In recent years, the WRC rally game series has earned a reputation for providing arguably the most accurate representation of the sport. The official World Rally Championship games continue to maintain a balanced approach to a discipline that has nothing to do with Dirt's chaotic 12-car racing and has always been about two people, a driver and his navigator.
Unfortunately, while the franchise has garnered accolades on other game systems, it struggles to find a foothold on Switch due to a number of technical problems which are proposed again this year. Let's see how in the WRC 9 review for Switch.
Experience in a nutshell
For those unfamiliar with the genre, WRC 9 is simply the official game of the FIA World Rally Championship. This chapter is technically based on the 2020 championship, but due to real-world events related to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has not been updated. In reality, the 13-round season was suspended after only 3 rounds, finding herself stuck in limbo for six months. It then returned with a couple of previously unplanned rallies in Estonia and Monza, which for obvious reasons are not in this game, went on for a little longer, but was ultimately canceled after just 7 rounds.
This means that four rallies (Australia, Catalonia, Chile and Corsica) have been removed from the previous chapter and the three new rallies originally planned for this season (Japan, New Zealand and Kenya) have been included; this led to having fewer tracks in WRC 9 than in WRC 8.
Sure, it could be argued that it's not the dev team's fault - we're sure licensing issues prevented them from keeping some of the other tracks, even just as an option to play them outside of the main season. However the result cannot be overlooked, although this is somewhat offset by the addition of a few extra stages in the rallies of Finland and Portugal, which means that the total number of races is still higher anyway (108 this time compared to to 102 of last year's game), although the diversity of scenarios has decreased slightly.
Game modes and gameplay
As in the previous game, there is a mode in WRC9 full career, which allows you to manage everything from the team offices and control various aspects behind the scenes, such as planning the next calendar, hiring and firing staff members (keeping an eye on their total salary) and using the enormous skill tree of the game to develop the performance of the car and the entourage. In short, nothing new from last year, where the career mode made its debut in this capacity. Of course, if you are not interested in any of these "role-playing" components, there is also a modality Season where you can simply face the demonstrations without ever having to see the inside of an office.
Games like this, however, have the experience on the road. The learning curve is very steep, but that's not necessarily a criticism - anyone who has played a good rally game in the past (realistic, not something like Sega Rally) knows you can't just grab one and start swinging the car around corners. like the ghost of Sébastian Loeb.
We understand that these games take a long time to master and the fact that Career Mode gives you the ability to start in the classroom WRC Junior it is useful, because it gives a little more time to get used to the extremely sensitive handling of the controls, so much so that at times it can feel like driving a shopping cart with the wheels locked. Take some time to not only master the car, but also to learn the structure of each track and you will see that the hard work pays off.
That said, there are still elements that, while again not the dev team's fault, make it far less satisfying to play WRC on the Switch than on other systems. The most obvious is the lack of analog triggers: By default the game puts acceleration and braking on the ZR and ZL, and while this may be fine for arcade games, when the title revolves around the idea of blasting your way through extremely tight and dangerous landscapes, controlling the accelerator can be extremely useful.
There would be a way around this, by going into the options menu and assigning acceleration and braking to the right stick, but that too has its pros and cons: not only will you have to reassign (or more likely abandon) the controls to move the camera, but you'll also have to reassign the handbrake so that you don't have to lift your thumb all the way off the right stick to press the A button. Right stick braking means you can't brake with your left foot like some rally drivers actually do.
Il frame rate, which stops at 30 images per second like on other platforms, is a bit more stable than in the past. There are still times when it fails to hit a fixed 30fps, especially when playing in handheld mode, and there are a handful of scenarios where it can get conspicuously high (Wales during a storm to that effect is to be avoided like the plague, the which is good advice in real life as well as in this game), but, in general, it feels more stable than before. To succeed, however, the graphics sector was sacrificed even more, which is bad news for a game that already seemed a bit dull.
Better or worse than the previous one?
If you compare WRC8 and WRC9 you will notice that some environmental details have been removed. It's a very subtle difference, but in places like Finland some trees have been removed, for example; nothing that would affect the gaming experience but it certainly isn't the improvement that is expected. Only if you play exclusively in TV mode, since the 30 fps in WRC8 was not always reached, you will notice some differences.
Much more disturbing is the constant struggle of the engine to keep up with the environment. Some shadows do not appear until you are a few meters from them, drawing yourself as you proceed in the race as if you were chasing some sort of ghost. Then there are pop up di asset with an alarming frequency, while some trees have a really distracting reverse fade effect. Rally games are a special case, because it's you against the track, and if that track constantly struggles to load and its trees suddenly appear at the side of the road, it can get really frustrating.
CommentTested version Nintendo Switch Digital Delivery Nintendo eShop Resources4Gaming.com
The improved frame rate makes WRC 9 a better experience than WRC 8, but it still suffers from a number of issues that are not developer-dependent, such as a lack of analog triggers and a reduced number of rallies. However, the extremely distracting nature of the scenario, which constantly loads, or rather tries to do so, makes it difficult to properly immerse yourself in the action. It's arguably the best rally game on Switch so far, but for fans of the sport, the wait for a good game doesn't stop there.
- A little more stable than last year's game
- More than 100 races that will keep you busy
- Career mode remained fun
- Assets and shadows have a hard time keeping up with game speed
- The lack of analog triggers forces a remapping of the controls in order to have fun
- Extremely long loading times