Back last September I was treated to perhaps one of the most interesting racing simulators that I had ever tried with Kylotonn and Nacon’s WRC 8 for the XB1. Having released a year later around the same timeframe, WRC 9 took to both the PS4 and the XB1. With the launch of the newest PS5 and the Xbox Series X though, I was really curious on how both how the sequel holds up and how well the DualSense’s haptic feedback changes the feeling from the traditional rumble that we’ve all used for so long.
One of the aspects that really stood out to me when loading up WRC 9 on the PS5 was simply how damned pretty it was. I know that the newest consoles are capable of a lot more, but between Bright Memory for the XBSX last week and now WRC 9 for the PS5, true high end graphics are finally in my hands as my laptop’s 1060 could never bring me this close to capitalizing on my Samsung QLED’s 4K HDR optimization. I’ve truly felt like a kid on Christmas and wished my father was still around to see these jumps in technology as he was constantly surprised just how far video games have come. Seeing what I saw especially between a dark and stormy night or Sweden’s bright snow field, he would have loved to sit back and watch this.
It’s not just graphically though. Load times are damned near non-existent where I once had the chance to get up and go grab something in between, now? Now you make sure what you have as you just don’t have to wait from the time that you’ve set things up with your team as to what you’re going to do next. Hiring staff, setting up your schedule for training, racing, or resting, all of those are done in a minimalist office-like environment to make it go faster so that you can go back outside and really do what you’re here for. Driving really fast on off road tracks while trying not to destroy your car and keep your sponsor on their good side.
I remember the first times taking to the track in WRC 8 and feeling like I was doing fairly badly as I was both trying to figure out a driving style that I’ve never done with the pathways called out to you, while simultaneously trying to measure just how much pressure to put on the gas or the breaks to make those turns… and failing spectacularly. I had loads of fun, but my career went nowhere fast. Knowing what I was in for though made the entry a little smoother this time around but it’s also due in part to how sensitive the new DualSense controller felt to me over my Elite Series 2 for the Xbox. Racing through dirt, mud and snow at 50-120km/h, I felt like I had so much more control when easing into or out of higher speeds. Even drifting felt more controllable and I wasn’t always ending up in damn near last place, which for the record, is great for morale.
Now perhaps the one thing that I truly enjoyed above all else was the sensation coming from my controller while racing around. It’s extremely hard to explain, but there’s a sheer difference between the rumbling features of old and the haptic feedback of the DualSense. Part of me not having issues this time around comes from the fact that I already knew what I was in for. The other? I think it was the controller as you can feel from one end of the controller to the other how your car is handling the road below it. It’s wild. The bumps, the smoothness, the nitro boosts at the back right hit my palm making me jump the first time wondering what happened. But feeling how your car is handling had an automatic reflex on slowing down a bit if it felt too rough or speeding up if it was feeling really smooth.
Between the graphics and the controller, there’s one more aspect that I felt simply steals the show for the immersion and surprisingly, it’s the lack of music. There’s a ton of music while you’re in the menus and getting ready for the races but the second you actually start revving up the engine while holding onto that handbrake, the audio dips so that the only thing that you can hear is the sound of the motor purring and the sounds that come from how your wheels hit the ground on every bump or how relaxed they feel on a smooth service. Hours went by and I hadn’t even noticed which is the mark of a great design.
I honestly hadn’t expected to be blown away this much from simply one version down the line. Would I be interested in seeing how it works off of the PS4? I’ll be honest, no, if for the only reason that I don’t want to shatter the amazing image that I currently have of it from the high end graphics being displayed and the crazy new controller that has been put into our hands. It looks and feels roughly the same while it’s “off”, but once it’s been connected to the game and to the developers whims? It creates something new all of its own.