WRC 10 FIA World Rally Championship Review – PC/PS5

Back in April of this year I had the thrilling privilege of being in Zagreb for the 45th running of the Croatia Rally.  Simply witnessing this event was an amazing experience, but the real treat was the day after the race when I was allowed to actually drive the course thanks to Team Subaru and some string-pulling from my racing school instructor. Until then I had only driven rally cars in a few locations around the States, but nothing could prepare me for driving an actual championship course that still had all the race trimmings installed.  The only thing missing was the cheering trackside crowds.

Five months later I am playing WRC 10 FIA World Rally Championship and that same track shows up in the career calendar rotation, and I am instantly transported back to the actual driver’s seat, gripping my Logitech racing wheel, finessing the gas, clutch, and brake as I navigated all the twists and turns of this near-perfect recreation of the real-world track.  There was an inexplicable euphoria that washed over me, and even though I only placed third in the event it was still a triumphant experience, and I am already looking forward to next season – I think New Zealand will be a fine destination in 2022.

I’ve been saying this for the past three or four games in this series but WRC 10 FIA World Rally Championship is just about as real as it gets without actually climbing behind the wheel.  The series just keeps improving on every element; physics, graphics, liveries, locations, and all the intricate back-office dealings taking place between the actual racing.  Like last year, I reviewed WRC 10 on both the PC and PS5 only this year the results weren’t as favorable when it came to the PS5 version, so let’s get into it.

I personally found the PS5 unplayable in its current state, and by current I mean 30 minutes prior to writing this review.  I had hoped some sort of patch would have fixed things but sadly no.  Clearly the developers are trying to push the PS5 beyond it’s already impressive boundaries, so while my RTX3090 card runs this game flawlessly the PS5 is so bad I got physically ill and had to quit playing.  Everything is okay until you hit that first Anniversary event, the 1973 Acropolis Rally.  There is something about that level, either geometry or texture complexity or perhaps just sheer scale of the course, but the framerate tanks hard and there is copious amounts of screen tearing taking place at every hairpin turn – and this track has lots of them.  Textures are fuzzy and there is some very aggressive motion blur happening.  The framerate is all over the place making it incredibly hard to steer with any accuracy using the DualSense.  I switched over to my Logitech G29, which resolved most of my control issues, but the game still looked really bad in motion.  The cinematic pre-race beauty shots of the course looked great, but once behind the wheel the fluctuating framerate and horizontal screen tear forced me to quit.  Even changing the various race views didn’t help.  Unless or until the PS5 version is patched or Sony figures out their VRR issues I cannot recommend anyone play this on the PS5.  Even an option for 60fps Performance vs 30fps Quality would fix this.

The good news is the PC version is amazing and highly scalable thanks to pages of video options; none of which were available on the PS5.  My RTX3090 was running this game flawlessly with all the settings maxed out at 4K and WRC 10 on PC is just about as photo-real as it gets.  The one thing I did notice where the PS5 had a slight edge was on load times that were about a third of my PC’s SSD, but that is likely third gen versus fourth gen drive technology.  It’s basically 10-20 seconds to load on PS5 and 30-60 seconds on my PC, but I also suspect I am loading in higher res textures as well on the PC.

So what could they possibly do different or add to what was already an excellent and complete WRC 9 game from last year?  How about a 50th Anniversary Edition that celebrates all the great moments from WRC’s impressive 48 years of racing?  Yes, it’s coming two years early, but we’ll overlook that.  The very first WRC event was in 1973 – that same fateful race I mentioned above that was unplayable on the PS5 – and you’ll get to enjoy that event and many more in this new Anniversary mode, or you can relive these events as optional races in your career race calendar.  My biggest complaint with these events is that they are mostly enhanced time trials where you are required to beat a certain time to win and unlock the next event.  If you are unable to do so then any future anniversary content remains locked, and this is disappointing, especially if that is why you are playing WRC 10 in the first place.

Like all games in the franchise WRC 10 is brutally hard and unforgivingly realistic.  Sure, there are all sorts of settings and assists and sliders to tailor the game to your own skill level, but many of these time requirements are quite daunting.  I play with fairly realistic settings and am using a wheel/pedal combo and frankly, I’m pretty good at these games; not at an Esports level, but I almost always get a podium finish.  It took me three attempts to beat that first Acropolis event.  I can only imagine how off-putting this will be to the more casual players.

WRC 10 doesn’t disappoint with its massive car collection and this year we get customizable liveries that let you modify just about every visual element of thirty cars from all the various leagues.  Edit colors, stickers, shapes, logos, and more to create infinite looks and personalize your career.  For those who place value on stats welcome back 52 teams from all the WRC categories with all the current season liveries.  This Anniversary Edition also packs in four new 2021 rallies; Estonia, Croatia, Belgium and Spain as well as six historic rallies; Acropolis, San Remo, Germany and Argentina, 120 special stages, and 20 legendary cars from Alpine, Audi, Lancia, Subaru, Ford, Mitsubishi, Toyota, and more.

