Let’s be upfront about this: WRC 6 is a good rally game, but would be a lot more impressive if Dirt Rally didn’t exist. Dirt outdoes it so markedly in so many areas - environmental detail, motion fluidity, sensation of weight and subtlety of control - there’s no question WRC 6 instantly debuts as ‘only’ the second best rally game available for current-gen consoles. But hey - that’s still pretty damn good, and since it’s certainly more accessible for newcomers, it’s still worthy of your attention.
It’s an impressively authentic recreation of the WRC series and its two feeder championships, and you can work your way through them all in the fun, compulsively playable Career Mode. From the slippery asphalt of the Monte Carlo Rally to the Finnish street stages that were patently designed by a sadist, the game is all about finding a rhythm and pushing the vehicle into doing things normal drivers will never experience. Play the game cautiously and it’s not much fun at all. You’ll always be second-guessing the car’s behaviour because it feels awkward and cumbersome at low speed. But start taking risks and employing the 'Scandinavian flick' and you’ll soon have a broad smile on your face. Fast-paced sections can make you feel like a rally god as you hurtle over crests and through tunnels of towering trunks and overhanging canopies. And if you can nail a broadsided handbrake turn into a hairpin from 100mph, you’ll make Mick Jagger jealous of all your satisfaction.
Pleasantly, WRC 6 prefers for you to be playing the game rather than navigating menus, and leaves you with just a few things to do between races. You can check out the clear objectives for progression and repair your car for the next set of stages. Each damage area has three tiers, and each tier takes a set time from your allowance. While this method is pretty standard, said tiering system works really well.
The game does its best to take away the laborious process of finding the right difficulty setting, which is commendable. You’re given questions at the start to see how much experience you have, then the game watches how you play the first couple of runs, before suggesting your difficulty. Although I did find some balance issues in terms of competitor skill from country to country (or maybe I just suck on snow), it set me up with a very well-matched and challenging configuration, which saved a lot of time.
While I played on full simulation settings for the most part, switching to the simplified handling was a bit of shock. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, regardless of skill. Its enhanced grip seems to snap small steering movements back into line, making for a very finicky drive. You also lose a lot of the inertia that makes a rally game so enjoyable. Simulation handling is much more natural and enjoyable, so stick with that.
Outside of career mode, there are online-enabled challenges with real-world calendar entry cut-offs, which are always nice to have a stab at (even if the times at the top of the table are insanely fast and make you wonder if your car was somehow broken), and an excellent online multiplayer mode. Online rallies see everyone starting simultaneously, ghosted out so that you can see each other but not collide. It’s really fun to see a leading player suddenly loom large in front of you as you nail a turn they fluffed. Bizarrely, there’s a Mario Kart-esque ‘boost start’ - where you hold the handbrake before the Go signal – which is a bit arcadey and arguably has no place in the game, but you’ll need to learn it if you don’t want to play catch-up in every race.
Dash start aside, this is a hardcore rally sim, so it’s likely a lot of its target audience will be playing with a wheel and pedals. I tested it primarily on a Thrustmaster T300 RS, which feels great at high speed (especially when the force feedback makes the clamp screw rattle because it’s so powerful), but it feels clumsy and fiddly in low-speed hillclimb sections, probably because the handbrake is mapped to a button you have to reach for with your thumb. Standard pad control is much more solid-feeling all-round, and is more immediate and responsive than the wheel. You don't need the wheel to enjoy it, but it definitely adds to the experience.
There are occasional glimpses of real beauty, especially during evening runs when the sun is dipping behind the trees, sending crepuscular rays streaming down onto your dashboard. The haze over distant hills is nice, and tackling a rainy stage at night in the helmet cam is suitably frightening as you swim through a sea of monochrome white on black. However, there is a slight feeling of thinness to the entire engine, brought on not only by rather unpolished, sharp-edged scenery, but by a very disappointing frame-rate. When Dirt Rally manages full 1080p, 60fps motion on PS4, seeing WRC 6 struggle to hit 30fps at any point is simply not good enough. In particularly busy scenes, such as driving past a crowd of animated, 3D people, things can really start to chug, making the game simply feel unfinished. Considering the power of the hardware it’s running on, and the quality of its direct competition, this isn’t good enough.
If you can ignore the slight shakiness, this is a clear improvement on its predecessor and represents at least a plausible alternative if the super-hardcore nature of Dirt Rally puts you off. But if you’re simply looking to buy the best rally game available right now, this isn’t it. Maybe next time.
This game was reviewed on PS4.