From this year, the WRC game license is in the capable hands of Codemasters, the veteran rally game developer best known for the Colin McRae Rally and the DIRT game series. For many rally game fans, Codemasters taking over the WRC game series is a dream come true.
Codemasters WRC 23 - what we want to see
That said, there are fears of EA steering WRC 23 in the wrong direction. With licensed clothing, driveable supercars and dubious microtransactions, the publisher's presence was felt in F1 22.
With WRC 23 reportedly arriving earlier than expected this spring, here are five features we think Codemasters’ new rally game needs to make WRC 23 the ultimate WRC game.
Classic cars and stages
Regulation changes saw new hybrid Rally1 cars introduced in the 2023 WRC season. With potent power and a manageable boost system bringing a new strategic element, they were a joy to drive in WRC Generations.
While we’re looking forward to driving the high-powered Rally1 cars in WRC 23, we hope Codemasters doesn’t cut classic content.
WRC Generations featured a wealth of classic cars from past WRC seasons. And yet there were some glaring omissions like the Ford Escort Cosworth and Ford RS200.
From Group B legends to Colin McRae’s championship-winning 1995 Subaru Impreza 555, Codemasters has already modelled a variety of classic cars for the DiRT Rally games. This hopefully means classic cars from DIRT Rally will return in WRC 23 along with new additions.
As well as iconic cars, we’d also like to see historic locations such as Wales, which was removed from the WRC calendar in 2020.
What we don’t want to see, however, are tracks and cars that should be in the base game reserved for DLC. DIRT Rally 2.0 was notorious for this - the base game launched with little content before four paid DLC seasons added cars and remastered tracks from the first game.
A deeper career mode
One of our main criticisms about WRC Generations was the lack of career mode innovation. This made Generations’ career mode nearly identical to WRC 10’s. Likewise, the barebones career modes in the DIRT Rally games leave a lot to be desired.
With WRC 23, we’re hoping Codemasters will take inspiration from F1 22’s superb My Team mode. While you can create your own team in WRC Generations, deeper management options like driver transfers would create a more authentic experience in WRC 23, immersing you into the world of rallying.
With rumours claiming WRC 23 will let you build your own car from scratch, it certainly sounds like My Team is influencing the direction of WRC 23 for the better. We’d also love to see a co-op career option like in Codemasters' F1 games.
As well as traditional point-to-point rallies, DIRT Rally also replicates the thrill of rallycross racing. DIRT Rally 2.0 even held an esports series during the pandemic inviting players to take on World RX drivers.
If Codemasters still holds the rights to the FIA World Rallycross Championship license, rallycross could return in WRC 23.
Licensing restrictions may restrict Codemasters from adding content outside the WRC. But rallycross racing would add some welcome gameplay variety.
Since there isn’t enough demand for a standalone game, rallycross doesn't get enough exposure in racing games. Featuring official FIA World Rallycross Championship cars and tracks would help WRC 23 appeal to fans of traditional off-road racing as well as time-trial stages.
While we’d also love to see a Gymkhana mode in honour of Ken Block, this is unlikely as this outlandish style of stunt driving is better suited to the arcadey DIRT games.
If there’s one area where KT Racing’s WRC games have excelled, it’s exceptional stage designs. With tight narrow sections, detailed trackside scenery, and epic stages lasting over 20 minutes to test your skills, WRC Generations has some of the most authentic special stages of any rally game.
With WRC 23, Codemasters has the daunting task of creating all 13 rallies in the 2023 WRC calendar, including a new Central European rally along with the return of Chile and Mexico. That’s a huge undertaking considering DIRT Rally 2.0’s stages are significantly shorter than the real-life WRC ones.
While there will be no shortage of locations, a stage editor would increase WRC 23’s longevity. That may sound ambitious considering this is Codemasters’ first official WRC game but Codemasters has already developed a stage creator for another rally game.
Back in 2014, DIRT 4’s headline feature was My Stage, an innovative tool that procedurally generated rally stages based on parameters such as location, time of day, weather, length, and complexity. This had great potential but Your Stage was limited, often regenerating the same corners in different tracks.
Surprisingly, DIRT 5 and DIRT Rally 2.0 ditched the track creator and Codemasters hasn't used the technology since 2017. With modern hardware, Codemasters could finally realise the full potential of this impressive and underused technology in WRC 23.
PSVR 2 support
Codemasters is no stranger to VR racing games. F1 22’s VR mode on PC lets you live out your F1 racing fantasies. DIRT Rally and DIRT Rally 2.0 also offered excellent VR support on PC.
The original DIRT Rally also supported the original PSVR but was hampered by the headset’s low resolution and the PS4’s limited grunt, resulting in pixellated graphics and downgraded driving physics. Despite this, it offered one of the most exhilarating VR driving experiences.
WRC games have never been playable in VR on console or PC sadly, but WRC 23 could finally change this.
On PS5, Gran Turismo 7 is the only playable racing game on PSVR 2. With PSVR 2’s higher fidelity and haptic feedback, playing WRC 23 in VR would make you feel like a rally driver.
For more articles like this, take a look at our WRC page.