WRC 7 is Also Spectacularly Broken

What was supposed to be an extremely exciting week for connoisseurs of virtual auto racing has now turned into anything but. After NASCAR Heat 2 established itself as a game that might be good in a few months provided the necessary patchwork is applied in key areas, and the high definition remaster of Baja: Edge of Control exhibited exponentially more flaws than the original release did back in 2008, all eyes were now set upon Kylotonn’s officially licensed rally racer, WRC 7. Though the first two games were disastrous affairs – the first game under the new team being the worst new release I’ve reviewed for PRC, and the second being so technologically inept I refused to review it – coverage of the game from other outlets indicated this year’s rendition would actually be worth buying.

Coupled with the fact that the real life World Rally Championship is experiencing its most exciting season in recent memory, with absolutely ridiculous cars that will surely be toned down at the conclusion of the 2017 campaign, there was also genuine, tangible evidence displaying WRC 7 would be worth a purchase. The stage design would be significantly narrower, the handling model would dip into simcade territory rather than outright simplicity, and there would be a slew of optimization improvements for PC owners to ensure the software would actually run smoothly. Like many gamers who’ve attached a plastic toy steering wheel to their desk, I bought WRC 7 at launch this morning primarily due to outlets such as Team VVV really drilling home that the new game was indeed an improvement, and not a bargain bin mess masquerading as a fully priced PC game to lure in people with the official WRC license.

At the end of the day, as a consumer I feel lied to. My experience with WRC 7, running one of the most common toy steering wheels on the market today plugged into a beefy Alienware Aurora R5, does not match what others are describing in their YouTube videos in the slightest. I would like to know how not one journalist, hobbyist, or multimedia personality covering the game ran into these issues, despite the game’s Steam community forums now overflowing with complaints about crippling problems making the game unplayable for a large number of users.

Why do these personalities all have a functioning game they all seem to enjoy, whereas common customers like myself do not? Given that I receive financial backing from a rival game developer, it’s massively hypocritical of myself to come out swinging and accuse those involved of viral marketing and intentional deception in some regard, but in this situation I am merely a guy running a blog trying to purchase a video game both for his own leisure, as well as to write about on his website. I am confused as to how, when approaching this game from the position of an everyday customer, my time spent with the game is drastically different than all of these YouTube personalities giving WRC 7 two thumbs up.

Above is a first-hand video of nearly my entire time spent with WRC 7 prior to Steam providing me with a refund for the title. Basically, I went through the above sequence twice, recording my second cycle because I genuinely didn’t think anybody would believe me, or they’d just accuse me of going on a hyperbolic smear campaign against anyone who isn’t my employer. Despite Kylotonn listing a stock Logitech G29 as a fully supported wheel, the game fails to detect the device in any functional manner save for the directional pad – which is of little use in any situation behind the wheel. The G29 is so incapacitated, you are unable to even skip the intro movies or navigate the menus once you’ve used the keyboard to navigate past the title sequences and splash screen, nor does going to the options menu warrant any sort of positive results. Obviously going into something like WRC 7, I’m not expecting much of a hardcore experience behind the wheel, but I at least want to take a green flag and complete a stage with my stock, consumer steering wheel being 100% functional. This is apparently too much to ask of French developers Kylotonn in 2017, despite it being their third WRC game.

Moving on to plugging in my DualShock4 coupled with everybody’s favorite background application DS4Windows – more or less a must for those using a standard PS4 controller on Windows 10 – we are at least able to navigate through WRC 7’s menus. Immediately I discover that while the game instructs you to press the A button to proceed, the PlayStation 4 equivalent of A (also known as the X button) doesn’t do anything – proceed has actually been mapped to Square.

Out on the track, things get exponentially worse. In an impressive display of tomfoolery, the chase view camera is locked at a forty five degree angle behind the car, almost as if someone is permanently holding the right stick downwards and to the left. Upon accelerating with R2, the camera rotates to a direct sideways shot of my Hyundai. Braking, in comparison, rotates the camera to the rear of the car. So the default configuration that shipped with the game has the camera rotation mapped to the throttle and brake pedals.

