WRC 9 is a superb rally sim. We said as much when we first reviewed it on PS4 three months ago. Bringing keen improvements to handling, lighting, and graphical fidelity – in addition to a selection of new rallies in Japan, Kenya, and New Zealand – such refinements in key areas helped define it as one of the best rally sims of the generation. When we say that it’s hard to go back to that version after trying out the PlayStation 5 upgrade, we don’t say it lightly. Available as a free upgrade, owners of the game are in for a treat on their new systems.
There are tangible upgrades here for just about everyone, with the game now running at a buttery smooth 60 frames-per-second at 4K resolution and with improved lighting and HDR. It might not be the best looking racer of all time, but everything looks pin sharp, and load times, which were often lengthy on prior hardware, are now almost non-existent. Unfortunately, scenery pop-in does still rear its ugly head, which can be an unwanted distraction mid-rally.
Now, we know a lot of people will play this game with a racing wheel, and if you have a high-end model with load cell breaks from the last generation, you’re good to go here, and you pretty much know what to expect in terms of feel. The rest of the upgrades are tied to the unique features of the PS5’s DualSense controller, so our review is primarily focused on this area.
Needless to say, WRC 9 with the DualSense is a joy to play and a superb example of the controller’s new haptic upgrades. Accelerating with the right trigger is usually easy enough, but come to a corner and you feel resistance from the brake trigger, just like a real pedal. Moving between gears, you can feel each click of the gearbox, which only gets more prominent should it get damaged mid-rally. Receive enough blows to the engine and even pushing the accelerator pedal becomes a challenge, as it angrily fights against you with enough resistance to impact your flow in a realistic manner.
Each different type of terrain can be tangibly felt through the controller. Racing at high speed along an asphalt road is deliciously smooth, but turn onto a bumpy dirt path, and suddenly every bang, rattle, and shake beneath your wheels can be felt through the controller. This isn’t like the rumble of prior DualShock remotes, this feels targeted and precise. Brush over rocks in the road with one side of the car, and you feel an angry shudder on that side of the controller. Likewise, the clatter of stones spewing the vehicle’s underside audibly transfer through the DualSense controller’s built-in speaker, so it sounds as though it’s coming from beneath you.
Not only do these changes make the game feel better than before, but they alter how you play and realign priorities. Playing through the comprehensive Career mode on PS4, we found ourselves focusing our early upgrades almost entirely on the Crew and Team R&D upgrade trees. On PS5 with DualSense, we’re also drawn more towards Reliability and Performance branches, simply because damage to the car now has a more tangible impact on how well we’re able to wield our vehicle. Suddenly XP upgrades and monetary rewards are of less importance to us than an engine more resistant to impacts.
Unfortunately, the transition to PS5 isn’t all good news and we did come across a variety of recurring bugs that we simply didn’t encounter on our last foray with the title. Some of these are just annoying, such as when the menu narrator describes events that we’re not even taking part in, or how the game boots up as though we don’t already have a save file and lumps us into the setup tutorial on a whim. Others bugs, however, have an impact on our ability to enjoy the game. One particularly strange bug we’ve encountered a few times includes a black shadow that suddenly creeps over the screen leaving us unable to see where we’re going. Another glitch had us failing season objectives as soon as we were handed them. Most of these objectives are fairly asinine and somewhat optional, so it’s not a huge deal, but it’s still a regression that we hadn’t encountered on PS4.
Sure enough, WRC 9 could use a little TLC. We should keep these issues in mind, but we don’t want to let them completely outshine the positives. With tons of content across a variety of online and offline modes, all 14 of the official world rallies, teams, drivers, branding, and an excellent career mode, WRC 9 is a superb rally simulator that plays even better here than ever before. If you’re after a rally game on your new system and DIRT 5’s arcade-oriented approach to the motorsport isn’t your thing, WRC 9 just might be.
While it’s perhaps not the graphical powerhouse we would use to showcase our new console to friends and family, WRC 9 on PlayStation 5 runs at a consistently smooth 60 frames-per-second at 4K resolution, and marks a significant improvement over its last-gen underling. However, it’s the game’s use of the haptic feedback technology provided by DualSense that really takes centre stage here, potentially offering a transformative experience for players who choose to play with a controller.