The unmistakable growl of rally car engines, the crunching sound of gravelly roads, and the ever-present chatter of your co-driver. Yep, this is a rally game alright. Also: bangin' menu tunes.
Not quite up to the standards of the best racing games, WRC 9 nonetheless looks very nice, boasting plenty of detail, some splendid environments, and plenty of filth, much as you'd hope.
Excellent handling and a variety of options that enable you to tailor the experience to your liking. Whether you're a casual rally noob or hardened veteran entrenched in all things gravelly and muddy, you'll find a home here.
Career Mode is wonderfully in-depth and engaging, while the Season mode eschews the management aspects for something more straightforward. Quick Play, Online, and Split-Screen round out the suite of options, so there's nothing missing.
A well-paced list rewarding some early milestones before settling you in for longer-term goals. A decent batch of tasks to work through that should ensure you stay hooked for much more than just a few hours.
September 02, 2020
It's been a while since I last played a pure rally game. And yet, French developer KT Racing (formerly Kylotonn Games) has been dutifully churning one out every year, reliably delivering a robust slab of dirty racing replete with official licenses and a comprehensive Career Mode. It appears that this year is no different, as WRC 9 gracefully drifts into view, kicking up gravel and muck from its spinning wheels, inviting you to once again brave the treacherous curves of tight and winding routes around the globe. And this year's iteration is none too shabby.
Like WRC 5, 6, 7, and 8 before it, WRC 9 presents you with a smorgasbord of rally, boasting Fords, Lancias, Citroens, Hyundais, Volkswagens, and the like, all beckoning you to forcefully grab their steering wheels and show those courses who's boss. The best place to do this is in Career Mode, where KT Racing has set about providing an in-depth rallying experience, in which you can manage the growth and day-to-day running of your team, hone your driving skills, complete special objectives, accumulate XP, and carry out R&D to acquire useful perks.
From the snowy roads of Rally Sweden to the soggy climes of Wales, the dusty trails of Rally Kenya and sun-dappled, tree-lined tarmac of New Zealand and Japan, WRC 9 serves up a diverse challenge, throwing in tyre set-ups, repair timings, dynamic weather conditions, and other strategic considerations as you vie for a spot on the podium. Between stages, you can choose to rest your team (keeping morale on the up), participate in a Historic Rally event behind the wheel of a legendary car like a recalcitrant Ford Escort MkII or a mischievous Lancia Stratos, or polish your driving prowess on the training course.
KT Racing has pulled out all of the stops for WRC 9's Career Mode, and, honestly, you could play that and nothing else and feel like you're getting your money's worth. But there's the no-frills Quick Play, with all of the options laid out before you, giving you a wealth of cars, tracks, and variables to experiment with; or Season mode, featuring a full WRC season without having to faff about with crew management and the other fripperies of Career Mode. Challenges and Online Events inject something fresh to do each day and week, although, at time of writing, we attempted to connect to a multiplayer race and couldn't find a single one. Fortunately, there's always local split-screen, so that's something, at least.
Perhaps everyone is still too busy with WRC 9's Career, which is entirely understandable – it is very good, and the game's most involving component, by far. Whether you're courting other manufacturers or teams, keeping your crew happy (usually by winning), or enjoying the gratification of executing a perfect drifty slide around a treacherous curve, WRC 9 is a tight, immediate rally racing experience. You can begin your career in the Junior WRC and work your way up to the big leagues, or jump feet-first into the FIA World Rally Championship proper, if you like.
Granted, little of this is particularly new to racing games, or indeed to the WRC series itself, but it's very well executed here. Of course, it's on the game's various surfaces – encompassing the usual suspects, like gravel of all kinds, dust, mud, asphalt, and so on – that WRC 9 shines, and the handling model is remarkably solid. Hell, it may even give Codies' hallowed DiRT Rally a run for its money. It's certainly every bit as fully featured as any of its rivals, with assists and difficulty levels aplenty enabling you to make the racing as challenging or as accessible as you like.
Whatever you opt for, WRC 9 provides an even and balanced bout of fraught and intense rallying, as you battle against the clock and desperately strive to keep your car on-course. Veer off the track, and you'll rack up time penalties and, in all likelihood, have a need for repairs, lest your car's performance be compromised. Repairs take time, and the more damage you've wrought upon your wheeled rally vessel, the more time it'll end up costing you. Although, you do have the option of setting how severe an impact damage has on your car, and whether mechanical failures can scupper your rally efforts.
Swollen with options and features, as well as the new Rally Japan, New Zealand, and Kenya events, WRC 9 is not only the most definitive rally game that KT Racing has made to date, but a hugely accomplished racing game deserving of a place in your collection. Past WRC titles have either been uninviting or slightly too impenetrable, but this latest entry embraces all comers with an enormously rewarding and complete rally experience. Sink into a bucket seat, sidle up behind the wheel, buckle up, and listen carefully to them pace notes – WRC 9 is a lovely slice of fully licensed rally nirvana.