WRC 10 Hands-On Preview: Jostling For First Place
I’ve got a confession to make, dear reader – WRC 10 is the first game in the WRC series I’ve played. I like racing games, I like them a lot. Still, when it comes to arcade racer vs. simulation, you’ll find me zipping through speed cameras in Forza Horizon or knocking over oversized blocks on the Gymkhana stages in the Dirt franchise.
But WRC 10 evoked something within me that I haven’t felt since the PlayStation 1 glory days. Of course, I’m talking about the time I spent playing Gran Turismo, spending hours and hours honing my driving skill in the cauldron of licenses.
I’m not sure if that’s because I’m craving some time with a proper old-school driving simulator, or whether that’s just WRC 10, but stick around, and I’ll tell you what I think about this early build from developer KT Racing.
Weathering The Storm
There are only three stages available in this early build of the game So, naturally, after doing a couple of races on the Estonia track in clear conditions, I decided I hated myself enough to try re-running the race at night in stormy conditions. The result wasn’t pretty.
You can tell KT Racing has spent a great deal of time making each set of environmental conditions feel unique and challenging in its own way. What was a pedestrian romp through the Estonian countryside during the day had me fighting for my life at night. Chiefly this was because driving at night is oppressively dark, of course, but the torrential rain made it feel as if I was driving across molten treacle slathered in slippery butter.
Superlatives aside, WRC 10 feels rewarding to race. The four cars in the demo all feel different, meaty, and handle like they should; depending on what conditions you find yourself in.
It’s worth mentioning that these three courses will join 16 other locations in the game, 13 of which are straight off the real-life WRC tour, and six others are historical locations for the anniversary mode.
Looking To The Past
Before I got my grubby hands on the preview build of WRC 10, KT Racing took me through some specifics that aren’t available until the full game launches. First, the finished game will feature over 120 tracks, set across 19 locations – which is plenty to try your hand at in numerous weather conditions.
Second, they talked extensively about Anniversary mode, which coincides with the 50th Anniversary of the actual WRC, which was founded in 1973. The mode is set to feature six historical rally events and 22 cars, including the legendary Subaru Impreza. The developer has also committed to recreating the legendary drivers, liveries, and sponsors in this mode too – so expect the late Colin McRae to show up; looking the part.
Finally, career mode has had a slight overhaul. You’ll be able to unlock abilities in a skill tree to get you and your team upgrades to help you be more successful on the WRC circuit. Once again, this wasn’t playable during the preview build, so I’m keen to learn more as the release date approaches.
WRC 10 is no slouch in the visuals department. Each track in this preview build of the game is beautifully crafted, with vehicles lovingly recreated, including all the intricate detailing you’d expect on each car.
But it was the scenery that really impressed me. Each locale felt different. From the rolling hills and forests of Croatia to the claustrophobic mountain roads of some Spanish hamlet, each area is rendered beautifully.
Developer KT Racing is keen to call out some new bits and pieces about the rendering. In particular, foliage and more varied road textures are on the agenda to vary the look and feel of each course as you bulldoze your way through it.
Let’s Get Physical
WRC 9 got rave reviews about its physics, and WRC 10 is set to continue this trend with an improved physics system. Being a dreadful scientist, I decided to subject WRC 10’s physics engine to numerous non-descript experiments.
The first was to deliberately pound my car as much as possible on whatever concrete surface I could find. Unfortunately for my test, this wasn’t too different from how I’d been playing the game up until that point.
But what I can report is that my Hyundai i20 WRC was suitably OBLITERATED. My chassis was pretty much non-existent, the side panels were missing, and the doors were just flapping around the place. My only criticism is that my co-driver was still happily chirping instructions at me instead of questioning why I’d taken leave of my senses.
The second and final test was to try and accelerate over as many jumps as possible. This was far easier to complete than my first experiment, as it wasn’t a challenge to get up to speed in my car. I can confirm that if you accelerate over a hill at high speed, WRC 10’s physics engine will simulate you having a crash – with horrifying accuracy.
One To Watch
Now I know I’ve spent a fair bit of this preview being quite silly, but that all faded away when I started to actually play the game a bit. I’m quite a competitive person, so the minute I started to see leaderboards, with 30-odd people above me, that stirred something in me.
I’ve run the Estonia rally eight times today, and the minute I fuck up on something, I restart the whole rally – none of this instant rewind nonsense you get in modern racing games. And I tell you what, I actually love it. I like that the game is relentlessly punishing the tiniest of mistakes.
There’s a real skill to sliding around a wet gravel track, in the dark; with a minuscule headlamp, desperately trying to close down the ghost of that anonymous person who’s several places ahead of you.
WRC 10 is due out on September 2nd. It’ll be on PlayStation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S consoles and PC.
You’d do well to keep an eye on it. I know I will be.
Editors note: You can play the preview build of WRC 10 yourself if you’ve got a Steam and suitably powerful PC. It’s playable from June 16 – 22 as part of the upcoming Steam Festival.