Sim racers have been looking forward to this moment for years. It's been nearly four years since Codemasters' last rally game released, a remarkably long time given they made their name in off-road racing.
The reason it has been so long is that Codemasters acquired the WRC license with that agreement starting in 2023. Codies has been hard at work putting the brilliance of DiRT Rally into a WRC game, and now we can preview it.
With all the usual caveats that this is not the final product, and that things can change between now and release day, what have we made of EA Sports WRC?
Rally games can be brutal experiences, punishing the smallest error and drop in concentration. They can also deliver thrills like no other genre when you reach the end of a stage, and boy does WRC deliver those thrills.
Whether you're in a modern Rally1, a Group B monster, or an H1 Mini Cooper S, the joy of sliding around narrow bends and leaping over crests oozes out of EA Sports WRC.
You also feel every surface in WRC. Snow will have you constantly countersteering while the grip of asphalt will make you feel planted to the road, especially in the modern cars.
The positives even translate to controller. While it is harder to be as precise, and thus fast, as you can be with a wheel you can still feel the cars respond to your inputs on a gamepad. You feel really connected to the road and can find the rhythm and flow that rallying requires. The move from Ego to Unreal for WRC has made the game a bit of a brute on PC, but it has let the game render 30km stages without a hiccup and let you truly experience the demands of rallying.
Brilliant builder, bad brands
When EA & Codies revealed a full car builder for WRC the response was overwhelmingly positive, and we have to say that having tried the builder it is pretty great. You can pick everything from bonnet pins to engines and even customise the interior with displays and handbrakes.
The issue is that there are some familiar names for parts, but only if you play the Formula 1 games. Instead of coming to a licensing deal with the likes of Prodrive, Codemasters has repurposed the fictional sponsors from their F1 games to be parts suppliers in WRC.
The likes of Polor, AVAX, 7even, and Shark all slide over from being out-of-place sponsors on the side of your MyTeam car to being out-of-place manufacturers (and sponsors) in WRC. It's a real shame that after you choose between an M-Sport, Hyundai, or Toyota engine every other choice is between these fictional brands.
With only three categories (quality, condition, and custom tuning) and just four levels to pick from, the choices all become pretty clear. These may get more complicated as you progress, but when you get started it is pretty basic.
While this is just a preview, we are very impressed with WRC so far. We thoroughly enjoyed the previous WRC games from Kylotonn, but Codemasters' ability to create accurate rallying that is accessible regardless of your setup really is amazing. If the career mode can provide some longevity then we are in for a treat given the extensive car list and stage selection in the game.
For more articles like this, take a look at our WRC page.