While the Dirt series has done great things for the rally racing genre of late, developer MileStone believes there's room for another game in the market; one that prides itself on accurate simulation. That game is WRC 2: FIA World Rally Championship, which is aiming to be the most realistic rally sim around, while being accessible to newcomers.
Our hands-on took place on a gravel track, surround by pine trees, lakes, and snowy mountain tops. Our car was a Mini Cooper, which is one of a range of officially licensed FIA cars that are featured in the game. We immediately noticed substantial improvements in the visuals over the last game, which Milestone told us was something specifically requested by fans. The Mini looked more detailed, with lighting effects re-creating reflections of the road surface and surrounding environment. Motion blur had been employed to make powersliding round corners feel faster, for example.
Thankfully, the improvements aren't all about the visuals, and a number of additions have been made to driver aids to help you around the track. There's a rewind button, letting you attempt botched corners again, as well as a respawn button that resets your car onto the track if you have a particularly nasty crash. The rewind button is limited to three uses per stage, so you can't spam it to get the best times. Respawn isn't limited, but your car starts from a standstill when you reset, losing you valuable seconds.
Your car also takes damage when you come off the track, with a graphic on the bottom right of the screen letting you know which parts of the car have been damaged. The more damage you take, the worse your car handles. In one particularly bad race, we could feel our car suffering from poor braking and beginning to veer off to the right. Aside from rewind and respawn, other driving aids, such as ABS, braking assistance, and a camera that looks around the apex of corners as you go round them, aim to help you stay on the track and prevent damage.
With the aids off, we found it tricky to stay on the track but not impossibly so. After a few hairy corners, we managed to pull off some impressive-looking drifts by gently tapping at the accelerator and steering, which caused a spray of gravel to fly across the bottom of the screen. Though we were only able to try out quick-race mode, the final game will feature six-stage championships, special timed challenge stages, and 16-player online modes. There will also be a revamped Career mode, which encourages more team management and will have new recruitment features.
WRC 2: FIA World Rally Championship is due for release on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 this October. Look out more coverage on GameSpot soon.