Rallying is not only stunningly difficult, it’s terrifying. Barreling down narrow stretches of bumpy, loose-gravel roads lined with huge rocks, trees or sheer cliff faces at speeds nearing 140mph is about as butt-clenching an experience as you can imagine. It’s a sport that requires pure talent, but those who do it professionally manage do so with the same elegance and grace as a dancer performing a heavily choreographed routine. Watching them react to their co-drivers calls with a flick of the wheel and some fancy footwork can be mesmerizing. And with WRC 7: World Rally Championship, KT Racing has delivered a solid and focused test of off-road skill that, despite a few rough edges, puts you firmly in those dancing shoes whether you’re ready or not.
For the unfamiliar, Rallying is a series of time-trials run over three days, with each day consisting of a number of stages. At the end of the event, the driver with the fastest time across all three days takes home the championship points and the glory. Set on treacherous, narrow roads which can combine snow and ice, tarmac and gravel, teams utilize co-drivers to describe the road ahead using pace notes. It’s a tough, challenging sport that requires total concentration as missing a call can easily see the car launched violently off the road. WRC 7 leans hard into this mentality, taking it more towards the simulation end of the spectrum, and it shows.
Cars themselves can be a real handful. Without assists, of which there are few, you’ll need to be on top of your braking and steering, which feel very sensitive by default. Turning down the sensitivity helped alleviate this somewhat, but even with the assists on, you’re still in for a huge challenge. A few more player assists like stability control, or stronger effects applied to the ones already available, would have gone a long way in making the game feel more accessible.
In a time where video games focus on making themselves pop with fancy special effects and extra side content, WRC 7 takes a more direct approach to both its presentation and gameplay. All the real-life teams, cars and sponsors are represented across the three tiers of competition; Junior WRC, WRC2 and the WRC, giving you the full gamut of options to choose from when taking on a single rally stage, an entire three day event or a full custom championship.
You can jump into a multiplayer rally, but chances are you’ll need to find some friends with the game in order to get the most out of it. Otherwise the best option for those who want to test themselves against others is via the leaderboards and the challenge mode, which picks a car and track combo and challenges you to put down your best time compared to others. The difference between this and the standard leaderboards being that you potentially earn the most points for your first attempt, and fewer points for each subsequent shot you take. It’s by far the easiest way to get your multiplayer kicks.
Each of the 13 different rally locations from this year’s World Rally Championship are represented, and they are easily the stars of the show. From the densely lined, snowy forest roads of Sweden to the rocky, sun-drenched gravel of Argentina, each of the different locales and stages has a real feeling of character that, while proving an incredible challenge, also serves to visually satisfy. Special stages are deeply packed with foliage, adding a quality and detail to the environment seldom seen in other rally games. Despite some minor shadow pop-in and objects in the distance lacking finer detail, it’s hard not to be impressed by the individual character of each venue.
While not quite as awe-inspiring as the numerous locales you plow through, each of the game's 55 different team cars have all been modeled to accurately reflect their real-life counterparts. Slightly less spectacular are the cockpit interiors which, while matching the bare-bones structure of a beastly rally car, fail to live up to the finer level of environmental detail. Similarly, weather effects are present but unspectacular, particularly when driving in snow, which never manages to stick to your windshield.
WRC 7’s mainstay game mode is the career, which lets you create a driver and sign them up to a team in the Junior WRC category with the goal being to rise up through the ranks. If you do well enough, you might be given an early shot for a single rally at a team in one of the higher tier championships. Better yet, earn a good finishing spot in the championship and rival teams from the other categories will swoop in and attempt to sign you up for next season.
There’s no upgrading your team, car parts or skills. You are a driver, and that’s what you’re here to do; drive. Your performance can change your team's morale, which affects how efficiently they perform car repairs in the service area at the end of each day. Team morale is also affected by how well you match their preferred approach to racing: some want you to go all-out, pushing hard to go as fast as possible without too much cause for concern about damage. Smaller teams, though, may want you to protect the car, asking instead that you make sure to bring it home in one piece.
Although this is a nice idea in theory, in practice it doesn’t show much of an effect, if any, and it would be good to see more in terms of consequences for either failing or succeeding in sticking to the game plan. In line with this, car damage is forgiving both visually and mechanically, despite the ease of which you’ll find yourself rolling end-over-end after clipping an embankment. If you beat it up enough, parts will eventually fail or fall off entirely, but the cars can generally take a good beating before you need to worry too much.
For all its minor faults and bare-bones nature in comparison to others, WRC 7 is still an enjoyable, but seriously challenging rally title. It’s not the most welcoming game for newcomers, and even experienced racers will find some of the rougher stages tricky. But ultimately, that’s also the point. Rallying isn’t easy, and KT Racing have taken that much to heart.