WRC 3: FIA World Rally Championship is certainly an improvement over last year's title. The presentation has been greatly enhanced, with the menus and audio more reminiscent of its contemporaries. Meanwhile, the in-game visuals show far more fidelity with improved detail and lighting. However, there're still some glaring issues holding the series back. It just can't shake the adage: bad is good compared to worse.
As one of the few titles to focus entirely on rally driving, there's an expectation for it to achieve a high standard of simulation – something the series has yet to live up to. The multiple surfaces are all accounted for and make for a diverse range of tracks for you to drive through, but these often feel like visual changes rather than physical ones because tyre feedback just isn't impactful enough. For example, there's not enough friction on dusty gravel and sand tracks, and the smoothness on concrete and slip on ice is marginal. It's a fundamental part of the rallying experience that isn't quite right here, and the unauthentic trend continues throughout the experience.
The improved physics engine still doesn't recreate the feel of rally driving faithfully enough. The wide selection of available cars all handle far too loosely, losing control frequently on bends and defying the precision these machines are noted for in real life. Meanwhile, damage to your vehicles looks great, but fails to immerse you completely when a 100mph crash into a rock doesn't utterly destroy you. Additionally, the slightest thing can cause you to flip and roll your car as if the constant of gravity intermittently fails.
But despite these issues causing you to doubt the authenticity of the whole experience, it does still manage to be fun on a more arcade level. There's a great sense of speed as you shoot along each track, with straight sections in particular being a real treat to drive. The sound is excellent with the roar of your engine and the rattle of the different surfaces really helping to pull you in. And the car models and environments look near real, though the engine does suffer from some draw distance issues.
You're free to race single stages on any of the tracks through each of the geographical locations, from the icy roads of Sweden, the dusty tracks of Portugal, or the forest trails of Britain. You can setup single rallies or completely customisable championships. Hot-seat four-player local multiplayer and the online mode return, in addition to the all new career mode, Road to Glory.
Road to Glory allows you to live a complete rallying career, starting off as a rookie in the professional circuit and slowly climbing the ranks, all the while gaining and customising cars, liveries, and your team. Between racing, you'll also participate in mini-game events that test your driving accuracy, drifting prowess, or simply provide a fun distraction. One example of these activities is driving through targets to score points, or trying to stay alive for as long as possible in a car that's falling apart by collecting repair kits on the track. Better still, you can customise the difficulty to suit you skill level by switching on assists and tweaking the AI's proficiency.
WRC 3: FIA World Rally Championship has more than enough content to keep you busy with its 83 tracks, 50 drivers, and 37 cars. But, despite being the official game of the World Rally Championship, it has many issues that strip away its authenticity – the most problematic of which being poor track feedback. The title’s more than competent as a casual off-road racer, but unfortunately for developer Milestone, Codemasters already has that genre locked up with its exceptional DiRT series.