So here we are with an early look of the third installment of the officially licensed World Rally Championship game from the guys over at Milestone. As this is a preview, elements of the game are still subject to change and are not necessarily representative of the final product.
To begin it has to be said for an early look at the title, the game ran flawlessly on my gaming rig, clean crisp visuals bombing along at a rock solid 60 FPS (vsync was indeed enabled). So the game will either let you fly along stages as some of the current rally greats, Sebastien Loeb, Petter Solberg etc., or start your own rally career. I do have to note here that limiting your Forename and Surname to nine characters may be a bit of an oversight, especially in my case where my Surname is 12 characters long but this may change in time for the release in October.
While staying true to the whole WRC rallying experience, the game does have some extra fun modes for you to play while going through the career mode or to play standalone for a quick blast. These may be a test of your reactions as you have to hit the green gate out of a possible choice of two or three, however these do not change colour until the last moment requiring you to have cat like reflexes in order to swing the car into the correct gate. These really do help to mix up the experience and give you more enjoyment.
You're also graded on your driving performance throughout the stages, giving you points for showmanship, and driving technique. So keeping your car damage-free and having clean sectors will give you points as well, and drifting around hairpin bends to please the crowd will also add to this score. At the end of each stage this is tallied up and you also score stars based on the position that you finish the stage in. These stars become vital in your progression as further stages require a certain number of stars to unlock.
Now for some reason at the end of each chapter you have to battle a boss character in a race which seems a little odd for a WRC title. These are essentially one on one races over a particularly demanding stage of one of the locations the WRC holds their rallies. Here the game changes from a simple point A to point B in the quickest possible time, to a race against the computer controlled AI in order to beat them to the finish line. While it's not in the true spirit of WRC it does actually offer a degree of fun and satisfaction beating them on a track where normally you can barely fit one car on the road, never mind two that are trying to overtake each other.
The variety of cars you're able to drive is fairly decent, those following the WRC will know that there's only three manufacturers in the main competition so having the choice of driving what you want is pretty pleasing. The level of detail is impressive too with the cars accurately modelled on their real world counterparts, including the still in testing VW Polo R. It's also worth noting that the cars themselves are easy to handle so even the less adept may feel like they're a rallying God in this game. Just remember to take care of your car as you can damage your car quite heavily by cutting that corner your co-driver told you to not cut and you barrel into a barrier and remove your front end. This damage will be taken into account when you arrive back at your pit for some inter stage repairs, just be sure you don't exceed your allotted tinkering time or that will have a negative impact on your overall time for the rally.
The visuals of the stages is pretty impressive too, from the red dusty tracks of Portugal to the forests of Wales, it's all lovingly recreated for you to drive around at breakneck speeds. Thankfully if you crash there is a rewind feature, but you may be better off just restarting the stage in order to gain those precious seconds from your opponents.
Overall the team over at Milestone are working on something pretty impressive in our eyes, it's time someone took the true rallying spirit and showcased it in a game. Since Codemasters took the route of X-Games-ifying (totally a word) the old Colin McRae franchise into what we now see as DiRT, hooning around pretending to be Ken Block; we feel that Milestone are poised to take the rallying title away from them. Keep an eye out for this hitting your favourite retailers on 12th October this year on PC Xbox 360, PS3 and PS Vita.