If you’re a gamer and rally enthusiast, you need WRC 8

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Bigben Interactive has been hard at work bringing WRC 8 to life, and we were lucky enough to get an early look at the game before it actually launches. How does it compare to other car games? Has Bigben and developer, Kylotonn, held true to the promise of improved graphics, physics, and overall gameplay? What about the redesigned career mode? Well, we’re here to tell you that WRC 8 is a huge departure from the last game, and I mean that in a good way. With that said, let’s take our first good look into WRC 8.

WRC 8 is a New Game Right from the Start

As an auto enthusiast and automotive journalist, I’ve been so lost in fast supercars, sports cars, and even family cars, that I don’t get a lot of time to enjoy racing or rally events like I once did. I bought Forza Horizon 4 for the Xbox One here at Top Speed Headquarters, and I’ve managed to log about 45 minutes’ worth of actual gameplay, so my time spent gaming is rather thin these days as well despite my love for it. When we got the download code for WRC 8, however, I started to remember my love for rally and, I have to admit, I spent several hours playing that night. I have to admit that I was hooked right away.

WRC 8 gets right down to business. Within a few minutes of loading the game, you’re thrust into a training event so the game can help you determine difficulty settings. I have to admit; it was hard to get used to the driving physics in the game. That’s not because they are bad, however, but largely realistic – at least for the most part – but I’ll talk more about that later. The point is that the graphics are on point, the design of the cars are on point, and the overall feel of the controller is on point. The controls are about what you would expect. On the Xbox One, LT and RT served as the gas and brake, respectively, X and A served for shifting, B was your handbrake, and you control the car with the left thumbstick. Overall, there wasn’t much of a learning curve to the controls, and this plays in WRC 8’s favor – you’re able to focus on the game and not wondering what buttons to hit.

As you can see from the video above, my run in the initial training course was, well, laughable. I couldn’t keep the car on the track, braking was hard to predict, and there is a bit of a learning curve to it. But, don’t worry, this is all part of adapting to the game’s new driving physics – it really is a far cry from WRC 7, and it does require some skill to nail turns, braking, and overall control of the vehicle. It can be hard at first, but it’s very fun to get used to.

WRC 8 Career Mode

WRC 8 First Impressions and Gameplay
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Developers promised us that WRC 8 would have an all-new career mode and I hope you believed them. The career mode is something else. You can control your own racing calendar in preparations for different events. In the first week, you have two more training sessions before your next event – you can choose to do them or not. I recommend you do them if you’re as bad as me, but I’ll leave that up to you. After the first major event, the following weeks you get to choose between more training or manufacturer events in which you can increase their interest in you – this is especially important if you don’t want to drive that Ford Fiesta for your entire career.

WRC 8 First Impressions and Gameplay
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Outside of the calendar and events, there’s a lot going on in career mode. You can hire and release various team members, check e-mails, check statistics, perform R&D to improve your car and team, and there’s even a test drive area which could be, honestly, one of the best parts of career mode if you’re not into the whole political side of things. In test drive mode, you’re free to drive around a map. It’s not the biggest map out there, but it’s pretty big and is composed of various terrain types. It’s here that you’ll want to spend some time before diving too deep into the official events in career mode, as you’ll get a much better feel for the game’s driving dynamics, handling, and overall feel without sacrificing valuable season time, losing events in the process.

WRC 8 First Impressions and Gameplay
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Overall, the career mode is all-new, that’s for sure, however, if you’re really not into hardcore career management and prefer to just play events, the career mode might be a little too much for you. You can spend a lot of time here and never really get behind the wheel of the car. It’s a good thing, I think, for hardcore rally enthusiasts, but for the occasional player or just simulator buffs, it might come off as a little too much. The R & D section of career mode isn’t much of what I expected either. Of course, I wasn’t expecting anything like you get from Forza or Gran Turismo in terms of car customization – this is a WRC simulator, of course, but your options for research and development are limited and point-based (points you earn by racing and leveling up.)

I do think that WRC 8’s developers put a lot of thought in time into developing the career mode, and I think it will appeal largely to the games main base, however, it’s also something that’s going to take a lot of time and you’ll spend just as much time managing your career as you do racing in events.

WRC Driving Dynamics and Physics Engine

WRC 8 First Impressions and Gameplay
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I found driving in WRC 8 difficult at first, and it was a little frustrating, but then I realized that it really is worthy of being called a simulation. If you hit the brakes too hard on a gravel course, you will slide and miss your turn, if you handbrake to early or late in a turn trying to drift, you will lose control and spin. Even hitting a small jump too fast and cockeyed will result in a rough landing and the potential to lose control I really do have to tip my hat to developers on this – the game’s driving dynamic is impression above all else. That said, if you’re used to playing other simulators, like Forza, Gran Turismo, or even Need for Speed, there is quite the learning curve because none of those really embrace the off-road dynamic as WRC 8 does. This game, by and far, embraces the rally concept better than any other game I’ve ever played, to the point that it takes some time to actually train yourself, which adds a level of realism to it as you can’t just jump behind the wheel of a rally car and post record times, now can you?

WRC 8 First Impressions and Gameplay
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Overall, the game’s physics, in general, are damn good as well. As I said before, handling, braking, and even acceleration on different surfaces feels real – or as real as it can via a controller, anyway. The different sounds from different surfaces sound realistic too, from gravel to snow and pavement, it’s all realistic. There are a few things here and there that do throw you off, though. At one point, I nailed a guardrail and was teetering on top of it as I came to a stop. When I hit the gas in an attempt to get off it, a weird glitch happened, and the car violently flipped over. This was a one-time thing, mind you, but the physics aren’t entirely perfect, either. For the most part, though, you’ll find that this is a true rally simulator, much like Gran Turismo and Forza are to racing – there really is no substitute.

Final Thoughts

WRC 8 First Impressions and Gameplay
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For now, I’ve logged about 4 hours of in-depth gameplay, and I have to say, I’m a big fan of WRC 8. I haven’t had the chance to drive other cars or advance my career much, but there’s so much to do in the game, it takes some time to really explore everything it has to offer. The rest of this week, I’ll be exploring the game more, getting into career mode, and really diving into all the features it offers. I’m looking forward to writing a real in-depth review but, if you can’t wait, I certainly suggest you get your own copy of WRC 8 – if you’re into rally or driving simulators in general, you certainly won’t be disappointed. WRC 8 is available starting on PC via the Epic Games Store and on the PS4 and Xbox One in starting September 5th. Those of us in North America with the PS4 or Xbox One will have to wait until September 10th, at which point it’ll be available via disc or digital stores. Stay tuned for a more in-depth review and more gameplay footage!

Robert Moore
Editor-in-Chief and Automotive Expert - robert@topsped.com
Robert has been an auto enthusiast his entire life. He started working cars at a young age, learning the basics from his father in the home garage on the weekends. As time went on, Robert became more and more interested in cars and convinced his father to teach him how to drive when he was just 13 years old. Robert continued working on cars in his free time and learned as much as he could about engines, transmissions, and car electrical systems, something that only fed his curiosity more and eventually led him to earn a bachelors degree in automotive technology with a primary focus on engine performance and transmission rebuilding.  Read More
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