EA Sports WRC Hands-On Preview – The DiRT Road Ahead

One to watch for rally fans.

Rally games will always have a special place in my heart, especially the DiRT and Colin McRae Series. As one of the hallmark series’ of the genre, it’s hard to think about any other titles in modern-day rally games apart from the official WRC games. Since working on Dirt Rally 2.0, Codemasters has returned with EA Sports WRC, their first rally title in a few years under the EA banner, and they’re ready to kick up some dust.

In the background of a busy game release month, I’ve been chipping away at EA Sports WRC. And yes, they’ve dropped the Dirt series title and moved into the same formula as their other series, the popular EA Sports F1, keeping the same naming scheme across all their sports titles. It’s also their first time flexing the official WRC name since regaining the licence in 2020. This opens the door to having licenced cars and stages from the WRC, giving the game an authentic real-world feeling.

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Upfront, players who dived into the recent EA Sports F1 titles will find plenty of similarities in EA Sports WRC. You’ll create your rally driver and level yourself up through the different modes available, creating a decent sense of personality for a racing game.

There’s a lot to look at off the bat in EA Sports WRC, and I was initially excited to taste every bit of what my preview had to offer. There’s a fully fleshed-out career mode for those wanting to start their rally team and take it through the stages of the WRC, and a builder mode where you can create your rally car from the base default chassis available. There’s also the addition of Moments, something the devs were keen to talk about in an early preview discussion with them, where you can relive iconic moments from WRC history. Your signature time trial and championship modes are still here, as well as a rally school where you can learn the fundamentals of rally racing.

All up, it’s shaping up to be a title packed full of content whether you’re looking to jump in for a stage or two or power through the campaign.

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All of the WRC-licensed cars you could want are included and for the first time in the series, the Rally1 cars use a hybrid boost system. Rally1 cars featured here are the Ford Puma Rally1, Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 and Hyundai i20 N Rally1, which also happen to be the main three cover cars for the game. If modern rally is not your thing, the car disciplines on offer range from WRC to old-school classes like Group A. The list is quite extensive and will no doubt satisfy a majority of rally fans.

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Speaking of lists, all the WRC licensed stages are here and it’s great to finally experience a Codemasters title with today’s lineup of real-world stages and routes. If you love driving, well, there’s going to be a lot of distance covered in this game. There are over 600km of roads to cover with a lot of famous stages included in the game. The stages were massive too, I can’t remember exactly which one but I had myself driving for a whopping 20 minutes on a stage non-stop slamming it down the gravel roads and keeping my car in one piece.

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I played EA Sports WRC on PC and mostly with my racing wheel. It’s honestly the best experience for a title like this and it feels almost perfect. It’s hard to even pinpoint any issues with the core gameplay of this title. The driving is responsive and the force feedback feels incredibly immersive. I guess this is all thanks to Jonathan Armstrong, a rally driver spearheading the game’s direction with the benefit of his real-world experience. While I have the most basic sim racing setup – a Logitech G29 wheel – it represents most racers’ first wheel and even with my very conventional setup I felt every bump, groove, and stone on the stages. I can’t wait to try this out on a direct-drive setup. In terms of controller play, I’m confident this one will feel great with something like the PS5 controller’s adaptive triggers and haptic feedback, too.

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From my time with the preview build, my only gripe so far is the game does look slightly dated even when running on the max settings. While stages, car details and effects look great and are a massive improvement compared to their old games, there were some inconsistencies in some aspects of the game’s visuals – especially water effects. Performance-wise, it doesn’t feel quite there yet but again, this is a preview build – I’ll happily wait until the final release is out before making the final judgement.

EA Sports WRC is shaping up to be a massive release for rally fans. If you loved the Dirt Rally 2.0 and the Colin McRae series’, this is a title you won’t want to miss. If this wasn’t on your radar before, then start paying attention because Codemasters have been cooking.

EA Sports WRC releases on PC, Xbox Series X/S and PS5 on November 3rd 2023. Amazon has pre-orders for $59 including shipping.