Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Sebastien Loeb Rally EVO Review

If the WRC and DiRT series could be compared to Gran Turismo and Forza, then Sebastien Loeb Rally EVO could be compared to Driving Emotion Type-S: a one-off game from SquareEnix (back then just SquareSoft) that may have looked decent given the initial reviews, but once played the disaster that it truly is becomes apparent. It can't hold it's own against the bigger titles and is left on the shelves or in the cloud as a forgotten regrettable purchase. Developer Milestone has been around since the 90s and have worked on the WRC series in the past and is currently the developer of the MotoGP series which proves they have some knowledge when it comes to sim racing, it's just surprising to see how mediocre Rally EVO truly is. It seems to have hit a bump and crashed headfirst into some trees.

The first and immediate problem are the physics that seem to toe the line between reality and arcade: it's hard to understand just how they work and even when you think you understand them, the game seems to change with each and every car and surface. RWD cars slide violently from the back when braking while 4WD cars seem to lose the ability to steer altogether when the brakes are pressed. Thankfully options such as traction and stability controls can be adjusted from the menus even during a race. Wonky physics aside, the game has a rewind function that allows to undo some mistakes. These are limited in the number of uses for each race and have a time limit before being able to be used again so crashing so soon after using one can be frustrating.
The variety of race types is commendable but some of them are absolutely useless in the overall package of this being a rally game. Modes such as Sector racing, which has you racing to be the fastest driver in a sector on a single race track, can last less than three minutes. Elimination races are something you'd expect to find in an arcade racing game. The rally stages are the best and there's a huge variety to the courses, with changing surface types. Speaking of, the career mode feels more like an arcade mode by jumping from event to event being broken up by classes for each car type. The Loeb Experience portion of the game does the same thing but is unlocked by climbing higher on the reputation ladder. All the while there are no end-race consequences for damage so you don't have to worry about paying for repairs, you can use those credits to buy new cars and keep going. It all adds up to a game with $30 worth of quality and content that retailed for $60 at launch.
There is nothing steady about the overall game when you have to remember how to drive a RWD car on the snow in one race to a 4WD car on dry pavement in another. 

Each stage and locale are detailed to be as realistic as possible and feature some of the courses from the official WRC calendar, but there's no pizzazz behind it, all the colors feel muted and the scenery feels lifeless. In spite of that, the light rays, reflections, and shadows are excellently placed and reflect nicely off of the car and bodies of water or ice. I use the first screenshot as a Facebook banner and one of my relatives thought it was a real picture.
Each car sounds unique and the backfire from the more powerful vehicles have a nice bass to them. Pacenotes seem to go an extra mile in the wrong direction compared to other games and the co-driver sounds like a robot. Even counting down at the start of a race you can hear him say "Go?" There are audio hiccups and more than once while playing, the co-driver switched to a completely different language. Several times there are audio clips of Sebastien Loeb speaking to the player in the career mode only it's not really him. Loeb is French and has an accent, the man in the recording is purely American

Every once in a while a game comes along that has some competence: it "works well" but for some unexplained reason all of it comes together in a big mess of slush that gets pushed to the side in favor of a more well-established series of games. For those who don't know, Sebastien Loeb currently has the most victories in the WRC: 77 wins according to the website (for comparison, McRae only has 25), so a man of such importance should have had a better game than this. I didn't expect Colin Mcrae Rally series level of quality but if I'm being honest I'd like to see another developer take over this title and try something new.

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