Game Review: WRC FIA World Rally Championship 4 (PS Vita)

WRC FIA World Rally Championship 4 PS Vita

WRC 4 is a simulation racing game available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS Vita. WRC 4 is the official game of the 2013 season of the FIA World Rally Championship with all of the official drivers, co-drivers, teams, cars and Special Stages from all of this season’s rallies.

The career mode features four different formulas of rallying including: WRC Junior, WRC 3, WRC 2 and WRC. WRC Junior is the lowest formula and this is where you will start off with two separate rally events consisting six Special Stages in each event. Depending upon the quality and consistency of your performances in the WRC Junior formula; you will earn reputation points for your rally position, achieving your rally objective and for beating your rally rival, which will influence your contract offers that your manager will inform you of at the end of the season with the offers providing a route for you to stay in WRC Junior or alternatively move up a level to WRC 3 or if you have really impressed, then potentially even as high as WRC 2. While it will take you long enough to complete all of the twelve Special Stages across the two WRC Junior events; heading into WRC 3 will really step it up as this will be your first championship as there are six events consisting of six Special Stages in each event. The championship points system for all championships and categories mostly mirrors that of Formula 1 with 25 points for winning an event, 18 points for second place and 15 points for third place with 12 points for fourth place; 10 points for fifth place; 8 points for sixth place; 6 points for seventh place; 4 points for eighth place; 2 points for ninth place; and 0 points for tenth place. The cars reach higher levels of performance and faster speeds when you make it to the WRC 2 and WRC categories with tougher opposing drivers making your push for the championship more difficult to achieve.

The Quick Stage mode allows you to jump straight into a rally with a randomly selected Special Stage and car, which is an excellent game mode to have particularly for people who only have a short period of time to still be able to play and enjoy the game in quick and short bursts.

The Rally Mode provides the opportunity of playing a single stage, a single rally event or an entire championship. When you choose to drive on a single stage, you are able to choose any of the thirteen rally events; hand pick a particular Special Stage that you want to drive on; select a time of day from noon, dawn, dusk or random; which of the four categories of WRC you would prefer to race in; and your selection of any professional rally driver, co-driver, team and car from the WRC category you have chosen. When you choose to drive in a single rally, you will be presented with the options of taking your pick from any of thirteen rally events consisting of six Special Stages; choosing a one, two or three day calendar with each day consisting of two Special Stages; which of the four categories of WRC you would prefer to race in; and your selection of any professional rally driver, co-driver, team and car from the WRC category you have chosen. When you choose to drive in a championship, you will be presented with the options of the length of the championship including a short championship with three rally events each consisting of six Special Stages, a medium length championship with seven rally events each consisting of six Special Stages, a long championship with ten rally events each consisting of six Special Stages or a complete championship with thirteen rally events each consisting of six Special Stages; modifications are allowed, so you can change the order of rally events or repeat the same rally event over and over again if you have a particular preference, so you can choose a short championship and add one more rally event to it for a total of four Special Stages, rather than a pre-set total; choosing a one, two or three day calendar with each day consisting of two Special Stages; which of the four categories of WRC you would prefer to race in; and your selection of any professional rally driver, co-driver, team and car from the WRC category you have chosen.

WRC 4 contains all of the official licenses, which comprises of thirteen rally events situated in various locations around the world including: Monte Carlo; Sweden; Mexico; Portugal; Argentina; Greece; Italy; Finland; Germany; Australia; France; Spain; and Great Britain with each of the thirteen rally events consisting of six Special Stages that vary in length with the smallest stages lasting for around one mile to the longer stages that last upwards of three miles. There are 65 professional drivers with their co-drivers including the legendary nine time consecutive champion Sebastien Loeb and former Formula 1 driver Robert Kubica; 55 teams such as Citroen, Ford, Mini Cooper, Hyundai and Volkswagen; and 16 cars including the Citroen DS3 WRC, the new Volkswagen Polo R WRC and the Hyundai i20 WRC-Test Car, which will be making its debut in the 2014 championship. All of the cars are available to view from the showroom as you are selecting your car, so you can look at the intricacies of every car with the ability to zoom in or out and pan around the car.

