Sébastien Loeb is a pretty big deal in the world of rally driving. With nine World Championships to his name and several world records, a game developed around his illustrious career makes pretty good sense. The developers Milestone S.r.l were originally responsible for World Rally Championship games up until last year.
The gameplay is a mix of simulator and arcade, not quite having the realism of DiRT Rally, instead offering a much more accessible experience. The game is broken down into two experiences, a classic career mode in which you race various classes of rally car in different disciplines, and the Sébastien Loeb experience. The latter follows Loeb’s career, giving players the chance to relive some of the most prolific moments during Sébastien’s history.
The Loeb experience features interviews and video snippets from his career, letting players race all the way through his WRC campaign. Hardcore rally fans will likely love this as it lets you play Loeb’s career chronologically, giving players the chance to experience things from Leob’s point of view, rather than that of a spectator. The Sébastien Loeb experience offers a higher level of difficulty than the normal career, giving the races a greater sense of drama.
There is a lot of content on offer here, while the DiRT Rally experience is more refined, Sébastien Loeb brings more to the table. There’s an impressive amount of tracks, 300 km of them from all over the world including; Wales, Australia, Sweden and even the classic Pikes Peak mountain run. The career involves racing these various tracks through different classes from the iconic Group B rally cars to the more modern cars we see now. There is also the addition of rallycross, a closed track mode that pits you against several AI drivers.
Rally driving is all about control, and therefore the handling is an incredibly important aspect of it. Sébastien Loeb Rally Evo handles well, providing enough of a challenge to not make the gameplay frustrating. The physics feel a little off from time to time, but this is most evident during car crashes, when the car thrashes about with a weird weightlessness. Like many I found DiRT Rally to be very hard to control; the game was geared towards those with expensive steering wheels. Milestone have decided against this making Sébastien Loeb Rally Evo a much easier experience. The difficulty instead comes from keeping a consistent pace through a track without messing up, although there is the rewind feature available if you desperately need it.
The game allows for a decent amount of customisation on the cars, giving players the chance to tweak performance between runs. This may sound daft to the uninitiated, but the difference between some tracks can be staggering, especially when you take into consideration the differences between the kind of road you’ll be driving on. A car handles very different between tarmac and mud, so having the ability to compensate for this is a requirement of the rally discipline .
Graphically the game is nothing to shout about; it’s not an ugly game by any means, but next to titles like Driveclub it definitely comes up short. Instead we get a smooth and reliable experience that takes into consideration the need for a consistent framerate. It doesn’t run at 60 frames, but we do get a solid 30, providing a smooth enough experience controls-wise. However there is the occasional asset and texture pop in, which can be a little distracting when you’re doing 160 mph down the side of a mountain.
Audio is another important aspect of an authentic rally game; the game doesn’t do anything special but provides an adequate enough sound experience to make you feel like you are driving through a forest at break neck speed. The driver co-ordination is clear and focussed, instructions are easy to follow with on-screen prompts included to make it easier. This is an incredibly important part of rally driving; players move at such a pace that they rely on the instructions from the co-driver to help prepare for the upcoming turns
The multiplayer is pretty basic, offering players the chance to race in rallycross and normal rally stages. Players host their own servers, giving them control over the race rotation and other race specific settings. I have to mention just how atrociously competitors are marked out during night races; other players on the cars are pointed out by luminescent bright ghosts that are near impossible to see past. You’d think vision would be the top priority in a game that involves driving well over the legal speed limit. It has put me off playing night races until they get it sorted, as it made judging the apex on corners damn near impossible.
Sébastien Loeb Rally Evo isn’t a DiRT Rally killer by any means but it offers enough on its own merits to attract those looking for an alternative rally experience. The lower barriers to entry mean that the game is much more accessible to people who aren’t necessarily hardcore driving fans. It does have some minor flaws, but they aren’t ever enough to demean the experience. Sébastien Loeb Rally Evo is worth your time if you’re even partially interested in rally driving; you’d probably enjoy it if you aren’t either.
Sébastien Loeb Rally EVO (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
Sébastien Loeb Rally Evo is a game that exceeds expectations. It never fully outshines the competition, but it does enough on its own to make it worth your attention.