Easy right, Easy left, Over bridge!
Milestone’s first effort at a Vita rally game gets the job done but only just.
WRC 3 consists of two elements, Multiplayer and the “WRC experience” which is the meat and potatoes part of the game.
The WRC experience is made up of single race, here you just pick a track, car and stage and then jump right in. Single rally is similar to single race but of course it features the entire stages that make up one rally. Then we have the full blown rally championship, here you can do all 6 rally’s, Monte-Carlo, Greece, Germany, Wales, France and Spain and choose how many stages for each county up to a maximum of 6, you can also put them in any order which makes a refreshing change if you like to repeat championships. Oddly enough you can’t create a driver and have your own personal career, your just stuck to the real world pre set drivers. You also pick the car class before the championship starts, you have WRC, Class 2 and Class 3 vehicles with a wide range of cars, sponsors and teams to choose from. You can also save your progress after each rally so you can do this in relatively small chunks.
Before you set out with your merry little co-driver you can also alter the cars settings. Your able to alter 4 main sections, front and rear suspension gears and body. Things like brake bios, handbrake strength and front differential all have sliders for the mechanical minded player. You can also do a suggested set up where all the hard work is done for you, plus you have the ability to save these set-ups in save slots for later use, handy!
The racing is quite competitive in a championship and demands great concentration to keep up with the best over all the stages and rally’s, there’s plenty of re-playability here too with the different car classes, difficulty settings and the ability to customize your championship.
After each stage your presented with a repair screen. Depending on how much damage you’ve inflicted you have 60 min’s (game time) to repair your vehicle to the best of your ability, you can choose different sliders that fix things like brakes, suspension body work and gearbox, each repair takes a set amount of time so you have to decide which parts are urgent and which can wait until the next repair opportunity. This does represent a bit of strategy especially if you have the damage model set to high. You can also have the AI do a auto repair, this is a nice quick fix but my not always be the best option.
The multi player modes have options for custom match, create match and leader boards. You can also jump into a game via quick match. The options for creating a custom game have typical setting that you would expect from a single rally to a full championship although the later could take some time with a maximum setting of 13 stages. You can also alter such things like damage, number of players and car category.
You’r online profile details your wins and level for each class, these are bolstered up after each win obviously. The leader boards consist of times you’ve uploaded in single player and also other peoples competitive multi player rankings. The online allows for up to 6 players that race the single stages at once, other peoples cars are on track as ghost cars only, these are easy to see in the distance too as they turn a solid colour which helps, as you near your competitor their ghost fades meaning it never obscures your vision or is off putting. Plus you can also see where you are on a gauge to the left of the screen which helps.
The racing just feels exactly like the single player experience with no to little lag, it actually feels pretty good when you see somebody’s ghost in the distance hitting a bend wrong allowing you to gain an advantage and a possible over take. It’s a pretty standard affair overall but it does create another challenge for budding WRC fans, watch out though as competition will become fearsome online.
Options for WRC 3 include such things as your typical, sound, HUD and control options, the games options also have some neat settings for newcomers or experienced drivers alike. You can set such things as braking help, damage, transmission, rewind features and look at apex this setting in particular I feel is better suited to off but like all settings you can put that one down to personal preference. In game car views are set to bumper cam, bonnet cam, in car view and out of car view.
Looking at the content on offer in WRC 3 the overall feeling is that there could of been more, yes the rally’s will take time to master and learn but a few more options, modes or extra content would of gone down a treat. As it is what’s on offer is just adequate. The console and Vita versions will be getting extra rally’s in a few weeks apparently in the form of Mexico, Argentina and Portugal how these pan out into the championship is any one’s guess at the moment. This content should of been in from the start and then more tracks added later down the line. At least it’s good to know you’ll have more stuff to look forward to.
So how does it handle and play? surprisingly well to put it frank. One main complaint I always have regarding rally games is that the cars feel too floaty, they seam like the surface is not connecting with the tyres and the car is more akin to a hover craft. I’m quite impressed with the effect they’ve achieved with the Vita version, the vehicles all feel weighty and stick to the representing surface, from ice to mud you can actually feel the difference, not a massive amount like a true Sim but enough to warrant setting up your car and tweaking setting for a better experience. The physics are not true Sim style but there also not a dumbed down arcade experience either, they sit somewhere in the middle and feel just right for this kind of game on the Vita.
