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WRC 3 hands-on: It plays it straight - but it's better for it

Can the new World Rally Championship really challenge Dirt and Forza?

Racing games have done breezy arcade. They've done sober simulation. They've done high score chaining and raw, kinetic survival. It's all been done - and that doesn't leave much room for World Rally Championship 3.


This plays it straight: point-to-point rally and positively no head to head, bar downloadable ghosts - like Colin McRae before the Americans marched in. It's less ambitious than the competition, sure, but it's refreshingly stripped back and positively engineered for pulses that race at the thought of a full-bodied auto-beast, the trail of dust in its wake, and the goal it's pelting after.


Visuals have improved courtesy of the two-years-in-the-making Spike Engine, 13 environments including overcast Wales, a bizarrely hilly Holland and rocky Greece all boasting diverse weather (but no night races). Terrain doesn't deform as in Sega Rally but mud, gravel and tarmac all effect steering, and while cars aren't as weighty as Forza's, the handling is deep enough and varied enough across each of the 40 cars (ranging from 60's to 2012 models). And if you roll over? Rewind like a diesel-fuelled VHS tape.


Career-side, you've graduated from menu to garage, everything laid out on a bustling show floor where you'll tune engines before races. There are seven countries, each containing handfuls of rallies and a final, harder one. Special events attempt the zany, with target smashing and drifting minigames, but it feels a little incongruous, like a teacher trying to be down with the kids by doing a Will Smith rap.

Dirt has the better mini games, Forza the depth of handling and Shift the sensation of being in a metallic beast roaring along at 130mph, but this is the go-to game for point-to-point, As a result, it'll be indispensable to rally nuts keen on the more solitary thrills of taking a car into nature and dominating the countryside one hairpin at a time.