Rally games are a mixed bag genre. Sometimes you will get a game that many people latch onto and it really takes off while others will only appeal to the hardcore. That's the risk that publishers take when they make a rally game but Evolution must be doing something right as Sony continue to ask them to make the official WRC game. Over the years the game has evolved quite a bit but we can say that this year Evolution Studios have really outdone themselves. We haven't been huge fans of WRC, but WRC Rally Evolved finally gives gamers what they want; pick up and play action with simulation aspects.
Rally Evolved is the 2005 official WRC game from Sony as they have the exclusive license. Evolution has made many changes to this year's game however the core structure remains the same. They have worked on keeping the game interesting and ticking along because, for casual non-rally fans, it really can get a bit boring racing stage after stage without any other cars. So to combat this Evolution introduced three new main features, along with a few not so major changes.
The first addition is the Rallycross mode. Fast becoming a popular discipline of rally, Rallycross puts you in a race with three other rally cars on a circuit and basically tasks you with coming first. This may not sound all that innovative and in reality it's not but it still remains a nice addition to the game and offers a change for a few hours of gameplay. The other new mode is historical challenge. This is extremely tough and shows just how hard it was for the drivers of yesteryear. You are given a car which handles like a brick and have to beat challenges to unlock more cars for the mode. It's not easy. We did an almost perfect run and still were about a second off the pace. This is one for the more accomplished rally fan.
Something which seems to have had quite an overhaul is the actual physics engine. The game is "pick up and play" but also has the simulation options for those who want it. What we found was that the car is easy to control, but the physics are on the realistic side. You can't take a corner at a 90 degree angle and not expect to spin, that is unless you're one of the top rally drivers in the world. The game also features a damage model which does affect the handling. One of the most significant impacts you can have is suspension and the car looks lopsided and is almost impossible to control. This damage can be caused by dynamic events during the stages. You can be driving along and all of a sudden have to avoid falling rocks, or passing animals. This can creep up on you and really throws curve balls which can cause a completely ruined rally. The co-driver does warn you about them though.
As you would expect with a licensed game, Sony has gone all out on getting the tracks and teams right and you will be driving the tracks that the real world drivers do. The one thing which has changed however is the amount of stages, you will generally find only three or four stages per really which is in stark contrast to the real world and also the stages are significantly shorter so Sony has been inspired by the real world conditions as opposed to completely replicate them. Considering this is a fully licensed game that was a risk that Sony took and in reality the best option would be to offer both scenarios, fully and shortened rallies.
In terms of cars you have a plethora to choose from ranging from the top level manufacturers through to the Super 1600 series and Historical cars. With the 16000 cars included, this really does replicate every level of the championship now and offers many challenges to the player. The car models are stunning to say the least this year and Sony has really worked on the damage subsystem and general visuals of the game as it's fair to say this is one of the best looking titles we've seen in the rally genre. The co-driver has had a complete overhaul as well in terms of pace notes and generally how they act. They will react to the situation. For instance, if you make a mistake, they will lambast you, but also if you drive well tell you that you're doing well. Sony has timed the pace notes quite well as well with the co-driver generally one step ahead of where you are most of the time.
As we mentioned before the visuals of the game are extremely well done and the whole game feels a lot more dynamic this year. Marshell's alert you of upcoming obstacles, spectators jump out of the way, animals run across the track and generally at any moment you can fly off the track of run into something - it's quite hard. The sound effects of the engine are spectacular as well, but the real impressive area of the sound is the aforementioned co-driver.
WRC Rally Evolved is the game that will take Rally to the mainstream with its pick up and play gameplay, multiple game modes, rally cross and just generally its fun to play. You may not like rally games that much but you will probably like this one.