It’s time for V-Rally to return

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WRC Generations marks the end of the era, with KT Racing losing the WRC license this year. After that, future WRC games will be developed by Codemasters until 2027, with the first new entry set to arrive in 2023.

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WRC Generations is KT Racing’s last officially-licensed WRC game for now - but that doesn't mean the studio will abandon rally games.

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Could V-Rally return?

It's sad to see KT Racing lose the WRC license after improving the series over the years, but we’re excited to see what the studio does next. KT Racing now has an opportunity to expand the rally genre beyond WRC.

In our recent interview with KT Racing, Creative Director Alain Jarniou hinted that WRC Generations won’t be the studio’s last rally game. “We love WRC but it’s also time to do something else,” he told us. “We know how to do rally games. We know how to do car simulations thanks to this license. We will surely do rally again.”

WRC Generations

“Rallying is not only about WRC. When you think about rallies, there are other things we imagine doing with the discipline.”

WRC isn't the only rally game series KT Racing has worked on. Back in 2018, KT Racing attempted to reboot V-Rally with the launch of V-Rally 4. With KT Racing no longer at the wheel of the WRC game series, the door is wide open for V-Rally to return and offer a new rally experience.

More than nostalgia

Released back in 1997, V-Rally, also known as Need for Speed: V-Rally, was one of the PlayStation’s earliest rally games. Predating Codemasters’ seminal Colin McRae Rally by one year, it was the PlayStation’s answer to Sega Rally.

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Developed by Infogrames, V-Rally Championship Edition featured arcade rally racing with 11 licensed cars from the 1997 World Rally Championship and over 40 tracks with weather effects, variable terrain, and time of day. However, the sensitive car handling made V-Rally more difficult and less fun than Sega Rally.

V-Rally Championship Edition PlayStation screenshot
Credit: World of Longplays / YouTube

Following the initial PlayStation release, V-Rally was ported to N64 in 1998 with improved physics and updated cars from the 1998 World Rally Championship, followed by a Game Boy port in 1998 and PC and Game Boy Color ports in 1999.  

It was successful enough to spawn a sequel in 1999, with V-Rally 2: Championship Edition adding a track editor that was surprisingly advanced and intuitive for the time, allowing you to create your own rally stages by laying out blocks on a grid, adjusting the surface elevation, and adding corners. You could also change the weather and time of day.

V-Rally 2’s graphics and visuals were also vastly improved. And not forgetting that epic game intro still gives us goosebumps over 20 years on.

Developed by Eden Games, V-Rally 3 followed in 2002 on PS2, Xbox, and PC. At this point, however, the series was overshadowed by the Colin McRae Rally and official WRC Game series and never recovered.

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KT Racing revived the franchise for a new generation in 2018 with V-Rally 4. With wider stages and more forgiving handling, V-Rally was an approachable alternative to the WRC games. Unfortunately, however, it wasn’t the return to form it should have been thanks to dated visuals, an uninspired career mode, and an abysmal soundtrack – the less said about the annoying menu music that plays on repeat, the better.

Rally games need to be more accessible

Rallying is one of the most dangerous forms of motorsport. A combination of loose surfaces, narrow stages, and obstacles like trees and rocks to avoid pushes drivers to their limits. This challenge and sense of risk versus reward make rally games thrilling to play but daunting for casual players. However, this wasn’t always the case.

In the mid-1990s, Sega Rally Championship was a smash hit in arcades. Bringing rally to the masses, it set the benchmark for arcade rally racing.

Sega Rally Championship screenshot
Credit: World of Longplays / YouTube

Sega Rally was revolutionary for simulating driving on mixed surfaces in a racing game. And yet it achieved a perfect balance between challenging and fun gameplay that rewarded skill. Sadly, the series has been dormant since Sega Rally Online Arcade, a PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade port of Sega Rally 3 released in 2011.

DIRT's lighthearted take on off-road racing in contrast to the realistic DIRT Rally games arguably fills the void left by Sega Rally. But with DIRT 5 developer Codemasters Cheshire focusing on Need for Speed for the foreseeable future and EA's upcoming WRC series replacing DIRT Rally, DIRT is unlikely to return.

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Milestone’s underrated GRAVEL is arguably the closest we’ve had to a Sega Rally spiritual successor. But none of these games offer traditional point-to-point rallying, with DIRT Rally and WRC catering to hardcore players only. A new V-Rally game would fill this gap in the market.

V-Rally 4

From drifting to buggy racing, V-Rally 4 offered a strong variety of game modes. The challenging hill climb trials were a particular highlight and the close paint-scraping rallycross racing offered a welcome relief from traditional rallying.

You could even channel your inner Ken Block in Extreme-Khana, V-Rally’s take on Gymkhana where you did doughnuts and drift to obstacles as close as you dared, racking up points for a high score. The foundations are already set for KT Racing to build on for a sequel.

What we want to see in a new V-Rally game

KT Racing’s in-house engine has improved radically since V-Rally 4. A new V-Rally game would benefit from these improvements, with 4K resolution graphics and a smooth 60fps framerate on current-gen consoles.

Without the shackles of the WRC license, KT Racing has the creative freedom to design fictional locations anywhere in the world. We already saw this in V-Rally 4, which featured fictional stages set in Siberia, Malaysia, and Kenya among other locations.

V-Rally 4 screenshot
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Strangely, the original V-Rally’s classic Arcade mode where you race against opponents on rally stages was absent in V-Rally 4. Combined with approachable handling and wider stages than the WRC games, bringing Arcade mode back in a new V-Rally game would deliver the Sega Rally-style thrills we’ve missed.

We’d also love to see V-Rally 2’s track editor return with more advanced creator tools and the ability to share tracks online with the community. Hardware restrictions meant the number of blocks you could use in V-Rally 2’s track editor was limited. The extra horsepower of the PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and modern PCs would remove these limitations, allowing you to create larger and more complex tracks.

With all that in mind, the stage is set for V-Rally to return and make rally games fun for everyone again.