The handling is superb and very authentic to how you would expect a rally car to handle even to the detail of your car beginning to behave and handle differently with the car driving towards the left or the right and becoming increasingly unresponsive as it is progressively more beaten up from colliding with various hazards, which certainly increases the realistic challenge and nature of the game.

The weather conditions vary from clear blue skies to torrential rain with every type of weather condition making your car behave differently in relation to how difficult your car is to handle at high speeds and around sharper corners.

There are a number of excellently positioned camera angles including just above the car bonnet; on the front of the car bonnet; a cockpit camera from the perspective of the driver with the steering wheel and the windscreen in view; another cockpit view, but this time in an advanced position with less of the steering wheel in view and a closer view of the action from just behind the windscreen; and a perspective from the rear of the car. You can re-position the camera angle from the rear of the car for it to be closer to the car or further away from the car with a slide bar from the options menu that when compared to the default setting, allows you to have it twenty clicks further forward or twenty clicks further back. With all of the five camera angles and adjustable third person viewpoint; you will certainly be able to find a camera angle that suits your style of driving, which is a really great plus point for WRC 4 to have.

The free camera from the pause menu allows you to observe the background details in more thorough detail, although it unfortunately does contain a photo mode which would have really taken the free camera mode to another level as you would no doubt be able to catch some great shots of some of the amazing scenery. However, it is still a great feature to have and allows you freedom of the positioning of the camera angle with panning and zooming in a fully immersive environment.

You can watch a full replay of the Special Stage that you have just driven on with the ability to rewind slowly or quickly, pause, fast forward slowly or quickly, change the camera angles for a different view of the action and loop the replay back to the beginning to watch it all over again. You can view the replay from eight camera angles with two from the car bonnet; to the right of the car behind the tyre; on top of the centre of the car; to the left of the car behind the tyre; from the right rear of the car positioned horizontally to provide a view of the car and the road ahead; and two dynamic camera angles positioned away from the car and changing from camera to camera in the style of Gran Turismo. It would be nice to see some of these camera angles make the transition to being playable as you are driving as they are that good and would further complement the experience.

The damage modelling will see the bodywork of your car crumple and contort as it hits more hazards and objects, which really works well with the handling as you can see the difference to how the car looks, while you can simultaneously feel how it is handling differently in comparison to a perfectly working or repaired car.

You can repair any damage to your car in service parks that are situated after every two Special Stages in the rally. Your team will have a maximum of one minute to repair the damage with a set time allocated to each of the eleven categories of car repair including: suspension; brakes; wheels; engine; steering; exhaust; electronics; turbo; intercooler; gearbox; and bodywork. If you are unfortunate enough to have destroyed your car too much, then you will start to receive penalties that will be added onto your overall time for the event once you have went beyond the one minute of allocated repair time. You will notice that an area of the car is in need of repair as you will have access to a diagram of the car in which the areas that are not in need of repair will be displayed in green, while the areas that do need to be repaired will be yellow for light damage, orange for more than light damage that is on the verge of being heavy damage and red for heavy damage. It is important to pay attention to how damaged your car is, as crashing without repairing the damage will progressively lower the performance of your car, so you must repair the car tactically and think about how best to approach repairing the major areas of the car without going above the one minute limit in order to avoid potential time penalties.

The My WRC feature provides you with the opportunity of watching a video tutorial before you start driving, so you can learn all of the basics and the essential information ahead of stepping into the car for the first time. You can also customise your driver data from your driver’s and co-driver’s name, surname, country of origin, car number and number plate to choosing their pre-selected picture and the name of your personal manager. You can have some fun with the customisation for the names and number plate you choose, although I would like to have an option to take a picture from the front facing or rear camera, so you could take your own picture or a picture of anyone or anything else to add more to the level of driver, co-driver and personal manager customisation, which is hopefully an area that will be expanded upon in WRC 5.

