World Rally Championship 4 ReviewCain Dornan
With the increase in arcade-style racers as of late, such as the Need For Speed and Burnout series, gamers have been long awaiting the return of a simulation-styled racer. World Rally Championship 4 for the Playstation 2 is promised to provide this. Evolution Studios claims that the game handles almost exactly like the real thing and that the graphics are photo-realistic. But does WRC 4 provide this?
WRC 4 is not for the light-hearted racer. Developer Evolution Studios has taken great care to produce accurate, realistic controlling of vehicles in a variety of weather conditions and track surfaces. This has resulted in rather difficult controlling of the vehicles. Those who have become accustomed to arcade-styled controls will be hit hard with the realistic controls. Driving off the track even slightly can cause you to lose the race. Only seasoned, experienced simulation racers will be able to successfully win each race, as great skill and experience is required to do so. The weather greatly effects how the car controls; raining, muddy conditions will result in the car easily sliding around the track, possibly ending in a tree.
WRC 4 features all 16 World Rally Championship locations, which spans over 5 continents and boasts 100 stages. Each level is an almost exact replica of the real thing, something every rally fan will appreciate.
To keep the gameplay interesting, developer Evolution Studios has included a variety of different modes for players to compete in. As well as the usual single race and Time Trial modes, the game also features a lengthy Championship mode. This allows the player to choose a vehicle in which they wish to use. Players are then pitted in all 100 tracks around the world, scoring points depending upon the ranking for each country.
WRC 4 also features a variety of test events. Rally Test requires players to test their skills in cornering, speed and control of their vehicles. There are also test tracks for Gravel, Snow and Asphalt tracks, giving players the ability to brush-up on their skills on a variety of different track surfaces.
Further extending the life of WRC 4, Evolution Studios has included two further competing modes, Super Special Challenge and Pro Driver Challenge. Super Special Challenge is a one-on-one series of relatively short races on small, overlapping tracks. This mode is relatively easily when compared to the Championship and Pro Driver Challenge modes.
The Pro Driver Challenge is similar to the Championship mode, however this mode focuses more on the event-cycle for a professional rally driver. You are first required to prove their skill to a rally team. Once you have been accepted into the team, you are then progress through a variety of events, until you finally reach the champion status.
During the extent of the game you receive points, which can be used to unlock new cars, upgrades and tracks. To obtain these points, you need to win races, an objective that isnt always easy achieved.
Vehicle damage not only destroys the look of your car, but also affects the control of the car. Damaging your steering will, subsequently, result in your vehicle becoming harder to turn, and will drift to either the left or right constantly. Damaging your engine will reduce your torque and overall speed. You are given the ability to repair damages to your vehicle between races, although a twenty-minute time limit is enforced, forcing you to choose which parts have a higher priority to be fixed.
The menu design is similar to previous incarnations of the World Rally Championship games. Menus are relatively easy to navigate, with modes categorized appropriately to keep the menus looking clean. Evolution Studios has also managed to retain quick loading times, often requiring only five seconds to load, a great feat considering loading times for games available on the Playstation 2. This allows for quick navigation through the menus and loading tracks.
WRC 4 offers the ability to compete in multiplayer events both online, offline or through LAN using the Playstation 2 network adapter. If played through the single console, players take turns to see who can score the lowest time through any given track. Through online and LAN mode, competing racers are shown as ghost cars, preventing any bust-ups caused by the competing drivers.
The vehicle design is simply outstanding. Evolution Studios has managed to get the vehicles looking almost identical to the real thing. Everything on the exterior has great detail, and completely subjected to damage depending on your driving skill. Hitting a tree or large rock at high speed will result in the vehicle receiving detailed dints, scrapes, holes or even the part falling off the vehicle.
Track design, although often blurry with a number of objects, generally features enough detail to make WRC 4 look visually impressive. The terrain, particular the various road surfaces, are so detailed that it is almost possible to make out each stone on the road. Vegetation, however, is the complete opposite. Trees and shrubs look more like paper-cut-outs, rather than an actual tree. Spectators are also paper-thin and quite blurry. Although a large number of todays racers continue to us paper-thin scenery, it would have made WRC 4 look much, much better if solid, more realistic scenery were included.
Moving on from the paper-cut-outs, Evolution Studios has managed to get drivers facial features extremely close to the real thing. Expressions are realistic, and they react realistically after a race which varies depending upon how well you performed through that particular race.
The sound effects are excellent. The cars sound close to the real thing and, naturally, each vehicle sounds distinctively different to another. Crash sound effects are also realistic, including windows smashing, panel dinting and parts falling off. The sound of your vehicles tyres also changes depending on the surface in which you are travelling on gravel sounds distinctively different when compared to that of the snow.
Although the game doesnt feature any in-game music, casual, relaxing music is featured on the games menus, which works quite nicely.
Your co-drivers voice accurately tells you the approaching course design at perfect timing. No annoying, over-acting voice-overs have been included in WRC 4.
Overall, WRC 4 is a solid, realistic and enjoyable rally title that any rally fan will simply love. The inclusion of all 16 World Rally Championship locations, which includes 100 levels, makes for a lengthy, enjoyable experience especially if you have always dreamed of racing on these tracks. WRC 4 has plenty of gameplay life available, wether it is the difficulty of the title or the large selection of different modes, as well as the unlockable extras. The multiplayer mode adds further life to the game, ensuring some good rallying fun when some mates are around.
Some minor setbacks prevent the game from scoring highly. The paper-cut-out vegetation and spectators really does lower the visual presentation of the game. Difficulty settings would also have been welcomed for those with less rally game experience. If you have been searching for an accurate, interesting take on the rallying world, be sure to check out WRC 4.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.