WRC 2 Review
Written : Tuesday, October 18, 2011
By: Lee Abrahams
It has certainly been a good year for racing with DIRT 3 and Forza 4 providing plenty of high octane action for speed junkies, but there is also a chance for those after a more specific style of racing to come to the fore. WRC 2 is not a game for the faint hearted and certainly eschews the arcade style handling of most of its nearest rivals, instead focusing quite specifically on a combination of driver skill and track unpredictability. The question here is whether or not such rallying realism can offer a compelling alternative to the big guns.
This sequel has at least gotten off on the right foot, with a more accessible approach to complete beginners and those of us whose rallying skills may have become a touch rusty. Unlike its forebear you can now opt to have far more assistance when it comes to braking and steering assistance, though it is nice to also be able to tweak the settings to make the challenge as suitable as possible. Thankfully this makes the game much easier to get to grips with, as well as meaning you won’t have to wait for a few hours for that first taste of victory.
"Tight corners at speed, just another typical day."
Once on the course you can drift around corners, speed through gritty chicanes and traverse a plethora of inhospitable terrain, usually within the course of one race. The handling feels strange at first, and fairly rigid to boot, but that is simply because the cars have a fairly realistic grounding, though they can at times feel a touch stickier on corners than you would expect. The track itself plays almost as important a role, with dirt tracks providing ample opportunity for drifts, but the danger of losing control is ever-present, while ice allows you to walk a fine line between canny cornering and unpredictable slides.
If anything the core racing aspect of the game is easily the most solid foundation on offer, with plenty of unique stages to test your mettle against and a steady increment in terms of the opposition you will face. You also get a number of opportunities to rewind the action during a stage so that if you mess up a perfect run at one minor point then failure is not totally certain. Again, this is a helpful tool to help the uninitiated but not one that feels too overpowered. Despite the fact it can be fun to best the elements, each race soon seems to blend into the last and the rest of the game seems less easy on the eye and fails to keep your interest for too long.
"Negotiating the streets can be tricky."
The main thrust of the game comes in the form of the Road to the World Championship mode, which sees you starting out as a rookie and then earning your way onto the top table with the big shots of the sport. Each season you can pick which series you want to take part in, which vary depending on your reputation, and you earn more credits and reputation by emerging victorious. You can also manage your team behind the scenes to some extent, hiring and firing mechanics and PR workers to manage your garage and sort out new contracts and sponsors.
Sadly this element feels a touch tacked on, as the mechanics only serve as timed unlocks for upgrades on your car. New mechanics pop up as your reputation improves, and hiring them will let you upgrade your car to win even more races so that you can hire even more mechanics and so on, until the great circle of life is complete or some such. The same goes for sponsors, who can be acquired and then give you goals to accomplish during certain rallies, which in turn gives you a boost to your cash and reputation which in turn……well you get the point. The whole process just serves to try and give a few extra features to a mode that is basically just a procession of races with very little else going on. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing, but the fact you never actually see your rivals perform can make it feel like the challenge is fairly lightweight.
"Eat my dust!"
Outside of the career you can engage in one-off races, Hot Seat competitions with your friends or hop online and take on up to 16 other people. You can also download other people's best times and race against their ghost cars in a bid to prove yourself against the best of the best. Sadly the number of online rivals is lacking, and the lack of options on offer means that it's hard to stay engaged for too long.
Achievement-wise you can expect a long but fairly varied haul towards completion, with points on offer for making your way through the career mode as well as for finishing first in every single event. You will also have to max out your team, not to mention your reputation and online ranking. Considering the dearth of online players you might struggle to max this game out unless you find a buddy, but at least the game encourages you to sample everything on offer, even if what's actually on offer is sadly lacking.
On the whole it is hard to really recommend this game above any number of higher quality alternatives. as while it offers a slightly refreshing change of pace, the racing can feel slightly too unpredictable and harsh. While the game has certainly taken steps in the right direction, it still falls down due to a crushing lack of variety and a career mode that feels undercooked. For rally fans WRC 2 will certainly be of interest, but we fear it will not be the drift-fuelled answer that they were searching for.
Quite frankly terrible menu music, supplemented with often muddled and delayed voice instructions from your co-driver.
Bland and underwhelming scenery, with moments of intrusive pop up, not to mention occasionally bewildering physics working their nefarious magic on your car.
Fun and challenging rallying, but a severe lack of options and interesting alternatives to what swiftly becomes a wearing procession of races.
A solid use of the license, with a large number of tracks, drivers and cars to keep you occupied but the game could have done with a lick of paint and a touch of innovation.
A decent list, but one that will require plenty of time and effort plus a lot of online racing against a fairly small number of potential opponents.
WRC 2 is certainly fun for a few hours, but after that point you will have seen pretty much everything that the game has to offer and repetition will quickly set in. A step in the right direction but still in need of plenty more work under the hood in order to become a true racing machine.