While I’ll reserve the more exhaustive analysis for the review, WRC 8 is certainly coming out swinging. WRC 8 will contain more than 100 stages across 14 countries, and this time around there’s dynamic weather. The refurbished physics have improved the driving feel noticeably, too – especially on a control pad. On default settings, at least, WRC 8 seems to have shed WRC 7’s control pad twitchiness; countersteering and course correcting feels a bit less deadly but overall it’s still nice and responsive. KT Racing has even included classic rally cars at long last, though there’s only a small handful in the preview build and it’s unclear whether the retro roster will expand much in time for release.
However, while Dirt is certainly WRC’s closest peer, KT Racing has clearly gleaned a good deal of inspiration from a different Codemasters racing series for WRC 8, and that’s the F1 games.
There have been sweeping changes to the career mode in WRC 8, elevating it from little more than some mild menu shuffling between rallies to a fully-fledged rally team management experience. There’s now a large skill and tech tree, reminiscent of the R&D system that’s been part of the F1 games for several years now, and it should add a little zest to moving through the championships. There are training objectives to achieve and special one-off challenge events to attend between rallies, too.
There’s also a team management system where specific staff need to be hired to fill six important roles, with particular gameplay benefits attached (of course, this is something Dirt Rally dabbled with back in 2015). For instance, it’s being indicated that a good meteorologist will be important thanks to the arrival of dynamic weather. Dirt Rally 2.0 included tyre wear and the opportunity to gamble on soft tyres that may not last between service intervals, so it’ll be interesting to see if WRC 8 can respond by introducing the chance to roll the dice on certain weather predictions that’ll either have us rocketing up the time sheets or marooned on the wrong tyre waiting on a monsoon that never arrives. Either way it’s looking likely the drastic changes to career mode will inject a strong dose of longevity into WRC 8 that WRC 7 definitely lacked with its vanilla, one-speed driver campaign.
By embracing some design components that resemble elements of Codemasters’ current F1 series and coupling them with the WRC series’ ever-impressive stage design it’s looking increasingly like KT Racing is set to deliver the richest official WRC game to date.
Luke is Games Editor at IGN’s Sydney office and cars are his catnip. You can find him on Twitter every few days @MrLukeReilly.