The controls are pretty much what you would expect to experience in a portable racing game. The control scheme consists of pressing R to accelerate; L to brake or reverse; X to shift your gear up; square to shift your gear down; O for the handbrake; triangle to rewind time back to before you had crashed your car; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to steer the car; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to move the positioning of the camera and look behind your car; the left d-pad button toggles between hiding or showing ghost cars; the right d-pad button shows the damage indicator to display how much damage your car has taken; select to change the camera angle; and start to display the pause menu. The only touch screen based controls consists of touching and holding your finger on the touch screen to respawn your car following a crash, although there is unfortunately no support for gyroscopic motion controls or any rear touch pad implementation for the control schemes.

The graphics are pretty good with realistic and authentic background details, such as beautiful skies; hot air balloons; forests; mountains and much more creating the appropriate feel of driving through a real world environment with bumps in the road, rocks, boulders and trees that are wider than others obscuring part of the road, usually following a tight turn to make it a little trickier to navigate, alongside water hazards and varying terrain all modelled in superb detail. The lighting effects and shadows change dependant upon the time of day and the paint jobs on all of the cars are precisely recreated from their real world counterparts.

WRC 4 certainly boasts the slickest presentation of any game on the Vita, thanks to the showcasing of the world’s best rally cars in the background with dramatic slow motion video clips on multiple terrains with lots of heat haze and plenty of dust and gravel being kicked up from the road surfaces with seamless integration between all of the menu screens. However, what lets the presentation down is the lack of support for navigation via the right analogue stick, touch screen and rear touch pad, although the navigation via the left analogue stick, direction pad and face buttons is more than adequate for navigating user interface across various menus such as the main menu, my WRC, the options menu and the various menus throughout the game, so that can be at least partially forgiven and will hopefully be implemented in WRC 5. The loading screens are just as good in their presentation as the menus as they contain interviews with your opposing drivers on how they believe the Special Stage will play out and an assessment of how it panned out after each Special Stage, various details about the course and pictures of drivers and rally cars to keep you occupied during any loading times.

The audio has a real impact on the game as it is clearly an area that the development team have placed a lot of effort and concentration has been invested into improving the realism and authenticity of the audio, which is perfectly showcased by the engine audio as it has now been recorded from three separate areas for all of the cars in the game. The engine audio was recorded using high performance microphones from three separate levels including the engine, inside the car and at the exhaust to provide a unique vision of the atmosphere that a rally driver would experience as he is driving. The co-driver is very clear and easy to understand and is mixed perfectly with the audio of the engine with neither getting in the way, while the crowd will react to a crash or applaud you when you have crossed the finishing line. The voice-over introduction for each stage and game mode is very informative about the layout and type of track you will be driving on and while it is a great feature; it tends to be more of a brief overview rather than a circuit guide, so it will hopefully be expanded upon in WRC 5 as a full turn by turn track guide in order to take the feature onto another level. Meanwhile, the music is rather dramatic and ties the audio together quite well as it perfectly captures the essence of the game.

The trophy list includes fifty-one trophies with thirty-eight bronze trophies, ten silver trophies, two gold trophies and one platinum trophy. The majority of the trophies are based upon skill as you are required to win Special Stages, rally events and championships, such as the Rising star explodes silver trophy for completing the Junior WRC category in first place; the WRC 3 Champion silver trophy for completing the WRC 3 category in first place; the WRC 2 Champion silver trophy for completing the WRC 2 category in first place; the A Respected Driver silver trophy for earning 150,000 reputation points in career mode; the Top of the world gold trophy for completing World Rally Championship in first place in career mode; the Ten in a row gold trophy for completing an offline championship with Sebastien Loeb in first place, which can be reduced in length by choosing a one day short championship resulting in driving a total of six Special Stages, alongside a number of trophies for winning a rally event with a certain driver or car in the rally mode on a three day calendar and winning all of the thirteen rally events in single player with a three day calendar. A tip that I would recommend for anyone who wants to reduce the duration and difficulty of your journey to the platinum trophy would be to adjust the level of the artificial intelligence of your opponents to the lowest you possibly can from the options menu, which should certainly give you a significant advantage in every Special Stage of every rally throughout the entirety of the career mode and rally mode.

