"Track drivers see the same corner thousands of times, rally drivers see a thousand corners one time," reads one of the insights on WRC 3's numerous loading screens. It's a message that succinctly sums up what a rally game should ask of its players: control, adaptability, and a healthy respect of the unknown. While developer Milestone seems to understand the brief, the derivative way in which the game's elements have been combined keep it from hitting all the right marks. Unimaginative construction of a game based on a sport all about flow and flair is not going to win many fans.
When in France, do as the French do and drive a Citroen.
As with previous games in the series, an emphasis has been placed on the realism of the handling model. Everything from suspension stiffness to brake distribution and maximum steering angles can be edited to suit both your driving style and the kinds of conditions you can expect in your next race. To the game's credit, adjusting these variables has noticeable effects and makes them something worth fiddling with for racing game veterans. Changing the suspension stiffness to hard, for example, allows you to navigate level surfaces much faster at a cost of significantly reduced stability when things get bumpy.
On a less positive note, no matter what you do, all of the game's cars have a lightweight, feeble feel to them. No amount of tinkering with the front and rear differentials or traction distribution can completely remove the sensation that you're controlling a high-powered hovercraft, rather than a loud, mean, aggressive rally car. The issue is not so bad when driving the game's lower-powered cars, but it's especially pronounced as soon as you step into an official WRC vehicle. And while you can certainly work your way around tracks with practice--the lightweight feel allowing for precision driving as you throw cars into hairpins and through technical sections of fast chicanes--the handling doesn't quite live up to its uber-realistic billing.
The best way to test the handling model is in Road to Glory mode, a streamlined version of WRC 2's Road to the WRC that does away with the likes of sponsorship negotiations and staff hiring. As it should be, the focus of Road to Glory is getting behind the wheel and proving yourself a worthy competitor at the top level. Events are spread across seven geographical areas, such as Scandinavia, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific, each with its own resident star driver acting as what is essentially an end-of-level boss. Beating all seven stars unlocks the Ultimate Battle, a final event that has you racing against all of them at once in a final showdown. Throw in a mix of traditional rally events, novelty distraction events, and a simple car modification system, and there's just enough to keep you interested.
Road to Glory forces you to constantly change cars, preventing you from mastering any of them.
Different Road to Glory events have different rules about what type of car you're allowed to use, meaning that current WRC cars, as well as classics from the '70s through to the '90s and smaller 2WDs, must all be mastered. And that's part of the problem; you simply don't spend enough time in a specific car for you to fall in love with it. Falling in love with cars, getting to know their handling and tuning options, and thus enjoying greater success in races are essential ingredients in any racing game that considers itself a simulation--they're invaluable.
Combined with the constantly changing vehicles is a default difficulty curve that resembles a cliff. This is great once you grasp the mechanics, but it can be incredibly frustrating early on. Without exaggeration, a single botched corner adds enough time to send you plummeting from first to seventh: great for veterans who want a challenge; less great for newcomers who just want to get around the track in one piece. And given some of the event types on offer in Road to Glory, newcomers are clearly one of the target audiences.