When it comes to the excitement factor, rally ranks right among the top of motorsport disciplines: Blasting through dirt roads in the Finnish woods at 200kph, sliding around the serpentines on the rough gravel in Greece, or navigating rapid-fire turns on asphalt roads in Spain – the World Rally Championship does it all. With their latest entry in the WRC franchise, Nacon and KT Racing wanted to capture this excitement as well as ever – the result is WRC Generations.
As the WRC entered a new era with the introduction of hybrid powertrains, the official game license is going to switch to EA Sports for 2023. Nacon and KT Racing did not just decide to mail it in for the final title that was in their hands – quite the contrary, actually: WRC Generations features 56 cars including legendary vehicles, plus over 150 stages at 22 locations – in fact, the title has all the content of previous Nacon/KT entries of the series on board.
Of course, a great variety of content alone does not make an enjoyable driving experience, which is why SimRacing Unlimited has taken a closer look at WRC Generations. How well does the final WRC title under the Nacon/KT banner hold up? Keep reading to find out.
SimRacers that have played WRC 10 will feel right at home in Generations as well: The menu and UI have gotten a refresh, but work very similar to the predecessor’s. Upon first starting WRC Generations, the player can choose to take a test drive, and the sim then suggests difficulty options based on how well they drive. However, this is before a general setup screen, meaning graphics, audio and controls have to be set up right before the start of this initial stage.
This is not ideal, especially since it takes some fiddling with the force feedback settings to get the result that you want. It is possible to skip this test drive section, however, and go ahead as you like.
WRC Generations has the potential to look great and create an immersive atmosphere. Lighting changes depending on the environment, and even on a sunny day, a dense forest will be rather dark – save for the rays of light that shine through gaps in the tree lines. Depending on the weather, fog lingers, snow or rain can start to fall mid-stage, and night stages offer their own unique atmosphere altogether, with flares and lighting posts both big and small in crowded areas, but darkness only interrupted by the car’s headlights in other segments.
However, this comes at a price: WRC Generations is relatively hardware-hungry, and on mid-range PCs, it can be a challenge to get the game to run at 60 fps without making it lose too much visual appeal. While graphics are of course not the most important gameplay aspect, it does take away from the experience if you have to make do with significant downgrades that result in a rather flat look.
Like in WRC 10, the sound department of WRC Generations convincingly conveys that you are sitting in an offroad rocket with up to 500 hp: Engine and transmission sounds are screaming into your ears as you power through stages and gravel hits the floor of the car, and crowd noises can be heard as well. Some areas of the stages that are a bit like an arena have a party atmosphere to them thanks to this, as you fly past cheering crowds, complete with air horns.
Most importantly, however, you can adjust your co-driver’s calls to your liking when it comes to their timing. The pace notes are read fluently and are easy to understand, so they serve their purpose well – and with the immersive co-driver audio option, they feel even more real as you can hear them react to big jumps or crashes.
On the driving side of things, WRC Generations picks up where its predecessor left off last year – with a positive surprise for the better: While the driving on gravel and snow felt somewhat unresponsive and understeery at times in WRC 10, the cars now behave much more like you would expect them to and are very predictable, although you will know when you have overdone it immediately. If this is due to improvements in the physics engine, better baseline setups, or both, is not quite clear, but it is a pleasant change. Even on snow and ice, the driving feels immensely enjoyable – which can be tricky to pull off in a rally sim.
Meanwhile, tarmac stages feel just as good as they did in WRC 10: The rapid-fire barrage of quick turns in Spain or the tight confines of Belgian villages, including 90-degree corners are extremely fun to try and get right, and the cars feel very responsive and agile.
A new element thanks to the introduction of the Rally1 cars in the real WRC is hybrid deployment. SimRacers do not have to worry about constantly changing the output mode of the electric motor during a stage, however: Just like in the real WRC, the deployment mode has to be set before the start of a stage. A balanced mode is available, as are an acceleration-focused mode that drains the battery quicker and a top-speed focused one that will last longer. Studying a stage’s characteristics becomes even more important due to this. The lower-class cars such as WRC2 and 3 do not feature the systems, however.
Once again, rally length and damage effects are adjustable to the player’s preference. The PermaCrash feature also makes its return: If switched on, restarting a stage is impossible, adding a new layer to the driving approach of a stage, as crashing out will carry a much harsher penalty in the form of lost time and a damaged car this way.
The core of WRC Generations continues to be the career mode. Here, SimRacers can make a name for themselves as a driver and manager at the same time, either for a works team or their own squad. Of course, enjoying full seasons of rallying is also possible without the management aspect in Season Mode.
The Anniversary Mode of WRC 10 was not carried over, but the multiplayer section has gotten the all-new Leagues: SimRacers are grouped into leagues of similarly-skilled opponents after a qualifying run that spans three stages, for which they have three attempts. Their total time is then used to rank them. In League Mode, daily and weekly challenges await.
Perhaps the most mind-boggling absence of WRC Generations is one that was also in WRC 10 – it is still not possible to compete in an entire rally outside of Career or Season Mode. While it is possible to access any stage in any car in Single Stage mode, the option for setting up a single event of your preference is nowhere to be found – a puzzling omission.
Other game modes include the Test Area to drive freely and adjust your setup on the fly in, practice loops or multiplayer leaderboards and the co-driver mode, in which you can team up with a friend to have the pace notes read to you by them or vice versa.
WRC Generations is packed with more stages than ever before in the series: Over 150 different routes are included (some of them reverse versions), which also covers the new location of Rally Sweden: Instead of a tight and twisty affair in between banks of snow, the stages are now incredibly quick, leaving the player with the permanent feeling that they should not be going as fast as they are considering the icy circumstances – but finishing a stage feels like a proper achievement.
This holds true for the longer stages in particular: While the majority of them are under 10 kilometers long, the endurance stages in WRC Generations can even be 25 kilometers long, resulting in stages take take a good 15 minutes to complete.
Of course, the official WRC game features the new Rally1 cars of the 2022 seasons. That is not all, however: Junior classes like WRC2 and 3 are included as well, as is a long list of legendary cars that spans from 1972 all the way to 2021. Whether you fancy a drive in a mid-1980s Group B monster or want to recall the days of Colin McRae in the 1990s, you will find the respective cars to thrash around the numerous locations around the world.
The 2002 Peugeot 206 WRC of Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen is available as a pre-order bonus, while the 2010 Citroen C4 WRC of Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena is part of the Deluxe Edition.
The final entry into the WRC series by Nacon and KT Racing is a commendable effort, uniting numerous pieces of content that have amassed throughout the years. With over 150 stages and more than 50 cars, SimRacers will likely not bore easily, and getting to drive the new-for-2022 Rally1 cars is a treat for any rally fan.
Visually, WRC Generations is impressive under the right conditions – be aware that mid-range PCs might struggle with performing well while keeping up the graphics quality. Still, supported by the great audio environment, the sim creates an immersive atmosphere of what it must be like to participate in a World Rally Championship event.
The numerous game modes give the game great variety, although it is still puzzling that the ability to set up a single rally to compete in offline is missing. Even without it, players will find many options to keep them busy in WRC Generations, however – especially since the driving on loose surfaces feels much improved compared to last year’s entry. Going sideways on gravel at seemingly impossible speeds has rarely been done this well.