WRC 9 is a mighty good time and a great entry point for someone who might not be as familiar with the franchise or racing sims.
WRC 9 isn’t a title I’d normally go out of my way to play. I’m not huge into racing games, and when I do dabble it’s usually with something more arcadey like Forza Horizon or Burnout. I even remember groaning when my editor asked me to cover the title, but boy was I wrong.
WRC 9 is still a bit more of a sim than I’d usually like, but the depth of the title is incredible, the visuals are beautiful, and the game makes really nice use of the PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller. I don’t really have an idea of what changes they’ve made from previous titles, as this is my first outing with the franchise, so I’ll at least try to cover the main staples of my experience.
Easy does it
It quickly became apparent that I wouldn’t be able to zoom as quickly through each track as I was expecting. Much like the Forza series, players will have to utilize handbrakes and general slowdown to take sharp turns or they risk flying straight off the track – something I did often for the first couple of hours.
Tracks are meticulously crafted. You’ll end up spending time flying through locations in Europe, Kenya, Japan, Finland, and several other countries. I generally opted for a slightly slower pace through some of the earlier tracks while I got my bearings. Even then I still managed to come in first through the early rallies, despite taking my time braking or drifting around corners.
Players start out as a new driver recruited to a team. Your driver manages tech points, team rosters, calendars, and even repair schedules. There’s a significant skill tree here that ranges from unlocking new team positions to earning more experience from finishing first in rallies or even handling on different types of terrain. It was honestly overwhelming at first for a newbie, but ten hours in and I started to get a handle on the different mechanics at play here.
As you go through races, your team will get tired and their ability stats decline. To compensate for this, players manage a calendar of events and schedule days to rest so team members can recuperate. Alternatively, rotating out team members to bring fresh eyes in is a viable option and one I opted to do occasionally until I wanted a specific member on my team for a rally. Eventually, as you level up, you’ll get recruited to a new team and the whole process starts over again but with new branches of the skill tree available.
While the number of different types of events is limited, the number of courses helped keep things fresh. My favorite events were the historic events and hazardous events. The former puts players behind the wheel of a classic car to run a track. The latter gives you a severely damaged car in a setting that makes it difficult to drive. The hazardous events were cool because they generally showed off a bit more of the DualSense support, which I’ll get to momentarily.
Visually, WRC 9 is mighty impressive. Cars are incredibly detailed, and the fidelity on the surrounding environments are staggering. It’s too bad you won’t have time to stop and admire it often. But if I ever flew off a track and was planning to restart my event anyway, I’d take a leisure drive just to admire the detail.
This level of detail in WRC 9 doesn’t just end at the cars and the environments; the tracks themselves look great. Dirt blows up behind your tires. Even a puddle splashing up around you is incredibly detailed. Rain events look great when raindrops are splattered across your screen. It’s a testament to how detailed things can be on the PS5.
Really the most interesting thing at play here is the DualSense. I really loved Astro’s Playroom, but I eventually got sick of the DualSense support being so intense all the time. It was a nice way to see what can be done on Sony’s new controller, but it needs to be baked into the gameplay for it to really shine. Here, players find their triggers kicking back as they shift gears. The triggers sputter when the ABS kicks in. Hell, even the rain and hail hitting your car comes with the perfect vibration and noise from the controller. They’re small things but helpful for the immersion in WRC 9.
My biggest frustration came about ten hours in when my PlayStation 5 decided it was going to shut down while in rest mode and act like it had been disconnected from power. This led to me losing my entire save file and having to start over – super frustrating but not the game’s fault.
Technically, WRC 9 is excellent. It runs at a native 4K at 60 frames per second. I didn’t notice a single drop in fidelity. Load times are as snappy as we expected leading up to the PlayStation 5’s launch. I didn’t know how much I would appreciate super quick load times on console until I started going through my calendar between events in WRC 9. I couldn’t imagine going back and doing this on a standard hard drive now.
My first experience with a WRC title is an extremely positive one. While I don’t know if it’s something I’ll jump into every year, it’s something I’m far more open to now. The DualSense support – coupled with engaging driving and events – makes for a great time.
Game Freaks 365 received a review copy.