WRC 3: FIA World Rally Championship (PS3)

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There is something about racing games that I can’t resist. It’s like the allure of playing golf, paintball or a number of other things that I am not particularly good at, but really, really enjoy. WRC 3 fits neatly into this mould of games that you don’t have to be good at to enjoy. And, with the multiplayer hot-seat option, you get the chance to play with other people who are not so good and, at least, beat them occasionally.

WRC 3 is all about rally driving. For those of you not really in the know, rally driving is off-road racing that is done on three different kinds of surfaces: dirt; tar; and snow. As you can imagine, the control of the vehicle is very different from course racing such as Nascar or F1. There are many occasions where you are racing sideways, jumping, trying to maintain control on just two wheels, avoiding holes, trees and cliffs, all at the highest speed possible.

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With regards to the term “highest speed possible,” it must be said that this can be particularly fast, especially with some of the modern machines that are currently racing in the Championship. Fortunately, you are able to start off with a lower class vehicle so driving can be a lot simpler if you choose to go that route. You could, of course, make the mistake that I made and try get in the most powerful monster you can find and destroy it completely…ahem, I mean, race it.

There are three different gaming modes in WRC 3. Firstly, there is the WRC Experience, in which you can race the actual championship and compete against the best in the world. Secondly is the Road to Glory, which is my favourite. In this event you start small and compete against other up-and-coming rally stars from all over the globe. The reason I enjoy this event is that you get to see most of the geographical locations and also race in a wide diversity of vehicles. Interestingly enough, this diversity includes rally vehicles from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, so you are able to experience the evolution of the sport first hand. The third option is to compete online with up to 15 other racers and try to dominate the online rankings.

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WRC 3 is a great deal of fun. That is always the most important factor when playing a game in my opinion. I had a lot of fun playing the game and I will continue playing it for the foreseeable future. Admittedly I really struggled at first, but then I discovered that I could switch the break and stability assist on in the game. This helps a lot, not because you crash a lot, but because breaking is really difficult, especially the timing. I was breaking far too often and I just couldn’t compete with the other drivers. I recommend switching brake assist on, at least whilst you are still learning.

Another thing that adds to the playability and fun of the game is the rewind and replay function. If you crash you have the option to try and reverse and get back into the game or you can use rewind and replay. This allows you to recover and not lose too much in the overall stage. I know it might be considered cheating, but there are often times when an excellent stage can be totally wrecked by just one poorly taken corner. The game will respawn if you roll and land on your roof or drive off a cliff (remarkably easy to do in fact), but rewinding allows you to save a bit of time and learn how to address the corner correctly.

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I found the gameplay exceptionally lifelike. I have had the pleasure of driving a rally vehicle (obviously not at the speeds that one would expect in world class rally events), and I thought that the vehicles behaved in a very lifelike manner. Of course, this excludes the damage, driving into walls and other physics related issues that would make the game a lot less fun if included.

Whilst the loading of the race is taking place (this does take quite a bit of time but the result is definitely worth it) there are hints, tips and quotes from professional racers. One of the quotes is “When in doubt, flat out” (Clin McRae) and, surprisingly, this advice does actually work. Rally vehicles are designed to perform at this level and defensive, cautious driving is definitely not rewarded.

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I also thought that the graphics were outstanding. The textured terrain, the tracks, the geography and the vehicles are exceptional, and I really felt that I was part of the genuine rally experience. I really enjoyed the garage functionality where you could make any conceivable visual change to your vehicles that you want. As you progress though the game you earn reputation stars and, on earning a specific number of stars you earn rewards. The rewards are in terms of livery for your vehicle, sponsorship, vehicles and vehicle upgrades. You also earn entry into more events as your reputation increases. I thought that this was a great way to control the game (in Road to Glory) and allows you to feel that you are actually improving.

The gameplay of WRC 3 is very simple to learn. It’s the standard racing set up that we have all become used to. Accelerate, brake, handbrake, turning and camera. However, being proficient with the controls doesn’t come close to meaning that you are proficient in the game. Cornering, maneuvering and driving in general is a learning experience, and a skill that develops over time. Don’t expect to be excellent right away but, with a bit of practice, you can definitely get there.

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Unfortunately, WRC 3 is a little bit too buggy to earn the full five stars. Elimination of the bugs would definitely get it there though. There are times where elements of your HUD simply disappear for no reason. The most distracting of these disappearances are the graphical turning hints and the disappearance of the verbal hints from your co-driver. There were times when I zigged when I should have zagged and, unfortunately, only a reboot of the game would fix the problem. Fortunately, this didn’t happen enough to cause any undue duress and I was able to handle it with good grace.

WC 3 is a fantastic game and I recommend it unreservedly for all gamers of all ages. Rally is a great sport but, even if you aren’t a fan, the game is a lot of fun and really gets the adrenalin pumping. The game is suitable for children and I had great fun watching my four year old try and deforest parts of Mexico using a 1970’s Peugeot (he stayed on the road some of the time, but if I was a spectator I would have stood on the road to be safe). This is a great game and can be enjoyed alone, online, or with friends, and I it will provide a great deal of entertainment without becoming boring. I am very glad that I was able to add it to my collection.