When it comes to racing games, rally racers are at the top of my list. Not because I’m incredibly skilled at them - far from it, actually. In fact, I’ve never found a rally racer in which I’m actually skilled. But, oddly enough, I still manage to enjoy the rally experience whenever I get a chance to play.

As such, you can probably imagine my excitement for WRC 9, from developer KT Racing and publisher Nacon - both of which seem to know their stuff when it comes to putting out the annual hyper-realistic rally racing sim (nine iterations of the WRC series dating back to 2001 is a pretty impressive feat). Thankfully, the game delivers on nearly everything that it sets out to accomplish. WRC 9 is an incredibly fun and addicting game that will have you racing for hours upon end while constantly staying on the edge of your seat.

Rally Cry

Just to provide a little background, the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) puts drivers in production-based rally cars as they navigate some of the most brutal tracks around from the world, often featuring mud, snow, blistering heat, or rock-strewn terrain.

Truth be told, WRC 9 is the first game in the series that I’ve played. While I do enjoy rally racers, my overall skill level generally deters me from investing in such games. However, I jumped at the chance to give WRC 9 a look, and I can say with full authority that I’m glad I did.

Related: Inertial Drift Review: Serpentining In Style

WRC 9’s focus is on that of realistic racing physics, social competition, and technical improvements to the series, offering up a career mode - complete with crew and life management - season mode (which is basically career mode without the crew management), in-game events, multiplayer, and of course quick-play test racing, in which you can take a spin in any of the game’s modern and vintage rally vehicles. The game also includes three new rallies in Japan, Kenya, and New Zealand, along with more than 50 official 2020 WRC teams. Simply put: WRC 9 has more than enough to keep you busy (until the inevitable next release in the WRC franchise).

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WRC 9’s tutorial kind of forces you to hit the ground running. There’s very little direction, which would be a bad thing if not for the game’s practice mode. As someone who never played the game before, I really had no idea what was going on, other than the obvious goal of getting from point A to point B. However, after going through a plethora of races, the game’s mechanics began to click, as did the notes that come from the co-driver who gives you turn-by-turn directions for whichever track you’re on.

Co-driver notes are something I’d never experienced before, and hearing the directions quickly thrown at me was pretty overwhelming at first. Thankfully, on-screen directions appear acting as visual versions of the notes. These include everything from the sharpness of turns and straightaways to jumps and when you need to actually use the brake - something that doesn't happen too often in WRC 9.

Drifting Away

Unlike in Inertial Drift - another recently released drift-based racing title - I rarely let go of the throttle during a race. In fact, the only time I let go of that button is on a 90-degree or hairpin turn that requires the handbrake. Otherwise, it’s pedal to the metal the entire time, and dancing the delicate dance of using the regular brake to drift around the curves of the track. (Full disclaimer: This might not necessarily be the way to properly execute a drift, but it works gangbusters for me.)

Drifting in WRC 9 is unlike anything I’ve experienced before (again, having never played any of the previous entries in the series). Once you get the hang of the mechanics, it’s truly surprising how fluid the drifting motion becomes. To call it effortless would be a gross oversimplification, but knowing how to successfully drift from curve to curve quickly became the most satisfying part of the game. Of course, you’ll have to consider the weather and track conditions of each race, since those factors will impact your ability to drift. The challenge in navigating those strategies was one that I appreciated as a way to keep races fresh and exciting.

Multiplayers Woes (And Potential)

One of the main things that interested me about WRC 9 was its competitive online multiplayer component. Beyond typical quick races, WRC 9 offers up daily, weekly, and other special challenges, along with seasonal in-game events.

The community element of WRC 9 plays a major part in its identity. "Clubs" is a community tool that allows you to create your own championship series with your own group of online friends, rather than competing against the entirety of the online leaderboard. Clubs also offer a more consistent way to play online as well, which is something that can’t be said with the current online matchmaking system.

As of the time of this writing, I have yet to be able to successfully connect to an online race. Ranked online leaderboards are available (you’ll generally find me smack dab in the middle of the board), but every time I’ve tried to connect to an online match, I receive the message that none are available. While WRC 9 is a relatively individualistic game anyways, it’s still disappointing that I haven’t been able to compete in a live race against another player yet.

No Finish Line In Sight

I feel like I’ve barely skimmed the surface of everything that WRC 9 has to offer. The game is incredibly in-depth (especially with its career mode), and is a title that any rally racing fanatic can appreciate. It feels like there is still some work to be done with the game’s multiplayer component, but given its space within the realm of esports, it’s pretty likely that these issues are temporary.

I’ve admittedly spent all of my free-time playing WRC 9 since installing the game on my PlayStation 4. With its ongoing in-game events, it’s hard to imagine that changing for me anytime soon.

A PlayStation 4 copy of WRC 9 was provided to TheGamer for this review.WRC 9 is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC, and will eventually be making its way to PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.

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