The WRC series on Switch feels a bit like a hammer made of sponge to us. We appreciate the effort that went into it, and it looks kind of like the original, but it never quite gets it right.
After a rocky start with WRC 8 on the Switch and a slightly improved but still shiny sequel, the series is back with its tenth entry and is once again slightly better without being overwhelmingly brilliant.
It’s business as usual on the street. As a serious rally sim, WRC 10 isn’t the sort of game that you can jump into for the first time and immediately start swinging your car around as if you’re about to Sega Rally himself had risen from his grave. If you’re new to the series, expect to do poorly for a while.
This is a game where your driving skills must be exceptional and you will be punished without mercy if it is not. The slightest bit of oversteer on a roadside object will have you spinning or falling, and any oversteer on sharp turns can cause you to skid uncontrollably.
The latter can be made a little easier by going into the options and remapping the acceleration and braking controls. By default these are mapped to ZR and ZL respectively, but as they aren’t analogue triggers they lack the nuance needed for some of the turns in serious rally play.
By instead mapping them to the right analog stick and playing with a twin-stick control method, players have much more control over acceleration and braking, making it easier to navigate tricky turns without spinning. To do this, however, you also have to deactivate the option to rotate the camera with the right stick. Look, it’s a whole thing.
So the slippery handling combined with the game’s exceptionally long courses means there’s quite a difficulty curve, and there will be plenty of moments where you’ll turn the air bluer than Colin McRae’s Subaru Impreza when you’re seven minutes after one in one Run ditch and fall over the hood in the back.
Once you get the hang of it – which, as we say, can take a while – you’ll find that WRC can be extremely satisfying. When you finally start putting in decent times that challenge those of your competitors, you really feel like you’ve accomplished something.
However, there’s one thing that really can’t be ignored, and if you’ve been perceptive while scrolling through this review, you might have already noticed it. As in previous years, this is not an attractive game. In fact, as we played it, we kept saying to ourselves, “I remember last year looked bad, but did it really look that bad?”
In fact we re-downloaded WRC 9 and captured some screens of it, then adjusted the car, track, corner and weather in WRC 10 and in the few situations we tested WRC 10 looks noticeably worse than its already ugly predecessor.
Why this is so is not entirely clear. Perhaps the graphical detail has been stripped back even further to improve performance, but whatever the reason, there seems to be a visual downgrade here. We’d have to spend a lot more time comparing to be able to say that definitively, but based on our own brief testing it certainly seems to be the case.
It’s just about acceptable in docked mode, but play the game in handheld mode and the graphical glitches are severe enough to be a major distraction while driving. Not only is the frame-rate harsher than a sandpaper cheese grater, it’s difficult to focus on a crucial, long run when trees and other scenery loom 10ft in front of you, as if there’s a flaw in the matrix and there is constantly trying to catch up with you.
If you can stomach a game whose environments are almost always underwhelming, there’s actually a lot more on offer here than last year’s game, which itself was already pretty packed with content. As well as the return of the in-depth career mode (which hasn’t changed much), there’s also a brand new mode celebrating the 50th anniversary of the World Rally Championship, where you can tackle a range of classic tracks from various key years in the sport’s history.
Of course, rally nerds will get the most out of this feature, and if the thought of circumnavigating the 1974 Sanremo circuit or taking part in the 1992 New Zealand Rally has you dribble in your driving overalls, then you’ve come to the right place enjoyment here. Even if you don’t have that strong an affinity with this sport and the words “Finland 1981” and “Sweden 2004” might as well be ESC events for you, the fact that this mode significantly increases the total number of tracks is still a Reason to celebrate.
Last year’s games included a total of 107 courses at 13 locations. This time, with all the real WRC stages from 2021 plus bonus Belgian and Welsh stages from older games, plus all the anniversary content, you’ll see a whopping 142 courses spread across 19 locations. Given that so many of these courses are extremely long due to the nature of the sport, this means there must be over 1000km of track.
This also applies to the cars. While WRC 9 featured a total of 22 different models, covering a mix of modern and classic cars, this time the expanded focus on the history of the sport means there are even more legendary cars to drive, bringing the total to 35. So if you really want to pretend it’s Sega Rally, you can now pull out the ’90s Toyota Celica GT-Four and yell “LONG EASY RIGHT MAYBE” at the screen. Except that Sega Rally probably looked better, to be fair.
WRC 10 packs far more content than its already jam-packed predecessor, and can offer extremely satisfying rally gameplay once you get used to its (precisely) unforgiving handling. However, this is let down by the game’s graphics, which are tolerable in the dock but look terrible when played handheld. As long as you can put up with the way it looks, there should be enough here to keep you busy for months.
https://www.nintendolife.com/reviews/nintendo-switch/wrc-10-the-official-game WRC 10 The Official Game Review (Switch)