Codemasters knows rally. It's been making rally racing games since 1998, with the original Colin McRae Rally on PS1 being a hugely formative title for the studio. The series evolved into the DiRT games, which itself branched into two — numbered sequels with a more arcade-like nature, and DiRT Rally, a more serious, simulation take on the motorsport. With 12 games in the bag, its next attempt, EA Sports WRC, is the first to bear the official licence.
Everything seems to be in place, then, for this game to be something pretty special. Codies has about 25 years of experience making rally titles, and it'll combine that know-how with all the real-world cars, drivers, and courses from the 2023 World Rally Championship. It's this combo that has us excited; we already know the studio can craft hair-raising and deeply satisfying rally driving, and now the new game will have all the hallmarks of an official product.
As mentioned, EA Sports WRC will feature all 10 cars from the current season across all classes, all 13 locations from the official calendar, plus five more for good measure. The only small print here is the Central Europe rally will be arriving later as a free post-launch update.
Under the bonnet, the upcoming rally game is building upon the much loved DiRT Rally 2.0. In a move from Codemasters' proprietary EGO game engine to Unreal, the fantastic handling model has been brought over wholesale. Moreover, it's been enhanced and refined further, with senior creative director Ross Gowing emphasising improvements to tarmac handling in particular. The team says Unreal has also allowed them to build much larger environments and much longer tracks, resulting in more than 600km of off-roading goodness.
So, with all the essential nuts and bolts seemingly in place, what does EA Sports and Codemasters' take on WRC look like? Well, there are plenty of things familiar about this racer, and a few things that aren't. Starting with the obvious, the main draw is an extensive single-player career mode. You'll be able to start your rally journey from any of the three classes, building your own team as you'd expect. While most of the game revolves around regular, stage-based rally, you'll also have opportunities to compete in regularity rally, a variation that has you reaching checkpoints within specified amounts of time. Another interesting wrinkle is the need to work with a team benefactor to manage a budget. Instead of racking up endless amounts of cash, you'll need to work within your budgetary constraints to ensure money is spent wisely.
A major part of creating your own team will be building your own car, and that's an important feature here. Using the builder, you'll be able to put together your very own modern era rally car. You appear to have a lot of choice in this mode, customising everything from the chassis and livery to its internal parts and fine tuning details, although importantly, the car will always be competitive within real-world regulations — you can't create any over-powered monsters. While that might sound a bit "no fun allowed", the upshot is that you can use your custom car not only in the career mode, but also online when competing with other players.
Another key part of EA Sports WRC is Moments. This mode gives you access to iconic and memorable moments from throughout the motorsport's 50-year history, turning these real scenarios into playable challenges. With a new Moment introduced every 24 hours, you'll have the opportunity to recreate an important, er, moment from WRC every day. You're given a few mini-objectives in each, and awarded a medal at the end based on your performance. It sounds like a neat way to both reflect on the motorsport's history and experience a range of vehicles and classes.
There's plenty more. Photo mode lets you take epic snaps of your driving prowess; surface degradation means the track will change depending where you are in the running order; and assists and accessibility settings are included to make this intense sim racer more palatable to more players. On that note, Rally Schools is essentially a set of tutorials that aims to teach you how to drive, a feature that was missing from DiRT Rally 2.0.
Additionally, you'll have other staple modes like quick play events and time trials, as well as a couple of ways to play (cross-platform) online multiplayer. Quick play events pit you against 31 others in a real-time championship, or you can play Clubs, which allows you to compete asynchronously. Oh, and there will be a Rally Pass, but it sounds more or less identical to the F1 series' Podium Pass — you gain XP while playing the game and gradually earn cosmetic items for your driver.
So, EA Sports WRC is sounding like a pretty robust first effort from Codemasters, but we suppose, really, this isn't its first effort. While it's the studio's inaugural rally game with the official licence, as outlined earlier, it's been making off-road racers for decades. We expect this will be a smooth ride without any slip-ups when it arrives on 3rd November.
Are you excited to play EA Sports WRC? Kick up a cloud of gravel in the comments section below.