KT Racing celebrates 50 years of WRC with a generous, enjoyable package - even if some old problems persist.
Editor's note: Hello! Over the next few days we're running a "Games That Got Away" series, where we finally get round to reviewing games that released at some point in 2021 but, for various reasons, we couldn't quite manage to cover at the time.
We've gone back to a few real gems, so for more catch-up reviews like this one head to the Games That Got Away hub, where all our pieces from the series will be rounded up in one convenient place. Enjoy!
In a sport where the stopwatch is king, it's baffling that KT Racing seems to have fluffed its timing. WRC 10 - which continues the upward trajectory the series has taken since the French studio took over in 2015 - celebrates the 50th anniversary of a sport that started in 1973, which by my admittedly shaky maths makes this party a little premature. Maybe that's just to spoil another party, with Codemasters' picking up the WRC licence in 2023, but frankly I'll excuse the weirdness, because it has resulted in an absolute feast of a rally game.
It's the 50th anniversary that frames the high points of this comprehensive package, with fresh stages providing a neat tour through the series' rich history. Having iconic cars is nothing new to rally games, of course, but having some appropriately dressed stages with which to rag them around feels fresh - indeed, there's a little something of all-time sim great Grand Prix Legends in the experience of seeing icons of the sport such as Michèle Mouton matched with her brutish Quattro, or Didier Auriol with his Castrol-liveried Celica as you're invited to thread your way through reckless mobs of spectators in period correct stages stripped of modern advertising hoards.
It's those images of lairy cars parting crowds that get directly to the insanity and appeal of rally, and so it is with their representation in WRC 10. The classics might not boast the out-and-out speed of the current breed of rally cars, but there's something about tossing an old Abarth around the dusty heights of the classic Acropolis rally that's quicker to raise your pulse - underpinned, of course, by handling dynamics that are up there with Dirt Rally 2.0 and, dare I say it, Richard Burns Rally in being some of the very best we've ever seen in this particular subset of the racing genre.
WRC 10's cars are a varied bunch, and it does well to do justice to everything from the low horsepower, rear engined and frankly pendulous classic Alpine A110 to the lightning quick WRC Yaris that seems to teleport from one point to another, turning corners perfectly on its axis. Wheel support still isn't quite where it should be, perhaps - always an odd omission given the abundance of Fanatec logos in-game - but on a controller there's a pleasing clarity to WRC 10's handling.
If there's any one particular area that WRC 10 pulls clear from its competition it's the stages, rich with detail and enhanced by dynamic conditions and time of day. There's a fidelity to the stages on offer here - and it's those stages that provide the fundamental challenge of the sport - that's unmatched, from the expansive roads of the Kenyan safari or the famous switchbacks of Monte Carlo.
Which, really, should be all you need to know to recommend WRC 10 to you - here's a take on the sport that's rife with authenticity, feels fantastic in your hands, that boasts a generous amount of stages plucked from the official calendar including new arrivals Estonia and Croatia matched by all-time classics and accompanied by one of the broadest, most appealing collection of rally cars I've seen in a contemporary game. It is, for any keen historians of the sport, simply heavenly.
But - I'm sorry, there is always a but - it's all served up with some of the sloppiness and cut corners that have undermined KT Racing's efforts with the series. Those historical events that are available in the 50th Anniversary mode are fundamentally fantastic, but wonkily delivered - there's no option to alter the difficulty, and not much by way of visibility of whether you're meeting the required time to pass any given event while you're doing it.
Elsewhere there's an abundance of things to do in WRC 10 - I'm a fan of the challenges that offer bite-sized servings of rally, the perfect counterpoint to the epic stages that demand an outrageous amount of concentration to see through to their end - but it can suffer from that same inconsistency. The sizable and involved career mode returns, seeing you recruit staff and expand your own team as you work through the ranks, yet once again you have to start from the bottom rung, making it something of a slog if you've played one of KT Racing's efforts before. It's all a bit of a mess.
Indeed, as you'd expect from a series as gently iterative as this, how much you'll get out of WRC 10 depends largely on how much you've put into the series in the past. This is familiar stuff from WRC 9 - arguably the high point of the series so far - with familiar problems, and plenty of familiar delights. Maybe you'd had your fill back then, and there's not a huge number of excuses here to come back.
Maybe, like me, you weren't able to put so much time into WRC 9, so WRC 10's relatively slim additions aren't so much of a problem. If anything, our tardiness in coming to WRC 10 for this particular review has helped its cause - there's now the addition of Belgium and modern Greek stages, and a tidy up here and there to help make this quite easily the best rally game available for modern hardware. For WRC 10's occasional missteps, that's not an insignificant achievement, even if it's only marginally better than what came before.
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