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WRC 9 Review: It's Time To Rally Again

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The World Rally Championship is one of the ultimate tests of driving skill. Participants try to get the fastest time on some of the most treacherous roads and offroad tracks in the world, in a variety of different conditions. Although the championship has been hit with the same impacts from COVID-19 as many other motor racing events, the season is now underway and fans can match it with the release of WRC 9.

Developed by Kylotonn, WRC 9 is the latest in the long line of games looking to replicate the World Rally Championship in video game form. Kylotonn has been in control of the WRC game franchise since 2015's WRC 5, and has steadily been improving the end result with each passing yearly release. WRC 8 was a major step forward for the series, and Kylotonn has aimed to make similar strides with WRC 9.

WRC 9 looks to emulate the real-world experience, and in this way it does succeed. However, more impressive is its balancing act between elements that purists of the sport can sink their teeth into and design aspects that make it available to new players. It's not at the same level of F1 2020's accessibility, but its easier difficulties have a more lenient feel than the consistently challenging DiRT Rally 2.0.

The core single player mode in WRC 9 is its Career Mode, and here WRC 9 shows off the power of its official licence. Starting in Junior WRC (or WRC-3 if the player want to dive into a greater challenge), the mode blends the official rallies alongside one-off events. These could be training circuits, manufacturer events, or other short breaks from the main rallies to test the player's mettle.

Career Mode's end goal is to make it into WRC-1 and get to the top spot in the championship as a whole, and it has the same depth of minor management activities as similar modes in other sports games. This could be keeping up morale with good results, ensuring staff are well-rested by not working them to the bone to maintain the player's trajectory, and making savvy decisions about what events to complete. It's not as strong as F1 2020's My Team mode in terms of a single player experience, lacking a little bit of control and ingenuity, but it's still a very worthwhile single player mode to whittle away the hours.

Perhaps the most imposing element of the Career Mode, and of WRC 9 as a whole, is the inclusion of extreme conditions special events. These task the driver with completing routes in either severe weather conditions or with a damaged vehicle - or both - and really highlight the work that has been done with the weather effects in WRC 9. The mode also appeared in WRC 8 but feels even better this time around, testing the player's skills and acting as an excellent diversion from taking part in the real-world rallies.

WRC 9 isn't just a single player experience, however, and Kylotonn has made some additions to the multiplayer game. An online clubs system could provide plenty of fun for drivers, allowing for the creation of homebrewed championships out of the existing rallies and opening them up to the whole of the WRC 9 community. The success of such a mode will depend entirely upon whether it gains traction when WRC 9 releases, but it if does the player base may find a splendid tool to get to grips with.

There are, of course, plenty of other elements for players to browse with WRC 9. The title has a broad selection of classic rally cars to drive, although these can feel a little odd to drive in comparison to the modern variants, being quite tetchy and requiring very different tactics. As such, those who get into a method of driving that suits them might end up skipping the classics altogether.

It's not perfect of course. Although it's a very impressive game in its own right, with plenty of hours of play to get involved in, the progression from WRC 8 feels a little like baby steps. This makes sense of course, given that a new console generation is nearly here and WRC 10 onwards will require the added stress of new, more powerful systems, but those expecting a dramatic leap from last year's game might find WRC 9 more reserved.

WRC 9 is yet another tidy entry in the series. It's not a drastic leap forward, but provides enough scope to keep fans of the franchise happy with a very extensive Career Mode and sufficient extras to stop it from becoming a grind. Offroad fans will want to check this out for something a little different from the upcoming DIRT 5.

WRC 9 releases 3 September 2020 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.


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