WRC Generations is the end of an era.
After making WRC games for seven years, this year's title is KT Racing’s last instalment in the WRC series. From next year, the WRC games will be produced by Codemasters, a studio with nearly 25 years of rallying pedigree having made the influential Colin McRae Rally series.
The WRC series has made tremendous strides forward under KT Racing’s tenure. Since WRC 5 rebooted the series in 2015, the graphics, driving physics, and stage designs have improved significantly with each iteration.
These incremental improvements have established the French studio as a leading rally game developer and the WRC series as a formidable rival to DIRT Rally.
So, does WRC Generations bow out with a bang or a whimper?
Reviewed on PS5. Review copy provided by publisher.
The biggest WRC game ever
As well as the official game of the 2022 WRC championship, WRC Generations serves as a greatest-hits compilation of the last six WRC games to celebrate KT Racing's achievements. With 85 cars and 165 stages spread across 21 countries, it’s a gigantic package, making WRC Generations the biggest WRC game ever by a huge margin.
Of these stages, New Zealand returns to WRC for the first time since 2012. With fast-flowing gravel stages, stunning scenic views, and sheer cliff drops, it’s one of the most exhilarating rallies on the calendar. Rally Sweden is also redesigned, with six new treacherous snow stages after the rally relocated to Umea this year.
Some stages from older WRC games have also been upgraded. Corsica, last seen three years ago in WRC 8, is completely remodelled, benefiting from overhauled visuals and more accurate stage designs.
Not every location from past WRC games makes the cut, though. Australia from WRC 8 isn’t included, and neither is Poland or China. These omissions are understandable considering the annual nature of the WRC series and the resources required to upgrade them. But with KT Racing losing the WRC license this year, it’s a shame they won’t be added after launch as DLC to complete the package.
Powering every WRC game since WRC 5, the in-house KT Engine is starting to show its age. Being a cross-generational game, the graphics don’t push the PS5 to its limits, but WRC Generations still looks great.
Stage designs are excellent as ever, with natural-looking lighting and detailed trackside scenery. Cars can also now be viewed up close in a new showroom, highlighting the extra detail applied to the models this year.
Crucially for a game that requires lightning-fast reaction times, performance is rock solid on PS5 whether you opt for graphics or performance mode. Performance mode runs at 2K resolution and 60fps, while graphics mode increases the resolution to 4K but reduces the frame rate to 30fps.
There’s some texture pop-in and a slight drop in graphical fidelity in performance mode, but the trade-off is worth it when the game runs at a consistent 60fps.
If you’ve played any of the recent WRC games, the career mode will instantly feel familiar. Everything from adding events to your calendar to the HQ interface, hiring and managing crew, and expanding skill trees is identical to WRC 10 and WRC 9.
Frustratingly, you still can’t skip straight to the top-tier WRC class after seven WRC games. You can still take the top WRC cars for a spin on a single stage in Quick Play mode, but you can’t compete in a full rally until you unlock the WRC class in Career or Season mode. Ranking up gives a sense of progression but returning players may find being forced to drive the slower WRC Junior and WRC 2 cars a slog.
Giving a boost
When you reach the WRC class, it’s worth the wait.
While it’s the end of an era for the WRC games, it’s the start of a new era in the real-life championship. New regulations in the 2022 WRC championship introduced hybrid powertrains for the first time in the new top-tier Rally1 class. Thanks to electrical assistance from an electric motor, these electrified cars generate an extra 100kW, boosting the power output to around 500 hp in short bursts.
As the electric boost rockets you off the starting line with neck-snapping acceleration, the extra power is immediately noticeable. This combined with snappy steering makes the Rally1 cars feel fantastic and exhilarating to drive, but they’re challenging to control at high speed.
Managing the extra power effectively requires careful throttle management to prevent wheelspin and the extra weight of the battery makes the Rally1 cars feel noticeably heavier. Newcomers are wise to start with the WRC Junior or WRC 3 cars: they’re less powerful but more approachable and easier to throw around corners.
Before you start a stage, you can choose between one of three engine maps that control the electrical boost. Braking regenerates energy and tops up your electric boost, which is deployed automatically in short bursts.
There’s an element of strategy here as each map suits different stages better. The default Map 1 delivers maximum power but for the shortest time. This speed boost helps you maintain speed after exiting a tight turn.
Conversely, Map 3 delivers less power but for a longer time and is suitable for stages with lots of high-speed straights and low-grip surfaces like snow and gravel. Map 2 offers a balance between the two.
WRC Generations feels great on a wheel. On tarmac, you can feel the grip at your fingertips but switch to a gravel or snow stage and the lightness of the car is surprising.
WRC Generations is best enjoyed with a full rig setup, handbrake, and shifter. But even if you only have a wheel and pedals there is still a lot of fun to be had here. Nothing quite matches the challenge of rallying, and WRC Generations really brings that to life for wheel racers.
If you don’t have a wheel, WRC Generations is still fun, intuitive, and enjoyable to play on a controller. You can still feel the weight transfer in a Scandinavian flick and the sense of weight and momentum feels more refined.
WRC Generations also boasts some of the best DualSense controller implementations outside of Gran Turismo 7, with tactile haptic feedback enabling you to feel surface changes, tyres losing grip, and brakes locking up through the controller.
Not for the faint of heart
Navigating narrow roads at insane speeds while brushing past trees, rocks, and fences with inches to spare, rallying is an adrenaline rush like no other. In these intense moments, WRC Generations perfectly captures this thrilling sense of danger. But this also means it’s brutally unforgiving for casual players.
This is a ubiquitous issue with rally games, and while applying assists like traction control makes the cars easier to drive, optional rewinds would help newcomers learn from their mistakes. It would also remove the frustration of totalling your car after hitting a tree in one of the game’s 20-minute-long stages just before the finish line.
Celebrating the WRC’s 50th Anniversary, WRC 10 contained a vast collection of historic cars. WRC Generations builds on this. There are 37 legendary cars in total, with new additions including the 1979 Ford Escort MkII, 1980 Fiat 131 Abarth, and 2002 Peugeot 206 WRC (only available as a pre-order bonus). As you would expect, the difference in handling and braking distances between the classic and Rally1 cars is stark.
It’s a comprehensive collection, with every championship-winning car in WRC’s 50-year history represented as well as cars from the notorious Group B era such as the 1984 Audi Sport Quattro. That said, a few historically important rally cars like the Ford Escort Cosworth and formidable Ford RS200 are still missing.
Entering a new league
Along with the Rally1 cars, another new addition in WRC Generations is the Leagues mode. This new multiplayer mode is divided into seasons, starting with a qualifying round that ranks your ability and matches you in a league of players with the same skill level.
Each season is split into weeks with points earned in daily and weekly events determining your position in the group leaderboard. At the end of each week, the top players advance to the next league for a chance to enter the Hall of Fame, while the bottom players move to the league below.
In theory, the new Leagues mode should engage players long after launch if it can retain a loyal player base, but it wasn’t available to try at the time of review. Crossplay support is also a welcome addition, enabling players to compete against each other and compare leaderboard times across PC, PlayStation, and Xbox for the first time in the series.
WRC Generations isn’t a generational leap forward for the series, and the lower retail price reflects this. But with a generous wealth of content, hybrid cars that bring a new challenge for experienced players, and an innovative Leagues mode to keep players returning, WRC Generations is a glorious send-off for the series.
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