There are six online multiplayer trophies, although any fears of you having to grind out a certain amount of victories against more experienced opponents can immediately be relieved as four of the bronze trophies require you to complete twenty valid online Special Stages, while the other two bronze trophies require you to reach an overall total of three hours game time on valid online Special Stages and as the online multiplayer is quite entertaining; there is absolutely nothing to fear about the online multiplayer component ruining your chances of platinuming the game. There are some easier trophies, such as the Guys, we have a problem bronze trophy for opening the car repair screen in the Service Park; the In search of the setup bronze trophy for opening the car setup screen in the Service Park; the Quick Prize bronze trophy for entering the Quick Stage mode; the Now you’re a driver bronze trophy for creating your customised driver; the First day at work bronze trophy for entering your headquarters in career mode; and the You’ve got mail bronze trophy for turning on your computer in your career mode headquarters. I would estimate depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between fifteen to twenty hours to platinum the trophy list.

Each of the Special Stages have their own difficulty levels charted on a meter of between one and five with one being the easiest and five being the hardest. The difficulty depends upon such factors as the terrain you will be driving on including various combinations of gravel, tarmac and snow and the weather conditions you will have to endure during the Special Stages. The difficulty of the artificial intelligence of your opponents is adjustable from the options menu with the opponents level option being adjustable from one through ten with one being the easiest, five being the midway point and ten being the hardest difficulty of opponent. WRC 4 really represents the danger of rallying quite authentically with fast rally cars on narrow roads with cliff drops to the left or right of their car, so while you are pushing the boundaries to increase your lead and to improve your time; you can be a matter of inches from plummeting to a catastrophic accident. This certainly increases the difficulty and the required amount of skill to drive the faster cars in the higher categories of WRC as respawning your car on the track will add to your time.

The XP system allows you to earn points towards levelling up, such as awarding 10 points for each green sector when you set the best time within any given sector of the Special Stage, 150 points for winning the overall rally event; 100 points for winning the Special Stage or finishing ahead of other players and even the positive choice of providing you with 50 points for leading at a time when your opponent disconnects from the game, which I would class as a great design choice as it removes some of the frustration of leading close to the finishing line only to have your opponent quit from wanting to avoid a loss.

The online multiplayer includes a quick match game mode that allows you to quickly enter a lobby and if there are no populated lobbies available at that time, you will be entered into your own lobby with a randomly selected rally, Special Stage, time of day, damage and selection policy already chosen for you, although you still get to choose your car with the ability to invite a friend to join you, so it pretty much comes across as an online multiplayer version of the quick stage game mode from the single player component.

The create match game mode provides the ability for you to create your own customised lobby with a choice of the following: the length of the game mode such as a single stage, a single rally or a championship with the additional option of the number of days for a single rally from one to three days or the number of stages for a championship from three to ten stages; category of event ranging from WRC, WRC 2, WRC 3 or WRC Junior formulas; the possible amount of physical damage from light to medium or heavy; the maximum number of players from two to six players; selection policy for randomly selected or voting based choices for which Special Stage you are about to drive on; the light condition for the time you are about to drive at ranging from it being randomly selected to noon, dawn or dusk; and privacy settings for having an open or private lobby.

The custom match game mode provides a quick and efficient way of searching for the online gaming environment that best matches your preferred settings including: the length of the game mode such as single stage, single rally or championship; category of event ranging from WRC, WRC 2, WRC 3 or WRC Junior formulas; the possible amount of physical damage from light to medium or heavy; the player’s disconnection percentage to attempt to ensure that none of your opponents quit because they are being soundly beaten by a superior driver; the maximum number of players from two to six players; selection policy for randomly selected or voting based choices for which Special Stage you are about to drive on; and privacy settings for having an open or private lobby. If you have very limited time and none of those options matter to you, then you can just leave the options on their default settings and search with a simple press of the X button.

