The next WRC title is just a few weeks from release and we got to give it a go this week. Here are our first impressions of EA Sports WRC.
The end of 2023 may well be in sight, now halfway through October. However, there are still some major titles scheduled for release in the next few weeks and months. One of the largest is surely EA Sports WRC.
This brand new rally game by Codemasters and EA Sports is releasing on 3 November. But luckily for us, we got the chance to try out a preview build of the game this week. Having spent several hours chucking numerous rally cars through harsh stages, here are our first impressions of EA Sports WRC.
Such a big game, there is plenty to discuss. So let’s go through the key points of this EA Sports WRC gameplay experience.
Tarmac Handling in EA Sports WRC
One major talking point surrounding the upcoming rally game is the tarmac physics. In its predecessor Dirt Rally 2.0, players were left wanting more from the vague, soft and floaty feeling on tarmac stages.
Upon the announcement of the new game, EA Sports was keen to point out that, whilst this new WRC game will use physics from DiRT Rally 2.0, they will be reworked, particularly the feeling on tarmac. Obviously, the entire community has spent the past month or so on the edge of its seat wondering just how big of a step this will be.
It seems the difference is night and day. Driving several different cars on a number of tarmac stages, one realises that the cars appear to be much more responsive. DiRT Rally 2.0 featured handling in which cars appeared to never dig into the road, leaving the front pushing on and the rear coming round. But in EA Sports WRC, there is a greater feeling of grip in the wheel. As a result, one truly feels when the front axle begins to lose said grip in a satisfying way.
Indeed, the front-rear balance is far more neutral allowing one to drive more naturally.
However, this does not mean one can smash through tarmac stages without lifting. Pushing the car too much will easily send the rear round, or cause understeer. In addition, weight transition in direction changes truly impacts how one must approach corners. Balancing the brake and throttle is a fun technique to master on winding mountainous roads of Monaco.
One must point out that some cars still experienced the DiRT Rally 2.0 float of old at times. We noted this best in content that previously featured in the old game, such as the Lancia 037 Group B car. It is important to remember that this was a preview version of the game, however, and that the fix may well be a last-minute adjustment.
“So, how does the game feel on surfaces other than tarmac?”, you may ask. As aforementioned, this game was designed upon the DiRT Rally 2.0 physics engine. In fact, first impressions of EA Sports WRC truly reflect this. On loose surfaces, one quickly feels the same ease of rotation and satisfying counter steer mechanics of the old title.
Somehow, the whole thing does feel smoother and softer however. Even in the large ruts of Safari Rally Kenya, one can place the car with relative ease. This is something that might not have been as easy in the more rigid DiRT Rally 2.0. One may remember the Greek stages in the old game which often left players struggling for front grip as the suspension struggled to cope with the dusty bumps. That is no longer the case in EA Sports WRC.
Overall, the game feels very natural to drive. Very quickly from jumping in the game, one understands how each input will affect the car. This means that one no longer has to really think about the inputs they are doing, instead being able to fully focus on the stage and pace notes.
EA Sports WRC: Forgiving?
This softer handling model does mean that the tyres seem to grip loose surfaces better than DR2.0. In fact, one may imagine that the tyres sink in further to the gravel or snow than previous rally games. As a result, there is a good amount of grip, especially on the brakes.
When slowing down, it is difficult to snag a brake and lock up. Even when missing markers and slamming on the brakes in desperation, getting back to the perfect line is far from impossible. Overall, it is certainly easy to make mistakes, but the game feels somewhat forgiving allowing players to not lose too much time from minor incidents. That being said, miss a turn-in point on a fast road and the only way you will head is into a tree.
The forgiveness of the game also translates to its damage model. Die-hard rally fans will be familiar with Richard Burns Rally and the great challenge simply finishing a stage can be. In fact, hitting a rock or landing in a bad way can easily damage suspension and engine parts. But the first impressions of the EA Sports WRC damage model lack that challenge.
Even if one sets the game to Hardcore Damage, hitting a tree or barrier at full pelt will not force a retirement. The car will certainly make some interesting sounds and the engine will lack power. But one can drive away from most major accidents.
This low barrier of entry is certainly something that will attract more fans and reduce the frustration of never finishing a stage. However, rallying anoraks may well be in search of a more stressful reliability-centric experience.
