Racers, start your engines! WRC 9 is bringing the glory of competitive racing back to the Nintendo Switch. Here’s our thoughts on WRC 9.
+In-depth use of real-life car simulations
+Cars are responsive, finicky, and life-like
+Damage to cars impacts your overall experience
+Well designed tutorials to help even the newest of racers
-Extremely difficult learning curves
-Sponsorship is heavily impacted by a racers capabilities
Racing games aren’t as simple as we thought them to be at one point. Forza and Gran Turismo forever changed that landscape in their prime. Both are well-regarded due to their life-like racing simulations, reactions to damage, and how players handle their cars. The games have also gone one-step further, bringing reality almost to the front door. In their footsteps many have followed and begun to do the same ranging from Bandai’s franchise Project Cars to SEGA’s renowned franchise SEGA GT.
There are many others out there as well, and honestly, it’s almost difficult to count them on a single hand. There’s an exception to that rule though: The Nintendo Switch rarely sees any of them on its platform. Whether it’s due to limitations of hardware or game file size, we don’t know, but what we do know – there’s a lot of room for someone to dominate that market.
One franchise just happens to be WRC, a well-known series of world racing championship titles that have become critically acclaimed for what they have to offer. The latest title, WRC 9, just happens to bring both the worst and the best of what the franchise has to offer onto Nintendo’s latest hardware, the Nintendo Switch. However, one has to ask, does it work? Let’s talk about that.
WRC 9 is unforgiving and leaves no room for error
Whether you a series veteran or a newcomer, there is a difficulty curve for every challenge you want to take and multiple options in how you can play the game. WRC 9 is very well versed in this approach and highlights how the game will play based on each of the options you choose. The newer you are, the less you’ll want this to be a simulator, and the more you’ll want it to ease you in from arcade-like racing to full-blown simulation.
Unlike titles such as Forza or Project Cars, you won’t find much in the means of a HUD. It’s very much a realistic simulation where the racing is the main package of the entire game. You’ll race across various environments across the world ranging from locales in Sweden, the U.K., Finland, and the latest areas: Japan, Kenya, and New Zealand. Each one comes with its own climates and environments as well.
Some will be rain-soaked racing endeavors in the night while others will take place on snow-covered mountainous paths that you’ll have to navigate with the help of your co-driver. One is just as challenging as the other, requiring you to adapt to how your car will respond based on the conditions you encounter. Even with that said, it’s hard, very hard, but rewarding as you continue on through your career.
You won’t just have to become familiar with each terrain, you’ll have to master them as some will transform from a muddy mountainous path to an asphalt road in the blink of an eye. That’s where the real challenge starts and the skill level needed may yet be obtained. This also means that your cars tuning, performance, and the likes, will matter over the course of each rally.
You’ll also find something else happens throughout your time in the game: Damage matters and it doesn’t just vanish between each rally. It stays until you repair your car. Even over the course of several rallies at that.
The Nintendo Switch’s controllers do become the enemy in WRC 9
One of the issues you will find isn’t the game itself. Believe it or not, it performs rather well, it’s gorgeous, and it’s easily one of the best racing titles the Switch has to offer. The issue? The Nintendo Switch’s lack of analog triggers. Yep, it’s an issue and it more-so becomes one over the course of your races until you adjust to how the game plays and whether or not you can master this wonky approach to the Switch’s hardware.
As you race, you will take on the mentioned issue above: Damage to your car. More often-than-not, I found that my issues weren’t actually because of my “bad” driving, but rather, the fact that I’d grown accustomed to both the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller and the DualShock’s analog triggers being able to adjust based ont he pressure I put against them.
Unfortunately, the only work around is going to be a weird one, one that I eventually had to do after a few hours into the game: Mapping throttle and brakes into the thumbsticks themselves. While this workaround bettered my experience to some-extent, it still left room to be desired from Nintendo’s hardware standpoint, not the developers. After all, the Switch isn’t exactly known for racing games or its need for analog triggers if we’re going to be honest with one another.