With all of these features there is no denying that the online multiplayer is entertaining as it offers so much content, however an immediate problem becomes clear as you cannot see your opponent’s car in any other form than a ghost car with no real detail on it and no collision detection with that vehicle, which somewhat detracts from the realism of the online experience which is a problem when it comes to a game that is priding itself on realism and simulation, although from the perspective of an online experience it at least prevents anyone from cheating by ramming you off the course and you can still see the progression of your opponents on the meter to the left of the screen.

The multiplayer component lacks a hotseat multiplayer feature, which would have been ideal for the Vita for players to be able to compete with each other on the same Vita to see who could set the fastest lap time around a Special Stage and is hopefully a feature that will be implemented in WRC 5 as it would certainly add even more entertainment to what is already a rather fun online multiplayer mode.

The online leaderboards focuses on record times and player rankings. The record times leaderboards cover the WRC, WRC 2, WRC 3 and WRC Junior categories; each of the thirteen rallies and the six stages for each of the thirteen rallies, while you can compare your positioning on the leaderboards with players only from your friends list, globally with players from around the world and to immediately find and display your position within any given leaderboard with each leaderboard containing the overall amount of players within that particular leaderboard; each player’s rank; name (PSN ID); car; and time for the combination of category, rally and stage you have chosen. Meanwhile, the player rankings cover the experience points earned from the online multiplayer component of the game in which you can compare your positioning on the leaderboards with players only from your friends list, globally with players from around the world, immediately finding and displaying your position within any given leaderboard and just highlighting the top players eight players with you listed underneath in whatever position you currently reside in with each leaderboard containing the overall amount of players within that particular leaderboard; each player’s rank; name (PSN ID); level; and total of experience points.

The only major problem with WRC 4 is that it lacks an arcade mode, which would usually provide competitive wheel to wheel racing based game modes. Therefore, as there is no arcade mode; the entire game is only time trial based as it is a pure simulation of rallying, which is a sport that is time trial oriented. While WRC is all about the simulation of rallying; if you do not like time trials and want a racing game, then this may not be to your liking and for that reason the WRC franchise needs to have an arcade mode to flourish further and in doing so to create a broader appeal for the game by including competitive racing in WRC 5. WRC 4 lacks cross-save and cross-play with the PS3 version of the game, although hopefully this level of compatibility between the two versions of the game will be implemented in WRC 5.

The replayability of WRC 4 is quite significant due to the amount of content on offer across all of the game modes and categories. The quick mode, rally mode and career mode in single player, alongside the online multiplayer and online leaderboards are all sources of lengthy replayability that will be entertaining you and providing fun even long after the twenty hours or so it will take you to have experienced everything the game has to offer.

Overall, WRC 4 is a genuine evolution of the WRC franchise with the first time inclusion of the Junior WRC category as an extension of the career mode; a brand new light management system that allows you to drive at different times of the day; high performance recordings of every engine from three levels of every car that has resulted in the perfect mix of audio for an even more realistic experience; and sweeping improvements across the board that have raised the bar of rally games to a new level. WRC 4 is far more of a realistic simulation of rallying than any of the Dirt games on PS3 as it takes a completely opposite direction and applies itself purely to an authentic and realistic simulation of rallying, rather than branching out into other racing formulas and for that alone; WRC 4 must be strongly commended for a job well done.

Jason Bonnar

At A Glance

  • Title: WRC FIA World Rally Championship 4
  • Publisher: Milestone
  • System: PS Vita
  • Format: PS Vita Card / PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: No
  • Cross Play: No
  • Online Multiplayer: Yes (2-6 Players)
  • Memory Card Space Needed: 3.7Mb (PS Vita Card) 1.5Gb (PSN Download)

Talk about WRC FIA World Rally Championship 4 on the Vita Player Forum

Facebook Comments

1 Comment

  1. This is my favorite Vita game so far, looks great has all the content that the game has on the PS3 version, lots of things to do and is just great for on-the road racing.

Got any thoughts on this? Let us know!