A Few Thoughts on WRC 7

It’s that time of year again… time to take a look at the newest addition to the WRC series of video games. WRC 7 came out at the end of last week and between work, I’ve had a bit of time to play around with it. This time last year, I did a lengthy 4 part review on WRC 6. This game turned out to be a pleasant surprise for me. No, it wasn’t perfect but it was a huge leap forward from WRC 5 which was a rather lackluster debut offering from Kylotonn Games. So, does WRC 7 continue this upward trend? Let’s take a look.
It Feels REALLY Good:
The very first thing that I noticed when I booted up WRC 7 for the first time was the huge improvement in the handling compared to last year’s game. In my review of WRC 6, I felt that the cars felt planted at higher speeds, but at low speeds, they had a strange tendency to oversteer. No matter what I did with either the controller or car settings, I found it impossible to completely fix this effect. This strange oversteer was the one thing that detracted from an otherwise good experience with WRC 6. It left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.
Well, I’m pleased to say that this has been fixed completely in WRC 7. No longer do the cars randomly pirouette into the undergrowth on the inside of a 1st gear corner. With the default settings, all the cars in the game feel very planted and behave in a consistent and believable way. The cars feel like they have weight to them and the tires are actually gripping the road surface. The cars don’t have a hint of the dreaded “floatyness” that plagues other rally games Does this mean that the physics necessarily simulation based? Maybe not… BUT… I don’t think that this really matters. We all know what we’re signing up for when we buy an officially licensed game that is directed at a large audience. It isn’t meant to be the next incarnation of Richard Burns Rally. That’s OK as long as the cars handle in a way that is believable and allows us to experience the risk vs. reward of driving near the limit on a rally stage. WRC 7 does capture this feeling really well, and that’s exactly what an officially licensed game should do.
In addition, I think that Kylotonn did a good job of portraying what driving a new 2017 WRC car might feel like. Of course, I’m speculating a lot here since I will never find myself behind the wheel of one of these cars. However, knowing what we do about how these cars are different from their predecessors, the game seems to capture these differences quite well. The extra downforce that these new cars produce has been brought into the physics model and you can feel the car being pushed into the road surface. In addition, when you move from a R5 car to a 2017 WRC car in the game, you can really perceive the huge difference in power when coming out of tight hairpins or junctions. Where the R5 cars tend to bog down under power when exiting a low-speed corner, the new WRC cars leap away from the slow corners and feel truly alive. When I play to the game, I feel the same sensations that rally drivers describe when moving from R5 to WRC. This means that even if the physics aren’t 100% realistic, they are at least authentic and faithful to what real drivers say it feels like to drive these cars.
The Stages: They’re Awesome… But…
The next thing that I noticed about WRC 7 after the pleasant feeling of the handling was just how beautiful the stages were. You might remember that I gushed over the stages in WRC 6 last year. Well, somehow, Kylotonn made them even better. As advertised, the stages are narrower, bumpier, and resemble their real-life counterparts even more than in WRC 6. The foliage by the side of the stage is more dense and there is more country-specific “road furniture” that really helps you feel like you are there at the real rally. Once again, Kylotonn upped their game with the stages and I would have to say that they are the strongest point of the game.
However… the increased quality of the stages does come at a cost. That cost is that we only get 4 stages per rally. On some of the rallies, one of those are the same short super-special stages that debuted in WRC 6. This means that there are only 3 proper stages per event. One thing that I hoped would alleviate this was the much-hyped “epic stages” that debuted in the game. On paper, it sounded great… one stage per rally that lasted between 10-15 minutes. However, the execution of this is actually a bit disappointing. The so called “epic stages” are actually just the other two stages of the rally spliced together into one longer stretch of road. So, when you consider this reality, there are really only two unique sections of road for each rally. The stages may look great, but when real WRC rallies feature between 8 and 12 unique stages, an officially licensed game with only 2 or 3 seems inadequate.
A “Tuned Up” WRC 6
I was planning on doing a longer review of this game like I did for Dirt Rally, WRC 6 and Dirt 4. However, the more time  spent with WRC 7, the more and it began to feel like a “tuned up” version of WRC 6. That’s not a bad thing because WRC 6 was pretty good, but at the same time, there was nothing in WRC 7 that blew me away. It looked and felt better than WRC 6, but at the end of the day, there wasn’t much new stuff to keep me interested. When I reflected on this, I came to the realization that the constraints of Kylotonn having to put out an annual release didn’t do this game any favors. Even though it may seem nice to have a new rally game to play each year, the reality is that this constant grind of yearly releases is hurting the overall quality of the series. To Kylotonn’s credit, each game they release has shown improvement, but the limited development time means that the improvements are becoming a bit smaller over time. WRC 6 was a huge leap forward from WRC 5, but WRC 7 doesn’t improve on WRC 6 in quite the same proportions. In the future, I would love to see the WRC games released with a two-year development cycle where larger advances can be made from game to game. As things stand now, WRC 7 is a good rally game, but if you already own WRC 6, I’d wait for a sale before jumping into WRC 7.