However, in my lone sector of driving, WRC 7 looked quite nice, the stage design was much better than prior entries in the series, and I did not experience any crippling performance hiccups. There should be an asterisk next to this final part, as I am playing on a PC my employer provided me with to give their yet-to-be-released game a proper shakedown on maximum visual settings. Your average driving sim enthusiast does not have a computer this powerful. As a result, WRC 7’s Steam forums have been flooded with complaints by disgruntled customers wondering what in the hell they just bought.In short, there is a fundamental disconnect between what YouTube outlets are saying about this game, versus what the average customer is actually experiencing. WRC 7 was not functional for me, and Steam provided me with a refund after about twenty minutes of play, most of which consisted of me booting up the game and staring blankly at the options menu while I hammered buttons on my steering wheel. I have failed to complete a single stage of driving, let a lone a sector, because all twenty minutes were spent in utter confusion – split up by occasional visits to the forum where others were united in their shared disgust of Kylotonn’s ineptitude. I encourage everyone with three minutes to burn to visit the game’s Steam forums and actually explore what is being said about WRC 7’s first day on the market, and then compare it to quotes such as these I’ve found across social media.

I would love to give WRC 7 a proper shakedown for the readers of PRC, as these kinds of simcade rally games are right up my alley (as you can probably figure out from past articles), and on a personal level I was actually kind of excited about this game after looking at the preview footage that like I said, implied some very tangible improvements had been made to the core gameplay. Yet in actually purchasing the game for myself, I’m profoundly bewildered – WRC 7 as a product you can obtain on Steam for around $40 CDN is just not even in the same ballpark as what the YouTube personalities said it would be. The preview videos all have done a great job getting us excited for Kylotonn to turn a new page and push out something captivating – especially with the glorious 2017-spec cars – but instead we’re left scratching our collective heads at the near-unanimous praise in the face of pretty outrageous technical issues that are generating widely reported problems on the game’s Steam forums. How did every single YouTube outlet miss this stuff, and better yet, why didn’t the public receive this version of the game?

Just read the Steam reviews and compare them to impressions from the big sim racing outlets; you’ll see what I mean.

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Baja: Edge of Control HD is Spectacularly Broken [Updated]

There’s been a lot of animosity directed at THQ Nordic from the motocross gaming community, but I’ve never gotten to experience first-hand the justification for it until this morning. I was really hoping to spend a large portion of the day playing Baja: Edge of Control HD as I have no problem listing it as one of my favorite Xbox 360 racers, and could not wait to play a remastered rendition on modern hardware – but after purchasing the game twice, and requesting a refund once, I’m left pretty disgusted at the kind of bullshit THQ Nordic have pulled here. To put it plain and simple, Baja: Edge of Control HD should not have been released, as there are pretty mind-blowing controller problems across multiple platforms.

Initially, I purchased the game on Steam, as it’s about eight dollars cheaper than the PlayStation 4 version for unexplained reasons. The game honestly isn’t a very big download, I think I recall seeing it somewhere between four and eight gigabytes, meaning it was ready for consumption in around seven minutes. This may sound pitiful by today’s standards, but the actual game itself is quite good; with over 170 vehicles split between ten classes, and upwards of one hundred tracks in both circuit and point to point format, Baja as a complete package back in the day was a pretty exciting niche offering provided you could get over the atrocious graphics – hence the point of the HD version in the first place.

My own personal hype train was derailed when I discovered that on the Steam version, the external controller config applet doesn’t actually work. By default, keyboard keys are mapped to all of the buttons on the Xbox 360 controller, obviously so you can bust out a controller and reconfigure everything to your desired layout – which 99% of the time you’re just going to mirror the stock layout and just ensure all the respective axis’ are correct. Here is where things get absolutely insane – the applet crashes upon trying to do so. You know, the basic process of clicking on “Throttle” and pressing R2 to map that button as your gas pedal? Crashes the applet. One hundred percent serious here.

So obviously that means no wheel support either, as while there’s indeed a tab you can click to configure your racing wheel prior to launching the game, and graphically it is a nice applet, again rebinding crashes the thing. Playing Edge of Control HD on the PC right now consists of pressing the “O” key as your throttle, and using the arrow keys to turn.

With little activity in the forums to give me faith that this would be fixed, I promptly requested a refund for the game on Steam, and purchased the allegedly superior PS4 version, which a whole bunch of YouTube gaming channels have been demonstrating for THQ Nordic over the past little bit leading up to the game’s launch. I figured that maybe Sony would hold these guys to a higher standard, and I could have faith that both a standard DualShock 4, as well as a Logitech G29, would work out of the box. I wasn’t expecting a great driving experience – this is a weird quasi-simulator, with detailed mechanical failures yet a larger than life driving model – but as I mentioned before, I loved this game back in the day and was jacked that the graphics are no longer a blurry mess, so whatever, in my opinion they fixed the game’s biggest problem and I’d have a cool sorta-casual off-road game in my library.

