task, especially if you’re dealing with something more niche like rally races. Developers need to make things accessible to newcomers who just want to fulfil their racing fantasies, but they also need to offer enough challenge and realism to appease hardcore fans. WRC 2010, for the way it swings from one extreme to another, shows how difficult it is to get that balance right.

WRC 2010 is being developed by Black Bean and is set for release on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC on October 8th, 2010.
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