Version tested Xbox 360
Do you know what the most exciting thing about the World Rally Championship is right now? It's not that Mini has returned to the sport since leaving after the Summer of Love. By far the most remarkable thing about world-level rallying at the time of writing is the fact that, with two events to go, there's no certainty Sebastian Loeb will drive his way to this year's championship.
I appreciate that, if you're not a WRC follower, the above statement is likely to have hit you with the force of a sickly seahorse. So know this: Loeb has been an unstoppable winning machine since the dawn of time. (Or, at the very least, the past seven years.)
Whether he manages to squeeze a magnificent eighth title into his trophy room is actually irrelevant, though. The lesson that we should all learn from this previously unthinkable scenario is that things, inevitably, move on.
But judging by WRC2, Milestone's been skipping school. 12 months on from the developer's first stab at steering the official WRC licence and there's disappointingly little evidence of evolution. In fact, if you read last year's WRC review (God bless you), I ought to point out that I've neither lost my mind, nor am I trying to fob the editor off with a sneaky cut-and-paste-and-tweak job here. The two articles risk ending up suspiciously similar because the games are, in most areas, identical.
Despite a quick graphical makeover, the initial menu layout and options (The Road to the WRC, WRC Rally School, Single Player, Hot Seat for two, three or four players and online) are a mirror image of 2010's game. Trying to spot significant differences in all but the career mode becomes as tricky as getting a straight answer out of James Murdoch.
Yes, Rally School does offer an extra slab of six (often stupidly short) lessons compared to last year's equivalent, and the (solid, ghost-based) 16-player online options now include a Quick Match element entirely dedicated to the new Super Special Stage inclusions. You'll also spot a 'rewind' option borrowed from GRID, along with a 'Look to apex' Shift 2-inspired counterpart (the effect of which proves hard to notice in play).
And, of course, the official licence also dictates that you get this season's car categories: WRC, SWRC, PWRC, FIA WRC Academy, WRC Group B and WRC Safari (think classics like the Escort RS 1600, Evo III and, er, Peugeot 504) - though in practice this has little impact.
In just about every other respect, though, things are just as they were in 2010 and at no time is this more disappointing than when behind the wheel. Last year's game had a knack of separating you from the on-track action by providing little-to-no feedback when it came to what the car's tyres were up to, and WRC 2 fares little better in this regard.
You can go entire stages - certainly when on tarmac - with your joypad's vibration motors (which you'll have to activate in the options, incidentally) seemingly on strike. But even then, there just isn't enough subtlety and range within the handling to tie you to the road surface and convey the illusion of driving in a manner that ever becomes intuitive. Like WRC, however, you can learn to anticipate car behaviour through trial and error.