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EA Sports WRC review: rally games have come home

EA Sports WRC is a game every rally sim fan should play
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With EA Sports WRC, you feel like the World Rally Championship license has come home. It's just in the right hands, with Codemasters really understanding the sport, and what makes it special compared to other racing games.

The driving model has reached such a level of refinement that there's very little left to say. It's the pinnacle of the team's experience in this field — complex and nuanced, a perfect mix of audio and handling perfectly blending together.

You can hear background sounds, like the gearbox scratching when it's operated, or when you stomp on the brake pedal, or how taking a hit can alter your engine's roar. When you're all alone in the middle of nowhere with your co-driver, all of this impacts your focus and flow in a way that is really unique to this kind of game.


Certain changes to the tried and true formula in recent years –like getting rid of rewinds – make it so WRC feels a bit more hardcore-oriented, even though that might come down to the World Rally Championship license requiring a more realistic approach.

Every aspect of your vehicle factors into performance — from your car type and the weather conditions to just about every possible variation of the surface condition, everything plays its part in how your car handles. It's not just tarmac that has improved, as we're told in our EA Sports WRC preview, and it's not just a matter of snow or gravel anymore.

With all these pieces falling gracefully into place, stage management is a whole different beast. If you're not great on snow and ice, but you know you feel strong on a slightly drier asphalt, you can do some damage control and just bring the car home in the first race, and then push harder in the second — all in the same race week.


Your Career starts with the Builder Mode, where you create your own car and have it compete with the other official WRC cars. It's unexpectedly deep, allowing you to build your car down to the smallest detail. You can choose your own between a wide variety of speedometers, steering wheels, seats, and more, as well as altering the look of the bodywork. There are so many details that weren’t really necessary, and yet here they are, making it all that much more exciting.

It's something you would expect more from a Need for Speed game rather than from a WRC-licensed title. It's just a tad disappointing that you can't bring it online, and that you're forced to build another one exclusively for that purpose.

While in Career mode, building a car requires you to stay within the budget, and that has an impact on performance. Your starting budget is fairly sizable, but the expense has to be sustained over time. Winning races is only a part of that, as specific events bring cash into specific areas of your team.


Upon starting, you'll be able to afford almost all the best, and your crew will have already been assembled. So, if you don't mind this side of motorsport, you can leave it at that. Otherwise, you can bring more talent to your team, and even your chief engineer.

Career mode's big plus is letting you explore the entire official WRC calendar. You can skip stages you're not interested in, and be a part-time driver like Ogier and Loeb, or cool off a bit with historic cars and themed events. Having a sponsor is always a good tool to put some pressure on players and give them targets, but their initial level of happiness is high enough that you don’t have to worry too much.

All in all, the calendar structure and weekly events make it fairly basic and predictable, and there's no reinventing the wheel here compared to other racing games' Career modes.


As for Moments mode, the way it's handled is somewhat baffling. It only comes with three scenarios at launch (two real and one fictional), where you need to unlock one of three medals based on your time. What's even weirder is two additional scenarios are locked behind the EA Play paywall.

Quite frankly, content is so sparse here it's tough to even rate it. It's a scenario mode that could have been much more interesting, had it not been framed in the context of live service updates. However, we're told more will come on a regular basis, initially daily, and EA is aiming for over 300 Moments to be featured at some point.

Rally School is another of EA Sports WRC's new features, and it's nice to see how the basic level tests literally explain the fundamentals of rallying — something other rally games should be taking note of.

While it looks like a hardcore experience at times, the game takes some time to finally give players a soft introduction to the genre. For example, Rally School teaches you what the information provided by the co-driver means in detail.


Then you have advanced trials that are reminiscent of Gran Turismo licenses, which is always good. The only shortcoming was the lack of higher-level tests, as they could have perhaps delved into more complex mechanics such as the manual transmission. It'd be useful to have a safe place to make that extra step after mastering the base game.

This is also the first Codemasters rally game in the hybrid era — only the second ever, after WRC Generations.

This forces you to choose between three throttle pedal positions, which determine when the engine takes that extra battery boost. Battery charge and boost deployment are reported in the UI during races, and it's engaging to have an additional layer to pay attention to in the "parc fermé," although their actual usefulness is something that's difficult to measure.


Regularity rallies are another experience that simply weren’t there before. The ultimate goal here is to take fewer penalty points, and you do that by arriving at each detector as close as possible to the set intermediate time – not too much earlier, nor too much later– and without breaking the speed limit. A nice touch is your co-driver's instructions being unusually very straightforward: that's because they need time to let you know whether you're too slow or too fast, consistent with the performance you're aiming for.

It's a very different kind of mode from regular rallying, and with any luck it catches on with the community. It's a more playful and less competitive interpretation of the genre, and we can see it doing well even with friends on a couch.

Even with a sometimes bland Career mode and the currently disappointing state of Moments, EA Sports WRC is a game every rally sim fan should play. Driving model, realism, variety — it's the pinnacle of Codemasters' experience in the genre, plus the official World Rally Championship license. Rally has finally come home.

Score: 8/10

  • Technical performance: 7/10
  • Visuals: 8/10
  • Audio and music: 9/10
  • Mechanics and systems: 9/10

Version tested: PC

Technical breakdown

EA Sports WRC looks much cleaner than the preview code we tested a few weeks ago, although some rough edges are still there. Maxed out, the frame rate seems to struggle even on an RTX 3080 at 2560x1080p — typically not a great sign. On top of that, inconsistencies – such as micro-stutters – though almost gone, were also noticeable on a slightly less taxing preset.

That's likely due to Codemasters moving to the Unreal Engine for the first time. On the flip side, the new engine has allowed the team to create longer stages, which can be easily considered one of the game's most distinctive features.