Once I adjusted to the controller setup, racing became easier, the damage to my drivetrain, exhaust, fuel, and control systems lowered, allowing me to race even more efficiently than before. You might wonder, how does the damage actually influence racing itself? Glad you asked.
WRC 9’s damage simulation to cars is some of the best on the market
Damage itself is actually incredibly important in this simulator. For those who are looking for a Need For Speed experience may want to look at Burnout Paradise: Remastered or Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered, this game is very much not one of those. Anyways.
As you race and begin to learn to play the game, you’re going to damage your car. I’m sorry, it sucks, but this is a simulator. You’ll find that you can damage almost every single part on your car. That includes your drive train, your fuel system, your tires, and even your suspension. As these parts fail, so does your cars performance. You’ll find that you may not be able to get up to speed as fast, that your handling is not near as good as it had previously been or that you can’t even break like you had.
This is because WRC 9 wants you to feel as if you are in the driver seat of a real-life car. Not a arcade-style racer, but a real-life one. It wants you to do your best, to ease into corners before speeding up, to take advantage of those straight-away’s before slowing down as a corner approaches. It wants you to be the best racer you can be, as this does influence how your team will respond to you, how well respected you are by sponsors, and your overall morale. Yep, morale matters.
That’s where the difficulty spike raises the bar. You will need to master this game if you expect to do well. For me, it took until the end of my first season to REALLY get a feel for the title and grow better as a racer since I struggled to – at first – figure out just how my co-driver navigated the tracks for me. Once I got used to that, things got better.
KT Racing still has some improvements to be made in both visual and performance areas
So, you may have noticed I said this game is a visual treat for Switch owners. Well, it is, for Switch owners that play in handheld. Some of this, isn’t actually KT Racing’s fault, to be honest. Some of it, believe it or not, has to do with Nintendo due to the lack of the horsepower the Switch actually has.
However, this is partially their fault as well. You see, video games can be optimized for the platform they’re on. Monster Hunter: Rise – for example – is an absolute treat. The RE Engine itself has been optimized for the handheld, allowing the game to pump out battery-eating performance that leaves fans playing in docked mode or plugged in as they go through their hunts. While this is a drawback, the game handles well, it looks good, and it does what Capcom aimed for it to do.
WRC 9 does lack in several areas, most notably, detail on the terrain during instances where rain, snow, etc, can really hinder the experience. It’s hard to see the tracks, at times, it makes it difficult to even race as the framerate barely meets the 30 FPS cap that the game has, sometimes hitting down in the 20s or even lower in more complex areas.
Let me be honest though: I’m not expecting a game that has post-processing effects, HDR features, or even dynamic lighting/shadows. I’m at least looking for a game that didn’t feel like it belonged on the Wii U or Wii at best. Which this game, at times, does feel like it should since track details are minimal, opting out of making it as visually compelling as they could.
At times, it’s just very underwhelming, and when it does shine, it’s absolutely stunning. It’s really a mixed bag and unfortunately, it’s hard to pick and choose what part of its best when you’d expect everything like that to happen across the board. Just don’t check your battery life as you play. You’ll find yourself averaging between 2.5 hours and 3 at most depending on the tracks you play on.
The Last lap – Concluision
When I think of racing sims, there are very few that I actually go to. I’m rather demanding when it comes to these games and I openly admit that I expect a lot out of them. Performance and graphics aside, WRC 9 sets out to do what it is made to do: Be a racing simulation title. Unfortunately, some of its drawbacks are ultimately there and they are hard to overlook.
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch
Versions Reviewed: Nintendo Switch
Developer: KT Racing
Release Date: Available Now
Regardless, if you want a racing simulation title that gets the job done, turns its head at the few minor hiccupes that it has, WRC 9 is one of the few on the Nintendo Switch that I can recommend, but with caution, as many aren’t going to get the experience they would like competitor titles Project Cars or Forza. That said, this is a title that die-hard racing fans will enjoy for the many days to come.
Our review is based upon a retail version of the game provided to us by the publisher for the review. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native video game reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook today.