Like many rally fans, Milestone didn't appreciate the fact that Colin McRae Rally turned into DiRT and left a gaping hole in the genre for years. Traditional point to point racing through timed stages with no other cars on the track is something you just don't see as the meat of a game any more. So they made a proper rally game – and it's playing very nicely.
The studio is known for creating the SBK motorbike games, and while they've had a couple of stabs at the four-wheeled genre before, it looks like this time they're going to get the handling bang on the money. The cars in WRC feel weighty and react differently to every type of road surface.
It's not just press release bullet points, either – watch in the video as I start a turn on wet tarmac and find there's more grip than I was expecting and nearly collect a road sign in the process.
Apart from my own misjudgement, the car handled brilliantly, slewing around under heavy braking on the mud and generally being a bundle of fun.
The game will feature four classes of car (WRC, S-WRC, P-WRC and J-WRC) and plenty of authentic-looking stages. Sadly, the tracks in the game are not identical to the real-world stages of the WRC as they were too long, but the reduced-length stages are certainly long and challenging enough.
The car has 32 damage points (not that I needed them hehehe), and you're given limited time at the end of each stage to fix the most pressing issues. Damage is linked, so if your radiator is broken and you don't fix it completely, you can expect your engine to go further down the line.
Above: The car moves serenely over the snow... not so serenely into a tree
The game is already fun to play with a pad – it should be awesome with a steering wheel. I played it with the assists switched off and manual gears on, which is where the sense of reward comes in. I didn't care that the yet-to-be-balanced difficulty level put me last. I got to the end in one piece and that was rewarding enough in itself. Especially as the dev put it in the wall on the third corner.
In many ways, WRC is a retro racer. Games like this died out in the mid-noughties so it feels a lot like you're playing a PS2 game, but I mean that in the best possible way. If all the comments on DiRT 2 articles are anything to go by, there's still a big market for a 'proper' rally game. On my brief playtest, I don't think that any of those people are going to be disappointed.
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