Our review of WRC 8 was conducted on an Xbox One X

When you think of a shining example of the rally simulation genre, the mind immediately moves to Codemasters’ near-flawless diamond-standard Dirt Rally. It’s a tough crowd: while Codemasters isn’t the only developer taking a stab at the sub-genre, it’s the one that undoubtedly feels the most polished, but there’s always a competitor in the wings. It’s always WRC.

While this KT Racing series has been going on long enough to at least pique the interest of the casual rally fan – those who swear by the Subaru Impreza because they used it once in a PS1 Colin McRae game – their quality has never been tip-top.  They’ve been everywhere: from Xbox 360 to PlayStation Vita, I’m more than certain I’ve owned a WRC title on every modern platform I’ve bought. While they aren’t always the best, they sure are reliable.

With three Dirt games releasing in just four years, the extra year of development that this sometimes annual series has taken has certainly worked in its favour. The arcade-heavy handing of its 2017 counterpart has been almost abandoned: this year WRC is aiming straight for Dirt’s throat, but it’s just scraped the clavicle.

Compared to its contemporaries, WRC 8 still feels like a wobbly child attempting to ride high with the big ones. It’s aura of arcade handing exists: its an arcade bike with simulation stabilisers and it feels neither too strict or too loose. While you can tweak your experience to make it more or less intense to your liking, it’s never entirely one or the other.

Unfortunately, the twitchy handling and bonkers physics set-up make races feel more like Matchbox toys than heavy mechanical vehicles. Just like its predecessors, WRC 8 still fails to recreate the heft of a vehicle: it doesn’t help that crashing often causes your car to flip and twist midair like a Hot Wheels toy flinging off a plastic track.

However, if you’re already a fan of the series’ cumbersome physics, there’s a lot of content to get through here. There’s a full career mode: with a host of events on a packed in-game schedule, you’ll earth money, set-up relationships with manufacturers, manage your team and earn XP to upgrade a skill tree. It’s not as in-depth as the amazing career modes in games like F1 2019, but it’s a great addition that makes some of the game’s shortcomings feel like bumps in the road.

For those who are huge fans of Rally culture, KT Racing has included a gargantuan amount of influential licenses and classes to interact with. You can race as part of the official WRC, Junior WRC or even the WRC 2. With 14 different rallies and over 100 stages, there’s a helluva lot of content to sit through.

WRC 8 is still a ways off from recreating a fantastic rally driving experience. While there is a commendable amount of content here, the racing engine that powers that content still feels unnatural and unsatisfying. It may be simcade, but it’s not a healthy middle: WRC 8’s current driving mechanics feels hap-dash and bolted together. Even with an extra year of development, it’s clear this franchise needs more time in the oven.