World Rally Championship 5 Review

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  Title: WRC 5
Developer: Big Ben Interactive
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: Vita
Download: 2.9 GB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download

EU Availability: Digital Download | Retail
PSTV Support: 
Yes

There is one type of video game that a lot of people like and other people really don’t like.  Yearly Refreshes are something that really create a lot of controversy in the gaming world.  Sports games are notorious for this, making an entire new packaged game every year.  Madden NFL.  NBA 2K.  The list goes on.  People keep buying them, but many others don’t think it’s justifiable to spend $60 every year for virtually the same game with roster updates.

The driving genre hasn’t been as big on this.  One could argue that EA Games does this with how often Need for Speed games come out, but it’s not nearly as “identical” as the identical nature of other sports games.  There is one driving franchise that does seem to do this, though.  That is the non-traditional WRC games, developed in Europe around the World Rally Championship.  My first dealings in this franchise are what we’re about to talk about.  Here is my review of World Rally Championship 5!

Story

The story is very light, as it normally is in driving games.  You play through the various European Rally challenges across 13 famous locations.  There’s not much to it aside from that.

Gameplay

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WRC 5 is a driving simulator, but not one in the same sense as games like Forza or Gran Turismo.  Instead of being a racing game and driving simulator, this is more of a Rally Simulator.  You don’t race against other players on the same track at the same time.  It could better be defined as a Time Trial Driving Simulator, for the lack of a better term or phrase.

When you boot the game, you have Single Player and Multiplayer.  In Single Player, you can choose from four different game modes.  Quick Stage lets you pick a stage, car, and weather of your choosing and play out a stage.  Quick Rally lets you do a small selection of stages.  Career is where you can make your own profile and drive through an entire year of Rallies throughout Europe.  Finally, Rally School is where the game can teach you all the tricks to driving on the terrain within the game.  This is most comparable to License Tests in the Gran Turismo games.

Multiplayer is one thing I thought I would mention.  Although I have not played any of the other WRC games on the Vita, I have done my homework.  WRC 4 had online multiplayer.  WRC 5 does not.  The Multiplayer mode in WRC 5 is purely offline/Ad Hoc.  This is only apparent in the PS Vita version of the game, as PS4/PS3 both have online multiplayer.  However, it was removed for the Vita release.

Career is the most expansive of these game modes.  You can create a profile with a name, country of origin, etc. and can sign a contract with someone, giving you a car and whatnot.  You then go through races in a calendar as well as maintaining your car.  Each day can have many races where you race until you’re done for the day.  Then, you go back to your repair shop, where you can modify your car in various ways and schedule repairs.  You can sometimes not repair everything that you break while driving, so there’s a strategy element on deciding what is more important to fix and what is not.

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Actually driving has your car on a special kind of terrain with the track.  Every stage/track has either dirt, gravel, snow, etc terrain.  It’s all off-road stuff, emphasizing on the physics engine that’s been built into the game.  You won’t be driving on asphalt like most racing games.  Imagine it like the dirt and snow levels in Gran Turismo, except for the entire game.

The other difference is that you’re alone on the track.  Every time you drive, you are sent through a race track completely by yourself and with no other cars on the track.  Essentially, the entire game is a game of Time Trial, working to get as good a time on the track as you can.  Then, after you finish, your Completion Time is compared to the AI or the other player if you’re doing multiplayer.  It’s very different from what many people think of when they see a driving game.

The nice thing about the game is the physics engine.  This actually works very well.  As you drive, you can damage parts of your car, like the wheels, chassis, etc.  If you start damage parts, the car will change how it handles.  You get a lot of damage on the driver’s side and that side of the car will give a lot more play when you try to turn.  There is an element of damage directly affecting how well you can drive, and that’s one aspect of the game that I really like.

All in all, length is what you put into it.  The game has 21 cars and 65 tracks unlocked from the beginning and there isn’t really any goal of unlocking anything.  You just play it to play it.  Each stage could take as little as about 8 minutes and it could take you several hours to complete a Career in Career Mode.  It’s not a bad bit of length for an Arcade—style driving game.  Just don’t expect there to be anything you can look forward to unlocking.  It’s more for quick play.

Controls

The game’s controls are pretty easy to get a handle on.  You don’t have to use touch, camera, or motion for anything.  The game also runs well, control-wise, on the PlayStation TV.  It also does not take advantage of the PSTV.  It runs, but doesn’t use the R2/L2 buttons for anything.

The control scheme isn’t bad.  The default scheme has steering with the Left Stick and Menu options with the D-Pad.  Acceleration and Brakes are with the R and L triggers.  The Handbrake is on Circle, shifting is on X and Square, and snapshots are done with the Triangle Buttons.  Finally, you can move the camera or change the camera with the Select or Right Analog Sticks.

The nice thing is that the scheme is fully customizable.  You can go into the control options and change anything you want.  If you’re a GT player and want X to be acceleration, you can easily swap it out.  The only bad part is the game makes no effort at all to explain how you play.  Even in the Rally School tutorial sections, they expect you to just play around with the buttons to figure out how to drive.

Presentation

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Here is where the biggest drops for the game are going to be.  If you haven’t noticed, things have gone a step down from the last game.  WRC 5 has a new developer at the helm, and a lot of the graphics have been downgraded.  Cars look just fine.  They’ve got a ton of details and look pretty decent for a PS Vita title.  Environments, on the other hand, look grainy and all around bad.  There aren’t any shadow or lighting effects and the renders look like they might be at a higher PSP level, but not a PS Vita level.  Anyone who worries about visuals should definitely worry about this game.  It’s like they paid close attention to the cars and nothing else.

There are two other things about the presentation.  First of all, the load times.  Every loading sequence for a race is long.  We’re talking about waiting 25-30 seconds if not longer for something to load.  Second, music.  There’s a music slider in the options, but there’s no music.  The only music in the game is in the Main Menu.  When you’re driving, you hear nothing but your co-driver and sound effects.  There’s no music while you’re driving at all.

Performance, wise, though, it plays great.  I didn’t see many, if any frame drops as I played the game.  With how many Vita games that are coming out with frame rate issues, this handles very nicely.

Summary

World Rally Championship 5 is the PS Vita version of Big Ben Interactive’s newest driving game.  On the downside, they removed online play, the controls aren’t explained to you, the graphics have taken a large step down, the load times are long, and there is no background music.  If you really want a driving sim on the Vita, this is an option and the handling and physics elements are done well.  But, there are a lot of problems with this game to be considered. 

5/10

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