EA WRC Stage Design
One element of DiRT Rally 2.0 that seemed to lack in comparison to the Kylotonn Games WRC series of old was the stage design. KT managed to capture a living, breathing environment with stages that felt a part of a larger world. But the various locations in Dirt Rally 2.0 felt as though they had been crafted specifically for the stages. The was no sense of realism to the surrounding areas.
That seems to have disappeared with the all-new EA Sports WRC stages. First impressions of the routes truly feel like they are everyday roads and tracks that have been set up as rally stages on the WRC calendar.
Furthermore, the road-side decorations make each route feel like a true WRC event. Sponsor boards are just the beginning. Some sections of road may feel quiet with little to see beside the road. But approach a fan area, much like real WRC events, and you will feel the atmosphere. The whole thing feels alive as you are flying past.
Not only does each rally location take on a persona of its own in EA Sports WRC, the stage routes seem very well crafted. With surrounding scenery changing from high peaks to open plains whilst going through villages, one gets a sense of travelling. In fact, going from start to finish of a stage provides a feeling that the player has actually gone somewhere for a purpose. This is far better than DiRT Rally 2.0 where stages featured near-identical scenery and surrounding no matter where one was in a stage.
As the recently unveiled stage list confirms, each rally in EA Sports WRC is made up of a single near-30km route, broken up into several shorter stages. This provides around a dozen stages for each rally location. Of course, this will disappoint those looking for a unique stage each time they load up the game. But with over 600km of unique road to learn, it will be a while before you learn each stage perfectly.
User Interface Step Back
Speaking of the game feeling alive, EA and Codemasters have taken a leaf out of the F1 game series book with EA Sports WRC. In F1 23 for example, one often hears the likes of Crofty and Ant Davidson providing introductions to rounds and overviews of results. The same happens in EA Sports WRC as Molly Pettit provides insight into upcoming stages, from conditions to elements to be wary of.
Whilst a minor detail, the addition of voices and features one might see on the official WRC broadcast is a nice touch for immersion.
Whilst EA is keen to point out that the game is still in development at the time of the preview, first impressions of the EA Sports WRC menu system are lacking. Clearly, the developers are pushing to better integrate controller functionality with the game’s release to next gen consoles. However, PC players may find the menu system difficult to navigate with a mouse and keyboard. Hopefully, the system becomes more streamlined for release.
Lacking Classic Gameplay?
Very soon after the game’s announcement, EA and Codemasters unveiled the full EA Sports WRC car list. One of the main takeaways from the reveal was the vast array of classic car content spanning the history of rally.
Indeed, the list covers all the bases, from current historic classes H1, H2 and H3 all the way to fire-breathing Group B racers. But lesser known cars also feature in the game. The Super 1600 category and Kit Cars will be popular among rally fans. The legendary Group B monsters are sure to attract the masses. In fact, the modern WRC, WRC2 and WRC Junior cars seemingly form a small portion of the total EA Sports WRC content selection.
It is no doubt impressive to see the wide-ranging number of cars. However, one does feel let down by these legends’ lack of use in the EA Sports WRC gameplay experience.
In the game’s current form, one can only set up an official championship using the modern rally cars. It is possible to setup one’s own championships, but EA does not provide any classic series for you. Furthermore, the career seemingly only features classic content in select historic events.
The Moments mode akin to F1 Replay in F1 23 will frequently renew itself with various special events, many of which will surely use the classic content. However, that does not feel like enough in a title with so many cars from the past.
In DiRT Rally 2.0, a full progression system saw players compete in increasingly newer cars. Starting with the H1 class, the Historic Championship mode progressed through the ranks to finish with modern racers. Something similar to this would have been a nice touch in EA Sports WRC. However, holding the official WRC licence surely creates some restrictions in this area.
EA Sports WRC Gameplay Video
Initial impressions of any game are subjective to each person. Therefore, it is important to form one’s own decision one the title. But overall, it seems the key contentious points surrounding EA Sports WRC have been addressed.
To help you decide if this upcoming rally game is for you, our very own Michel Wolk will be live streaming the game tonight, 12 October from 19:30 CEST. You can find the live stream on the Overtake.GG Twitch channel. In the meantime, make sure to check out Michel’s first impressions of EA Sports WRC. You can find his YouTube video at the top of this article.
How excited are you to get your hands on EA Sports WRC gameplay? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!