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
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.
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.