WRC 8 Nintendo Switch Review: Freaking Fantastic Fast & Fluid Rally Action

WRC 8 on Nintendo Switch is a realistic officially licensed rally simulation racing game, with all the official cars, teams and drivers. There’s over 100 stages across 14 rallies so plenty to race on.

There’s a lot of different environments to race through.

Let’s just start by saying the rallying is bloody awesome in WRC 8, on a fast rally like Finland the exhilarating feeling of drifting through gravel and flying over the jumps just can’t be beaten, there’s dynamic weather, tyre choices between hard and soft and tyre wear that all make a massive impact on handling. There’s detailed car setups if that’s your thing and an extremely impressive damage model. Importantly for a realistic racer you can set analogue stick acceleration and braking and even dead zones and sensitivity but there isn’t motion control steering, this allows smooth throttle control needed to keep traction on slippery surfaces and not swap ends when driving the legendary Lancia Stratos.

A tyre squeeling good time.

On Switch WRC 8 is literally the same version as other platforms ported across with lower resolution and frame rate (I had a very few drops in frame that weren’t bad enough to put me off in the slightest), complete with unusable haptic feedback settings and unselectable weekly challenges reaching back to the earlier launch on other platforms.

Women parking eh?

Career and season modes are the only thing to do. In both you start out in one of the two lower categories of rally and work your way up each season to the main event of the World Rally Championship in 380hp insanely fast cars. Within career mode as well as the championship, you hire staff, upgrade your car and team, complete side events such as historic rally stages and manufacturer tryouts to help earn a better drive for the following year. In season mode it’s just the rallies and nothing else. Each rally consists of 4 stages across 2 days you can have a mechanic fix your car for 45 minutes in between. You don’t take part in all 14 rallies in the lower classes only half.

Some challenges give you mashed up car to rally.

WRC 8 is hard! (And there’s no rewinds) In career mode, at the Rally of Sweden in baby’s first rally car, medium difficulty no assists I was just under 20 seconds off the pace each stage but winning the super special stage (a short arena circuit). This when I’ve completed the career in Dirt Rally (in a 60s car) and while there is a difficulty option, once set in career mode you can’t change it, not being able to change the difficulty in the main mode of the game is a massive oversight by developers KT Racing. On the other hand because of the locked in difficulty, you get an immense sense of achievement when you win a rally in career mode, my first ever win was followed immediately by deflation for having to pay out every penny of my winnings to fix my car leaving me nearly broke. Curse you realistic damage settings! I would recommend playing on easy if you find rally games hard because while I can put up a fight in the Junior WRC class sometimes, I don’t think I’ll have a hope in hell in the fastest WRC class, although I found the CPU to be a massive 30 seconds slower per stage.

An under 2 second gap after 21 minutes is mighty close.

When I turned on all the assists for a more sim-cade experience I found I could push much harder but the added confidence led to a few mistakes. There’s only ABS, traction control and a steering assist that makes spinning a little harder (I still did spin in the snow). It was a more accessible experience but still by no means easy, I still couldn’t come close to winning the Rally of Sweden in the slowest cars on medium difficulty.

World record in the Stratos with no assists. I’m sure it’ll get broken on release though.

There’s 25 training challenges to which I thought “awesome rally games are the hardest to get into and learn, this will really help people and myself learn.” No I’m afraid these aren’t training at all, just some short practice circuits with no guidance at all but you can win a worthless gold, silver or bronze for your time on them. A real missed opportunity for some actual training or even RallyCross as some of the tracks are quite fun but instead you don’t even get a co-driver or even a mini map while driving.

The super special stages are quite similar to the training stages.

While WRC 8 is absolutely thrilling ride it’s not all hunky dory here, there’s no timing each sector to say how far off the pace you are just a green or red bar for fastest or not. It’s a bit buggy with car and controller setups disappearing or not being selectable sometimes. I do wish you could pick a car and do a season in it choosing which rallies to include especially Vince the Porsche 911 arrives. The only multiplayer is online leaderboards but you can’t filter for assists and damage settings and there aren’t separate records for each class of car. I also encountered a few game breaking bugs that are known about and should be fixed in a day one patch but just incase don’t go into free roam from career mode, go back to the main menu first and don’t forget your mid way through a rally and turn off the Switch after putting it on stand by, make sure you finish a stage before turning it off.

I don’t think this is going to end well.

On the Switch at least, WRC 8 is nothing special to look at. In fact I’m quite happy with graphics considering this is a complete game matching other platforms. I understand there has to be a reduction in graphical fidelity but there is the issue of blurriness in the distance and light effect pop in making it hard to see what’s coming up sometimes, this isn’t nearly as bad with the chase view (who plays a racing sim in chase view though). To help compensate somewhat you can edit your view, moving it up, down, backwards and forwards and increase the field of view.

I wonder how many people I could jump.

This is a sim game so that means no music during your driving, instead you get fairly good engine sounds and fantastic environmental sound effects such as rocks bouncing up against the underneath of the car and pops and bangs of the engine when you’ve broken your turbo. You even hear the helicopter in the replay. For all our European friends WRC 8 has English, Italian, French, Spanish and German co-driver options.

The helicopter view in replays is cool.

WRC 8 is an incredible game. It has crazily fantastic gameplay, you can’t get anything like it on Switch and that is the most important thing. Yes there are negatives mentioned above but the positives of stellar gameplay far outweigh them and the career mode will have you playing for a very very long time. The handling model and realism is completely unrivaled on Switch but not as challenging to keep on the road as Dirt Rally. If you’re a handheld and racing game fan you owe it to yourself to go buy WRC 8.

A big skill upgrade chart.

A huge thank you to Bigben for supplying the review copy. WRC 8 is available both physically and digitally November 14th on the eShop for £44.99/€49.99/$49.99.

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