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reviews >> playstation 2
WRC World Rally Championship

written by Shaun McCracken

Game Information
Publisher: BAM! Entertainment
Developer: Evolution Studios
Year Released: 2002
Players: 1-2
ESRB Rating: Everyone

Visuals 8
Large courses that do sprawl a great distance, but the texturing is not so good. The area on which you drive is fairly detailed, while what you se in the background is very flat and muddy. Good car models and framerate.
Audio 8.25
Good sound effects and an understandable co-pilot, but there is no music during gameplay.
Gameplay 8.5
It's pretty forgiving in it's handling, which is good if you're banging your head against the wall from the difficulty of Rally Fusion and the like.
Replay Value 8.25
The main championship will take quite some time to complete, since there are so many rallies to participate in.
Reviewer's Impression 8.25
While the graphics didn't "wow" me, I found this to be one of the better and more forgiving rally racers on the system. It's realistic enough without having to be overly difficult.
Overall 8.25
If you're looking for a rally racer that feels realistic without being a pain to play, WRC is worth a look. But if you own an Xbox (as well as a PS2) Rallisport Challenge edges this game out in looks and accessabillity.

I've been through a few rally racers on the PS2 already, and the ones I've played have either been frustrating or short. In the case of Shox, it's both. WRC may have been a late arrival when it was released in the U.S. (the WRC championship takes place in 2001, which I assume was the original year of release in Europe), but it's design and gameplay do not date itself when compared to the other racers in this paticular genre.

I'm not sure how many are familiar with the WRC. It's basically a year-round rally championship with races in a different country for three or four days each month in that year. The championship has actually been shown on Speed Channel in the U.S., so if you're ever curious about the sport, check your listings to see when it will be on. Anyway, Evolution Studios has really gotten the WRC feel down to where it looks almost exactally like the broadcast, right down to the graphic displays. But the game also stays true with the championship itself, as it reproduces the locations you race in, as well as the dat you will participate the event. It even has most of the actual drivers of the tournament, as well as the autos that participate.

The concept of WRC is fairly easy to grasp. You choose wether you want to partake in the entire WRC championship that consist of 60 events (5 races each month/country), go for a single rally series (one country for all 5 races) or a single race or time trial. There's also a versus mode included. After that, you can choose from a Subaru Impreza WRX, a Ford Focus, a Mitsubishi Lancer, a Citroen Xsara, a Hyundai Accent, a Peugeot 206, or a Skoda Octavia. Then you adjust your settings, then you race.

The handling mechanics of WRC are fairly good. I think they may still be a little looser compared to Gran Turismo 3's rally mode, but it's much more friendlier and accessable than Rally Fusion's engine. I would suggest that you change the gas and brake functions to the right analog stick, as it does provide better control over your vehicle. Not sure why, but I found it much easier to drive using the right analog stick than the face buttons.

Each course you take on is riddled with challenges such as jumps, bumps, tight turns and cliffsides without rails. You may want to look out for the last one, as I've falled out of the side many times, and flipped a bitch down the hill. It's pretty funny to watch your car decsend off a cliffside into a ditch, but it does cost you valuable time to win. Here, it's the lowest time that gets you the win, and any unneccesary crashes, course-outs, flips or car damage will hurt your chances of winning. Speaking of damage, your car will take just that. After all, your car isn't indestructable, just watch the video of the real-life tournament durning the game. Your car will become banged up if you roll it over or crash into objects. Damage can also affect your car's performance by slowing it down or cause problems with turning. While this does provide a realistic experience, it seems like the effects of damage are distrubuted unevenly. You could roll your car and not have problems. But when you do something stupid, like when I accidentally drove into one of the phone poles on a course, the entire car was damaged, from the engine to the drivetrain. All I did was hit a pole, but it really messed the car up. I guess this should be a warning to all those wreckless drivers like myself. DON'T HIT PHONE POLES!

The graphics are sort of a mixed bag to me. I bought this fairly late, back in August 2003 to be exact. Now even though this game was released in the U.S. in 2002, it was really released in 2001 in Europe. Perhaps I should cut the game some slack for that, seeing how it is two years old, but there are some things that are hard to ignore. For one, the courses where you can see large fields have very ugly textures in the background. I think there were only a couple of courses where the background textures looked fine, but others looked like moldy flan, and it clashes against the higher resolution textures in the area you drive in. Then there's the ugly trees and lack of items to populate the environment. But there are some good things about the graphics. The cars look really nice, there are some good lighting effects, the courses take place in large areas, rather than blocked off areas, and the framerate is smooth. But just the other day when I was playing this, something kind of came to me. It feels like your driving an RC car on a model course when you drive in the third person view. That's just me.

As for the sound, this is another racer that likes to irk me by not having any music during the race. I can understand that developers of racing games do this so you can hear your co-pilot, but I would like a choice on wether I would want to listen to a co-pilot or music. There are directional arrows on-screen, you know. The cars sound fairly decent, which aside from the co-pilot, is the only thing you hear.

One final thing to note is this game has hideous load times. I'm talking about load times of near 50 seconds (I timed it with a stopwatch). I can understand that this occurs because of the large course sizes, but come on. 30 seconds, maybe, but 50? Gran Turismo 3 had lower load times, and it looked better. So if you're one of those impatient types, you might want to take note of that, but I'm sure there's a good deal of people who can tolerate this.

Final Thought

Here's something funny: this game was actually published by Sony in Europe, but was passed on by the U.S. distributors. We were only fortunate enough to play this in the U.S. because of small company BAM Entertainment picked up the distribution rights. As this turns out, WRC is one of the better rally racers in terms of accesabillity, presentation and realism. There are some things that hold it back, but it's still one of the better rally games on the PS2.