Play as numerous racing stars in the Season mode or create your own driver to seek fame and fortune in the elaborate and lengthy Career mode.  As always, you also have Quickplay, Training, a test area to test your setups, and dozens of unlockable Challenges that will test your proficiency with specific cars, earning you gold, silver, and bronze medals.  You can also create your own club or join someone else’s to compete in daily and weekly challenges or create your own challenges in this growing Esport community.  There is no shortage of racing in WRC 10.

Career mode is the cornerstone of the content allowing you to start in the Junior leagues and make your way to the WRC or just jump in.  In career mode you not only have to worry about what happens on the track but also manage your crew and team behind the scenes, worrying about things like fatigue, mechanics, business agents, PR, and even a meteorologist to predict the weather for your next event.  Keeping your staff healthy and happy is just as important as navigating the massive R&D tech tree that lets you customize your career by spending points earned through leveling up while racing.  It’s an amazingly intricate and often overwhelming multi-layer system that’s running behind the scenes and all visualized quite nicely with a fun and detailed isometric view of your racing HQ.

There can be a lot to micromanage if you want there to be, and sadly there is no narrative or story to carry you through the career.  You basically spend all non-race moments wading through various menus where you can populate your own race calendar with specific events, but make sure to put in “rest days” so your team can recover.  You have to maintain a staff of six professionals, often with backups in case someone decides to take off right before a big race.  You get to affect manufacturer reputations and setup season and short term goals that all factor into rep and team morale.  Your race results will all factor into money, XP, reputation, and morale and if you’re rep drops too low a sponsor could drop you.

Of course if you’d rather not worry about all the non-racing stuff you can just jump into the Season mode for pure racing and none of the paperwork.   Special Training modes let you practice and perfect the various key skills required for rally racing, and these are very similar to what you experience in an actual racing school.  WRC 10 also offers up a nice set of multiplayer options including online events, split-screen local play, and daily, weekly, and special challenges. Some are available for a limited timed only, encouraging you to check in with the game regularly.

The underlying physics engine is as advanced as it gets with plenty of setup options allowing you the ability to setup variations for race surface, temperature, weather, etc., and then save those settings to test or keep as presets for future use.  As I mentioned last year, WRC is a hard core simulation and as such does not play as well with a gamepad, and that is even truer this year as the driving mechanics have gotten even more realistic with mass transfer and tire grip playing much bigger roles in car handling.  Yes, you can struggle to play the game with a controller but you will never feel comfortable or in sync with the game until you switch to a wheel/pedal combo.  And it doesn’t even have to be a fancy or expensive setup; just something that offers a sweeping analog range of motion for steering and some nice travel distance for braking and throttle.  Given the crazy RPM’s of these mighty cars and the general lack of traction on these off-road tracks trying to use triggers for gas and break is a recipe for a wipeout.

Before each race you can dial in the difficulty on a percentage scale and to be even remotely competitive (and enjoyable) you’ll probably want to put that slider between 75-80% difficulty if you persist in using a gamepad.  You can also tweak the level of damage effects and toggle perma-crash for each event.  Reckless driving is discouraged not only with potential time penalties between rally race days while you repair the car but also the fact you have to pay for repairs after each event with your earnings…team salaries too.  Lose too many races and you could go broke.

WRC 10 has never looked better or more realistic; something you can appreciate in the Photo mode that allows you to setup and take stunning screenshots of your favorite cars in your favorite locations, or maybe you just want to document that dented fender or cracked windshield for insurance purposes.  When played on a large screen from the cockpit view with a wheel and pedals the level of total immersion is unparalleled.  The tracks and environments are photo-real and the lighting effects for nighttime and extreme weather racing events can be terrifying.  The way the light reflects off fog, snow, or sheets of rain is eerily realistic; both visually and how it impacts the road surface and the way your car handles.  WRC 10 demands a pretty hefty PC to recreate all this realism and my RTX3090 was definitely having a much easier time than my RTX2060 Super did last year.  For WRC 9 I had to make numerous compromises to maintain 60fps at 1440p, but my RTX3090 basically allowed me to crank up all the options on WRC10 and run the game at a locked 60fps at 4K.  Lighting and shadows, textures and particles, draw distance, vegetation, crowd density, and water quality all looked incredible. Your choice of camera can also impact your performance, as driving behind the car (shame on you) takes more horsepower than the hood or cockpit cam.

Having driven NASCAR, Indy Car, Formula F1, and now Rally in real-life and in video game simulations I can say that rally is unlike any other type of racing; a fact that this game clearly communicates through stunning visuals and incredibly realistic physics and driving mechanics.  While I would never discourage anyone from playing this game just please go into it knowing that this is a hardcore simulation that rewards patience and dedication and punishes casual racers who are coming to sightsee while crashing around corners.  For those up to the challenge grab that wheel/pedal combo and become one with the machine and the road.  WRC 10 FIA World Rally Championship continues to set the standard for reality racing.

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