WRC 3 FIA World Rally Championship [Review]
Rally racing games come few and far between. Right now I think everyone would agree that the rally racing standard is set by the DiRT series, but with a lack of other rally racing titles there is definitely room for more. WRC 3 FIA World Rally Championship is looking to help fill that void. This is the third game in the series, and I want to be open and say that this is my first time playing any of the WRC games. The good news is that I can provide a fresh perspective since I can’t compare it to the others.
Within the first hour it was immediately clear to me that this game isn’t for everyone — including players who may enjoy DiRT. The game focuses almost entirely on rally racing and doesn’t have as many alternate race modes as the DiRT franchise. You can participate in special rally races, complete rally events, head-to-head races, and even a little gate crashing. I didn’t take this as a negative as the focus was primarily on rally races, so I felt they successfully tweaked the cars and tracks to make the game both fun and challenging.
While WRC 3 isn’t completely a simulation racer, it definitely feels more unforgiving than the DiRT series. Each car feels and handles differently, and as a player you will need to adjust; almost mastering each vehicle you use so that you can make precision turns or recover from a mishap without racking up too much additional time. AI feels aggressive, but it only shows in race times for the most part. The only race where you can see another car on the same track as you is head-to-head, and for the most part you will only pass by that car a few times.
If you complete a perfect run you may end the race a few seconds ahead, but when I say perfect I mean it in the definitive sense. Cutting too much into a turn, sliding a bit off the track, tapping rails (you know, the stuff we do in racing games all the time) will add fractions of a second to your time; and those seconds count. I refused to leave a track unless I had first place, and it was very rare for me to be over one second faster than my opponents when I won.
Besides the challenge of taming your vehicle, the tracks were also constructed to test your skill and control. I never listened to my co-driver in DiRT; in WRC 3 I realized that I would lose if I didn’t. I don’t think I’ve played a racing game in a really long time that required that I concentrate so hard on what I was doing. Taking my eyes off the road to take a glance at the mini-map (which sits only an inch or two above the car) was enough to cause me to make some mistakes that would end up with me losing. Mistakes don’t mean the end of your race every time, however, thanks to the rewind function which will allow you to roll back time a bit. You only can use this so many times in a race, though.
If you’re not familiar with Rally Racing or possibly with co-driver terminology, I would highly suggest that you do a quick Google search of it so you can understand what is going on. One gripe I did have with the co-driver was that it felt like he missed some terminology, which I thought was odd. I never heard the term crest. It was either a jump (which means a big hill that would put the car in the air) or nothing, even though there are smaller hills present that would justify an “over crest” call. It’s important because hitting those small hills at the wrong speed or angle can sometimes cause a mishap. I also never heard him say “opens” (a corner that is increasing in radius), but he used “tightens”. This is an issue that I think should be patched if possible, because if you are really using that co-driver to determine how to drive these terms are pretty important.
Another piece of motivation to not bang up your car is the fact that it will need to be repaired between races. During single stages this isn’t an issue, but in a rally it is. It doesn’t cost money to repair, but time. You have 60 minutes worth of repairs you can do at the start of each stage, and if you damage it too much you will not be able to completely repair your vehicle. Failing to repair it will affect its performance in some way; so no rail riding, ok?
Each vehicle can be customized in four places: front suspension, rear suspension, gears, and body. The system is detailed enough that it should allow you to tweak your car just the way you like it, but isn’t so in-depth or intimidating that users who aren’t familiar with racing can’t dive in. They are short, but very descriptive explanations of each setting that should help players choose what they want to do; if anything.
There are two modes for players to choose from: Road to Glory and Championship. Road to Glory is a campaign mode that puts you up against rising stars in rally racing in all different parts of the planet. To progress in this mode you need stars to unlock events and other areas, and to get these stars you have to rack up ability points during races. You can get these by making long jumps, hitting top speeds and staying at that speed, drifting, and even hitting destructible objects like polls or breakaway fences. You can get up to ten stars for the place you get in a race, and you can get up to three stars for racking up ability points. Once you get enough stars you will take on that area’s rising star in a head-to-head matchup.
My biggest problem with Road to Glory is the lack of car choice when selecting a track. There were only a few events that allow you to choose from multiple cars, but most only have one available. This meant that I needed to learn a new car almost every event — something which can start to feel a bit empty after a while. Thankfully in Championship mode you have an abundance of licensed vehicles to choose from.
Championship mode is pretty simple: it’s just all-out rally racing at a high difficulty. I actually started in this mode and was properly told to STFU and GTFO. It really prepared me for Road to Glory, but after I got the hang of the game I was able to go back and redeem myself (at least in a few rallys). There are no single races here, and you just go from rally to rally until you complete them all. Each rally has about seven races, so this can take a while.
There are quite a few different locations, and with that comes different terrain. You’ll be racing on a few different types: gravel, dirt, asphalt, and snow. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Something that also shouldn’t be a surprise is that some tracks have multiple types of terrain, and switching between them can sometimes be a mental challenge. Changing locations also changes the landscape. You may be good at racing gravel tracks in New Zealand, but it’s a bit different when you’re racing on gravel on the side of a mountain in Mexico. This added a nice variety, helping to keep the game from becoming stale.
I enjoyed my time with WRC 3 and am looking forward to conquering all of its events. There are definitely a few missteps, but I think Rally Racing fans will enjoy it. For any type of racing fan this game will be a bit of a challenge, so if you aren’t up for the difficulty you might want to skip this one. However, for those that like a good challenge and don’t mind the time it will take to put in to become proficient at this game, I would recommend it.