Taking S bends at high speeds and tapping the gas while applying the smallest of braking pressure feels rewarding when grazing walls, simulary when braking under speed your vehicle actually takes time to stop making judging braking points for tight bends all the more rewarding, add into the equation the hand brake and you soon feel like a pro taping, tweaking the gas and brakes, adding just the right amount of E brake to do those tight corners as fast and as tight as possible. The only thing that’s missing is rumble effects, if only!
Each car class has it’s own unique feeling and physics although there isn’t much difference between each vehicle make in any set class, maybe expecting every car to feel fully individual is asking too much? When choosing a higher damage model in the games settings hitting walls, trees and veering off road all have serious effect on the performance and handling of your vehicle, this too adds to the enjoyment and just adds a deeper layer to the driving physics.
Overall the driving mechanics feel just right for WRC, there not too Sim like but are deep and rewarding enough to provide plenty of challenge and replay value. The best part about them is your car actually feels like it’s on the road for once instead of hovering over it.
Having a true analogue stick on the Vita is a god send, driving to a precise level on any other hand held would be impossible to the level and accuracy that this game requires, even though the stick is relatively small with little travel distance it does a great job of transferring your commands into the on screen action.
Moving on to the games aesthetics, WRC 3 runs at a smooth frame rate for the most part, when your bursting along straights, bends and cliff tops the action stays stable even when there is plenty of objects on screen, the disappointing part of said frame rate is it has a strange stuttering effect when taking hairpin bends at a lowish speed. Taking such tight corners in the out of car view makes the frame rate dip, it’s not overly off putting but you do notice it. Strangely enough doing such actions with the in car views results in no such effect. I suspect that this is down to optimization as I see no other reason why this should accrue, go through some small towns with plenty of track side detail and there is no problem at all, also it happens more on some tracks than others?
Detail on cars is pretty decent but upon closer inspection some logos and decals look very basic and low res, this is only really noticeable when starting a rally, the actual in game action the cars look detailed and little touches like seeing your driver move the wheel, change gear and use the E brake at the right time add to the immersion. Body work flies off, dents and damage appear on all panels and even dirt builds up on the cars exterior, this all adds to the games appeal.
The overall graphical detail is also quite high for this type of game and looks good for the most part, it has a low resolution look to it though which creates a grainy look and feel, this isn’t too bad considering the content type, ultra clean looks may have added just that little extra sparkle to the game though. Overall it’s above average for a Vita game, certainly not in the same league as Uncharted, Wipeout and Virtual Tennis 4 but it’s not lingering in the Vita’s quick port graphical col-drums either.
Care has been taken to make the game pretty where possible and considering development time and the size of the team working on the project I would say they’ve done a admirable job. Track side objects all look detailed enough and there is very little pop up, the odd tree trunk here and there is nothing to worry about. Detail in the distance is pretty good too which helps to portray the illusion that your actually on a mountain top or in thick wooded areas.
It wont turn your head if you just care about graphics but it’s get the job done!
The sound effects are pretty basic, well what did you expect for a rally game? There are typical spot effects when hitting walls, going through mud and from cheering onlookers. The engine sounds are pretty good with pops and growls in the right places, again it gets the job done, a feeling that is becoming familiar as we progress.
Ultimately what were left with is a rally game that is deep and rewarding if you invest the time and delve into the set-ups and options. This game is definitely one for the WRC fans out there, it’s clearly aimed at a specific audience some may find this type of racing game off putting or boring? like F1 games are to many. The game also has a adequate feel to it, like they just did what they had to instead of putting the extra mile in, no pun intended!
One could forgive certain elements as this is a first attempt form Milestone, indeed far bigger development studios get away with far more on their first attempts. I’m looking forward how they can progress this in the future with baited breath.
Dig in though and it’s quite a enjoyable and satisfying experience especially for WRC fans, any downfalls the game has are slightly blurred when your having this much fun. Average Joe though would probably be better served waiting for a demo before laying down their hard earned cash. The game also makes a refreshing change from your typical high octane rally game with constant bombarding of such things like Mountain Dew and quotes like “yeah, your the man” and “Awesome dude!”