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Game Info:

WRC 9 FIA World Rally Championship
Developed By: KT Racing
Published By: Nacon (formerly Bigben Interactive)
Release Date: September 3, 2020
Available On: PC, PS4, Xbox One (Switch coming soon)
Genre: Racing
Number of Players: 1-2 local split screen; online leaderboards
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
MSRP: $49.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you Nacon for sending us this game to review!

Any time there are yearly franchise updates, you’ll often find that some years are evolutionary, and others are revolutionary, or complete engine rebuilds. WRC 8’s release last year, which I reviewed was a revolutionary release – it looked and played dramatically better than its predecessor. WRC 9, however, is most definitely an evolutionary release – if you’ve played WRC 8, you know exactly what to expect. On the same levels (there is some overlap), the two games are barely distinguishable. What sets WRC 9 apart is the improved physics, new levels and environments, and some of the new and upcoming features.

WRC 9 FIA World Rally Championship is a beautifully rendered 3D racing game where you can drive over one hundred (!) different courses, racing against the clock, as you try to maneuver through tarmac, gravel, mud, and snow, through all kinds of weather and terrain challenges. It is also the official game of the real-life WRC league, and the levels are faithful recreations of real locations and tracks, and I believe the racers you complete against are real, also. During a race, you have a co-driver who gives you a heads up as to what is coming up next, as without his help, you could find yourself off of a cliff in a hurry (well, at speeds ranging from one to one hundred+ miles-per-hour, at any rate).

With so many courses to choose from, you will no doubt find more than a few to like. I found the physics and handling, especially on tarmac/asphalt courses, to be excellent. Like in WRC 8, you can do an airborne flip fairly easily if you hit a bump at high speed, especially while offroad. While I’m sure it’s possible in real life, I do wonder if it’s really as easy to do in a real car as it seems to be here.

Highlights:

Strong Points: Excellent graphics; really good engine sound effects; refined physics simulation that keeps getting better; nearly perfect force feedback wheel support; simplified racing experience for those who want that, but also a complex car sim for those who prefer that; long and engrossing career mode; split-screen support; new features promised
Weak Points: Not many obvious changes from WRC 8 for returning fans (but more under the hood); can take a while to build up reputation with a manufacturer to get promoted to the next tier; some features aren’t here yet
Moral Warnings: You can drive off of a cliff; hitting a person is worth a nine second penalty

Other than that, I really enjoyed my time with this game. I use my Logitech G27 racing wheel, connected to a metal wheel stand. The force feedback, as well as the sense of control the game grants you, is excellent. I also had to play a fair amount of my time with the game with a gamepad, since I was away from home with my laptop. Both control schemes work great. Both the body of the Xbox One controller, as well as the pulse trigger features are supported. When you drive over gravel, or accelerate, or hit a bump, the Xbox One controller as well as the triggers vibrate in various ways to signal what you are doing. It’s honestly really neat and well done. I never noticed this before because I use my wheel whenever it’s available, and it wasn’t for a while this time around. So if you don’t have one, don’t let that stop you from enjoying WRC 9.

The vast majority of my time in-game was spent in career mode, which is the meatiest of the modes available. This mode is virtually identical to WRC 8, to the point that the transition screens are exactly the same outside of the game logo. Here, you are starting as a new driver, working with your corporate sponsor (it usually starts as Ford), trying to win race after race. At the end of each season, you have the opportunity to choose a new contract; if you have taken enough opportunities to drive manufacturer tryouts, you may be offered a chance to switch to a new car brand, or to a new league.

Like many games with a career mode, you get to manage your budget, repairs, and your crew. Money is easy to come by, as long as you are willing to replay levels as often as you need to in order to win each race. Outside of just repairs, crew also help you be more efficient. Better Mechanics allow you to repair more in between races on a multi-day rally than a poor mechanic would be able to. Their salary costs a bit more, but it's more than worth it in earning potential. Speaking of which, Financial Directors help you be more efficient with your money, by earning more and spending less. Engineers help you gain more experience, which helps you level up your team's skills. Physical Therapists help keep your crew energy levels high; if they get exhausted, you have to hire another to take their place. Agents help you get rare and valuable races, and Meteorologists help you determine the weather, which is far more useful then you might think, since you need to pick a set of tires for an entire day of races, and making the wrong choice can kill traction. You can also gain levels. Each level you gain grants you a skill point to allocate, and by doing so, you can improve one of four areas: Team, Crew, Performance, and Reliability.

In Career mode, you also get to reply to emails (yes, more work!) and even pay the bills. If that wasn't enough, you get to set your own calendar, to an extent - certain days are big rallies, that you can't skip. But in between them you can rest (for the crew), perform maintenance, train, do a historic race, practice in extreme conditions, manufacturer tryouts, or perhaps some other event that is escaping me. These all give you plenty to do and keep the game from getting too boring or repetitive, though at the end of the day most events are more racing, in one form or another.

You can also customize your ride to an extent. While you can't change the looks (at least to the point I got to), you can adjust the suspension, differential, brakes, transmission, and aerodynamics. You can save profiles to help optimize for each road type, and choose them when you race. This, in addition to tires, should be enough for most needs.

WRC 9 FIA World Rally Championship
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 94%
Gameplay - 18/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 100%
Violence - 10/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

Other modes you can choose to play include a simplified Season mode, where all of the crew management is all removed; you just go from one rally to the next, eventually getting promoted based on your performance. There is the perennial Quick Play, which simply lets you choose your track, category, and vehicle. From there, you can have a race without consequences - just have fun. There is also a Test Area where you can drive and car on a test track in any car with any weather you choose. There is also a Training mode which helps you get better at certain driving skills.

Multiplayer modes are mostly about beating another's time on the track. There is local split-screen, which is really great, and works well. There is a really neat new mode to WRC 9 called Clubs, where you can create a set of rally races for you and your friends to play through, and compete for the best results. I was surprised how active these modes are; there are literally hundreds of existing clubs, and hundreds of people in others’ clubs. What a great way to extend gameplay and interest in this game!

Other online modes include leaderboards, which are simply the best track times that anyone has. The other modes are specific challenges (like can you make a jump on this track bigger than our professional?) or play a specific, pre-planned event, and compete against the world to see who is best. There are several new promised features as well, including the new co-driver mode, where one player acts as the co-driver in co-op style play. It should be interesting to see how this works!

I also appreciate not only how pretty this game is (sounds great too!), but also how well it scales down. It looks amazing on my powerful desktop, but also plays well on my lower-end tiny laptop, my GPD Win Max. With integrated graphics (some of the most powerful integrated graphics currently available, sure, but still) it still runs great at 1280x800, though the Intel drivers do have a few bugs to work out. Either way, from a technical perspective, I’ve enjoyed my time with this game.

WRC 9 FIA World Rally Championship takes the already excellent WRC 8, and tweaks the physics and replaces a bunch of tracks to include all new ones from Japan, New Zealand, and Kenya, while keeping fan favorites. While at first glance it may seem like a ‘lazy’ upgrade, I’ve become convinced that when sometimes is already this good, small tweaks can make it just that much better. The game looks great, plays great, and is completely appropriate - unless you consider hitting a pedestrian to deserve a penalty higher than nine seconds, or consider driving off of a cliff violent. If you have any interest in rally racing games, WRC 9 should easily be on your short list to check out.

About the Author

Jason Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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