Few studios have supported the PlayStation 4 quite like Milestone. Sébastien Loeb Rally Evo represents the racing specialist's fifth release on the new-gen format, with three more due this year alone. However, despite the prolific nature of the Italian outfit's output, this off-road simulator has clearly been given ample attention in the showroom, as it's host to a trunk full of content that will thrill motorsport maniacs.
It's ironic really because, up until recently, the studio was the steward of the official WRC license. But its four-wheeled titles on the PlayStation 3 and Vita always felt rushed, and that's part of the reason why last year's WRC 5 proved such a surprise. Rally Evo doesn't exactly reinvent the wheel, but it finally possesses the passion that's been ever-present in the developer's motorcycle titles; this feels like a game that the studio wanted to make, rather than one that it was contractually obliged to.
And that's immediately evident in the spectrum of race types on offer: there's everything from Single Stages to Rallycross and more. The campaign – which spans all disciplines – whisks you from the vibrant forests of Finland to the sun scored streets of Los Angeles and everywhere in-between, as you compete to raise the reputation of your fictional racing team. It's almost identical in structure to RIDE, but there's enough content here that you can dip in and out with a bit of whatever takes your fancy.
Of course, it's the cars that are the stars, and you'll find a catalogue of rally classics and modern monsters here. The selection does lean heavily on the Citroëns that powered Loeb to so many world titles, but you'll find many other famous models: the iconic Impreza '95, the sleek Celica ST185 GT4, and the luscious Lancia Stratos '77 are just a few waiting to be taken for a test drive. The progression sees you earning credits to acquire these automobiles outright, but you can "rent" them if you don't have the funds available immediately.
If there's any downside to all of this, though, it's that the handling model can't quite seem to decide which direction it wants to go. Understeer is a constant issue here, which is particularly problematic when you're trying to weave your way around the game's spindly country lanes. Cars bobble and bounce authentically over the various different simulated surfaces, but the game never really captures the arcade-inspired euphoria of WRC 5 or the punishing precision of DiRT Rally.
And it's a shame because, as alluded, there's content galore here. In addition to the abovementioned campaign, you can relive Loeb's illustrious career in full, as well as participate in extra-curricular activities like the Pike's Peak International Hill Climb. There's even a training arena that lets you put your vehicles through their paces across a variety of surfaces, as well as a rudimentary online mode which already appears to have attracted a small but committed community of enthusiasts.
If only the handling was a little surer of itself, then, Milestone may have found a way to navigate the budgetary shortcomings that permeate all of its titles. Once again, Rally Evo has strengths and weaknesses in the presentation department; the car models are meticulous, but the low-quality lighting gives them an almost cartoon look, while the in-game visuals appear muddy – and not in a manner that's becoming of a rally game.
Milestone has clearly spent an age under the bonnet, and Sébastien Loeb Rally Evo has a content quota that's befitting of all of that attention. Unfortunately, the Italian outfit's indecision with regards to the racer's handling model means that it's not always at its best when out on the track. If you can look past this shortcoming, however, then you'll find a real celebration of the sport here – and the man who helped put it on the map for a whole generation.