WRC 9: 9+1 things you need to know
WRC 9 is the latest official rally game. Here what you need to know, including the release date, next-gen console support, DLC schedule and more.
As a fan of rally and crashing into trees, WRC 8 was great. Now the official sequel, WRC 9 funnily enough, is about to launch and I’ve been lucky enough to see what it's all about.
I’ve been playing a preview version of the game ahead of its launch on Xbox One, PS4 and PC via the Epic Games store. The Nintendo Switch release date is to be confirmed.
There’s a lot to get through so grab a coffee and stay to the end as I think fans of rally and the series will be pleasantly happy with the changes. Especially as it's the official game and therefore gets all the stuff from the actual WRC event.
For those new to the series, French studio Kylotonn has been making the WRC games since WRC 5. It’s also responsible for the official TT Isle of Man games, which are underrated, and the forthcoming Test Drive Unlimited.
1) Co-Driver Mode is a thing
4K visuals looking rather tasty
Two months after launch, WRC 9 will feature something unusual. It’s called Co-Driver Mode and the idea is that two people play, one drives and the other has to provide useful pace notes. Because none will be offered by WRC 9.
In reality, terrible directions and much anger are more likely. Given that this mode will work online as well as split-screen, it could be hilarious. Sadly, there will be two months minimum before Co-Driver mode is added to the game as Kylotonn admitted it’s still in development.
2) Play new rallies
WRC 9 features new never-before-seen rallies too, which were meant to take place this season but then 2020 went mental. Anyway, one is Rally Safari Kenya. Here you get to battle challenging dirt roads while avoiding exotic wildlife. Don’t you dare hit the giraffes.
Rally New Zealand, meanwhile, offers spectacular scenery from the North Island. The developer said participants often describe this rally as ‘like dancing with the car’ due to its high speeds and smooth, flowing gravel roads.
After a nine-year absence, Rally Japan makes a return to the sport and its debut in WRC 9. Expect very narrow tarmac roads that make their way up into the mountains in Nagoya. Finishing stages without getting damaged will be tough.
A month and two months after release will see new stages added to a new version of Rally Portugal and Rally Finland, respectively. This means you can drive the 2019 and 2020 championships versions. Overall, there are 13 official rallies, 5 of which are new, for a total of 35 new stages.
As for teams, expect 52 from WRC, WRC 2, WRC 3 and Juniour WRC. Plus all the official drivers and a test rally for fine-tuning setups.
3) The handling should be more realistic
No, you don't get to 'drive' the helicopter
WRC 9 is underpinned by WRC 8, which is fine because it was actually an enjoyable rally game. However, in the quest to continue to provide as realistic physics as possible, Kylotonn says there have been numerous small improvements to make it more simulation-esque.
Is that the case? Well, you’ll have to wait for my first impressions video as there’s no proof quite like the one you get in pudding. But Kylotonn has said it listened to the community.
4) There are now 15 'legendary' historical cars
Rally fans will be pleased to know there are 15 legendary bonus cars, ranging from as far back as 1973. Each one has at least one world championship to its name, either the driver or manufacturer one, except two. Quiz time: Which two?
The cars included will now flash up on screen so you don’t have to hear me list every last one of them. Orange means new, the rest were in WRC 8. Personal highlights for me include the Lancia Stratos, Delta Integrale and the 2005 Citroen Xsara.
5) Clubs lets you enjoy custom championships
Another big WRC 9 feature and one of the most frequently requested is Clubs. Here you can create your own championship, including the rally location and stages, weather conditions, eligible car or cars and even how long it lasts.
Clubs can be public or private. Either way, you get an automatic leaderboard. It’s possible to have four of your own clubs or one of your own and three made by other players. This mode works offline and there is no limit on how many members you can have.
Sadly, it’s unavailable in the preview version of the game so I cannot investigate further. Expect that in a later video. But I can say the Clubs feature will be available from launch.
6) Tech and next-gen console improvements
WRC 9 also benefits from some tech improvements. For PC gamers, that includes Direct X 12 improvements for better graphics and a greater number of physics possibilities. The developer says it will also help with smoothness.
WRC 9’s next gen version features full optimisation to maximise SSD performance and space efficiency, code has been changed to have full async loading and removing custom compression to exploit Kraken is planned.
Sony’s PS5 Controller, meanwhile, will benefit from quote ‘inventive & holistic use of haptic’ feedback via the adaptive triggers & sound. This is said to help you feel road bumps, gear ratio, damage and other details better.
As for the CPU & GPU stuff, expect enhanced physics, real-world simulation & AI, native 4K, 60fps minimum up to 100fps and better texture resolution.
7) Daily, weekly and monthly challenges
Hyundai has come a long way...
In a bid to keep players happy, WRC 9 features daily, weekly and monthly challenges. The idea being that you will have new challenges to complete whenever you return, which you can compete in as part of the global leaderboards.
8) The Career mode is beefier
WRC 8’s career mode proved to be a worthwhile improvement. In WRC 9 the structure is the same, but there are more things to do such as an enhanced skill tree and calendar possibilities. Again, this is something I’ll be looking at in my first impressions video.
9) Photo Mode helps you get snappy
Meanwhile, those who love to get snappy can make use of the new photo mode, which arrives in the M1 first month patch and is a first for the series. The replay cameras management system has been improved too, so it should be easier to capture your LEET YEET skills. Or lack of, in my case.
10) Expect healthy after-launch updates
In addition to the new stages, WRC 9 will also get three major updates before 2020 is finished. That includes more cars, more rallies, more stages and more challenges. All. For. Free.
In the M1 update, arriving in early October, there will be six new stages of Rally Portugal, photo mode and 1 extra WRC driver.
Early November, AKA the M2 update, adds a new version of Rally Finland with six new stages, as well as the Co-Driver Mode (although this could change) and 1 brand new official concept car.
End of December will see the eSports patch in preparation for the WRC 9 eSports 2021 competition, which starts in January 2021 and is sponsored by Toyota Gazoo Racing.
So which WRC 9 version should I buy?
The Digital Deluxe Edition includes 48 hours early access, three months of WRC+ access, Toyota Corolla 1999 Champion and the Barcelona Super Special Stage, which is a popular and a pure recreation of the race in the centre of Barcelona.
This retail version also gets the Career Starter Pack, plus an unannounced project (TBC) that is not directly part of the Deluxe Edition – which we will hear more about soon.
The standard edition, meanwhile, is basically just the game plus the free DLC stuff. And that’s it for this video. First impressions coming soon, but until then check out my WRC 8 vs DiRT Rally 2.0 comparison (above) for a better idea of what to expect.