Hands On: WRC 3

Milestone sent over an early version of their latest rallying game, WRC 3, for us to take a look at. Jim put on his (viking) helmet, and sat down at the wheel gamepad for a quick handbrake turn.

Largely irrelevant preamble: I used to have a wheel and pedals – lovely, plush Logitech ones – but they did not survive the transition to my latest office. Partly because this current research crater is inside a shoe, but also because these days I only really play about one racing game a year, and then only for a couple of weeks at most. Don’t get me wrong: rallying is super, and I even watch the real deal on TV, but gaming for me doesn’t tend to put me behind a wheel. A few weeks of commitment seems like it’ll be true of WRC 3, too, which – speaking as someone with a casual interest in racing – is shaping up to be the sort of dependable rallying experience that I enjoy enough to put time into. A pleasingly predictable thing, without any nasty meta-game surprises.

Of course the point-to-point rallying game was, for many years, a busy fixture in my game-reviewing schedule. In recent years, though, it has faded away like a Ford Capri in a scrapyard. Even Codemasters have partly abandoned the field, and established the DiRT games as an “extreme offroad” series, rather than actual rallying in the classical “dirt track in Wales” sense of the word. WRC 3, then, stands alone, and does so bravely.

I bounce through the menus and set off: a familiar experience of drifting my car around snowy hairpins. And it feels good.

This is an early and unfinished version of the game, of course, but I got a positive vibe from pushing a varied selection of contemporary motors around its tracks. The handling lands somewhere between immediate playability and realism, leaning heavily on the side of just allowing you to throw any car round the course and survive. There is a damage model, of course, so really being silly and pushing things is going to do more than make the bodywork flap: it’s going to end up ruining the car. More pressingly, though, yhe damage to your car also matters at a campaign level, because there’s an associated score, and so making a clean stage will be more important to the overall success of your racing campaign than simply coming first. There’s also a time-rewind function, so the worse prangs can be handily erased from the record. Hardly a brittle simulation, but a good concessionary balance for the treacherous nature of racing on dirt and snow.

And while the bulk of the game remains safely within that point-to-point rallying world, there are also a bunch of mini games that allow you to do silly things with the car, and to test your skills, hone your reactions, and that sort of thing. It’s hardly DiRT’s full fairground of car-spinning attractions, and there’s no massed ranks of racers, but it does add a little to the overall lane-hurtling.

Visually I can’t really fault it, although there’s not a great deal of gloss or visual feedback. That detracts a bit from the overall feel of it, and I think Milestone could probably have done more to make things a bit more intense behind the wheel. There’s a small set of visual options in the setup, which gives some adequate control (although little fine detail in terms of controlling specific options outside of “on or off”) and it looks decent enough in motion. It doesn’t quite manage the splendour and style of other racing games’ shader-washed lighting and particle storms, but it’s perfectly capable. I know that the PC under my desk can do better, of course, so being able to max it out and run smoothly on my rig was little compensation for the feeling that it could well have supported sharper textures and more visual noise.

That scarcely matters, though, because at least it support an in-cockpit view, and so I’ll be able to tackle the dozens of stages from the correct point of view for a racing game. Hell, I don’t know if it’s some effect of actually knowing how to drive, but I find myself a much better driver when actually “inside” rally cars in games. It’s not that my skills are less, but somehow when I am in a third-person perspective I am less cautious, and throw the car around with less care. I tend to behave in that classic videogame way of “driving as fast as you can and then figure out how to slow down” rather than the way we actually drive for real: not bouncing off the crashrail as we go.

So yeah: cautiously cautious, tentatively saying that this will be a capable (if unambitious and slightly bland) rally game. I think we’re probably still awaiting the return of a master to the genre, but for now this seems set to keep the dream alive.

WRC 3 is out on 12th October.


  1. Ian says:

    So you think it’ll be okay but not rally good?

    • Ian says:

      Oh bugger, I didn’t realise Jim had used that one as the tagline. *facepalm*

      I’ve made a wheel idiot of myself.

  2. AmateurScience says:

    Totally off topic, I have just noticed there are extra puns on the ‘RPS Feature’ tab. Extra puns!

    • rawrty says:

      That almost makes up for the sadness I felt from the lack of alt-text in the image. Almost, I say.

  3. Initialised says:

    “Hardly a brittle simulation” is that the ice simulation or did you mean “brutal”

    Also there’s a “yhe” that should be a “the” somewhere in there.

  4. Faldrath says:

    Is there any way to find out whether there’ll be proper wheel support, though? WRC2 was fun, but configuring the wheel was a pain, and force feedback was really broken.

    • grundus says:

      This is something I’d also like to know. It’s hilarious how I’ve had no trouble getting my G27, a fairly new wheel, working with old sims like RBR and even GP Legends (shifter included) yet modern games are just like ‘What the hell is this?’, like F1 2011 which included a feature whereby the feedback would be completely broken and crap if your frame rate exceeded 60fps.

  5. Vorrin says:

    I want Richard Burns Rally 2 ! Please oh mighty Santa of videogames, make it happen!

    • fyro11 says:

      The Santa of Videogames Present sends his regards from hell! (He looks like Acti and EA amalgamated and personified.)

      Here’s to the Santa of Videogames Future though!

    • Jason Moyer says:

      SRT did a preview of this and their verdict seemed to be that it wasn’t RBR level, but that it was closer than anyone else has come so far.

      Edit: Here’s a link to their preview link to youtube.com

      • dsi1 says:

        It’s such a step up from WRC2 though, if Milestone keeps up this kind of pace they’ll have an amazing series. They just need to realize that most people who are into rally and would buy a rally game are also into sims and want a sim-rally game. (of course pick-up-and-play as a first timer should also be an option)

        • Jason Moyer says:

          I agree. From what I’ve seen of the game so far it might not have the brutal realism of RBR (although RBR conceded on most of the stage lengths, which I’ve always found disappointing) but it’s probably going to rate alongside Rally Championship 2000 and DiRT 1 as my favorite non-RBR rally games. It looks at least good enough to play, which is more than I could say about the old CMR titles or DiRT 2/3.

  6. Zeewolf says:

    Does it have a proper championship mode? I don’t want to play a long winded campaign that starts with mediocre cars and two stage rallies, I want the real deal.