The Logitech G29 works, only if by the definition of “works”, do you split hairs and have an impromptu debate over what is considered “working.” I can turn the wheel from left to right, and it indeed goes the full nine hundred degrees. I can rev the engine by pushing the throttle. I can also push in the clutch and rev the engine from a standstill. The brake pedal, however, is stuck at one hundred percent input no matter what you do. It is almost impossible to leave the starting line unless you constantly mash the clutch and throttle in succession. If not, the truck hangs on the starting line at 2300 RPM and slides sideways. This game is $39.99 on the PlayStation Store.

 

If, by some act of god the brake pedal doesn’t stick – about 50% of the time for me – other issues arise when you do get moving. The change camera button has been mapped to the PS4 Share button, and the share functionality overrides the ability to change the camera, so if you drive with a wheel, you’re stuck in chase view. There isn’t even a way to change it in the options. The wheel sensitivity slider also warrants no change, meaning a lot of the vehicles in the game require gigantic steering inputs just to take gentle corners.

What makes this strange, is that I can plug my Logitech G29 into my PlayStation 3, boot up the original Edge of Control, and it works flawlessly. The sensitivity is better, the button mapping allows you to change the camera, and the brake pedal does not stick. The problem I have in doing so, is that the PlayStation 3 rendition was dogshit in comparison to the superior Xbox 360 version due to mammoth framerate troubles, which is why a remaster of this title was justified in the first place. Furious? Absolutely. When it comes to old games receiving a high definition upgrade, a reasonable outcome is to discover that it just ain’t like it used to be, or that the nostalgia goggles are almost blinding to a game’s faulty mechanics. But with Baja: Edge of Control HD, sometimes I can’t even get off the starting line when trying the title on multiple platforms. The PC version’s controller config tool crashes upon trying to rebind anything, and the PS4 version features incomplete wheel support.

Can you play with a standard DualShock 4? Well, yes. The problem arises in just how long some of Baja’s marquee events happen to be. While you can indeed slug it out in five lap circuit races that are on-par with what you’d expect from a traditional off-road racer, the enjoyable part of Baja comes in tacking the ultra-long point to point stages chained together to make up the sanctioned SCORE 250, 500, or 1000 mile races. If you’d like to drive for upwards of two hours with a gamepad, by all means be my guest, but I sure as hell don’t.

This is really just the start of the game’s fundamental problems. Occasionally, collision detection gets disabled during a race, resulting in pretty comical moments where you can just drive through the field at your own free will as seen below. In other situations, the game’s dashboard camera generates a giant black artifact across the screen, making it impossible to drive in anything other than chase view. Split screen racing with a friend causes the game to lose all sound until you restart the application. The original game did not have these problems; for the most part it was a solid, albeit highly obscure trophy truck racer.

The motocross gaming community have had similar problems dealing with THQ Nordic, but due to the popularity of an older title – MX vs. ATV Reflex – they’ve for the most part been able to avoid this kind of ineptitude by merely playing a different game. For those of us who loved Baja, and there were a lot of us, we don’t really have a choice here – we really needed the remastered version to be 100% functional. Right now, it’s not.

BAJA: Edge of Control HD Set for August Release, PC Version Rumored

While most gamers will have their eyes focused on the remastered version of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, which drops today after previously being an Infinite Warfare bundle exclusive for several months, there’s a remaster of a different sorts turning heads within the sim racing community. A 4K re-release of BAJA: Edge of Control, 2XL’s criminally underrated classic, was announced earlier this year for both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, but only now have we gotten word of a release date from THQ Nordic. According to an international GameStop website, the desert racing quasi-sim will be in our hands on August 29th, bringing some much-needed variety to the console gaming landscape which has seen nothing but arcade racers and car collecting simulators since their introduction to the market in late 2013.

Built solely for fans of SCORE International Off-Road racing events, and making virtually no attempts to ease outsiders into the experience, Edge of Control was the previous console generation’s equivalent to Richard Burns Rally. Though the game certainly won’t be for everybody, as desert truck racing is a discipline confined to just a small portion of the western United States, it will be nice to have a break from the yearly tarmac-focused titles that are pushed out like clockwork. It’s also probably the smartest move THQ Nordic could have made from a financial standpoint; the renewed interest in hardcore simulators thanks to DiRT Rally and Project CARS being pushed into the spotlight could see Edge of Control perform moderately well in the market, compared to when it first launched amidst the Call of Duty craze during the fall of 2008 and was promptly ignored for a virtual trip to the Pacific Theater.

Along with the alleged release date being leaked through GameStop, there are also hints that THQ Nordic plan to bring the game to the PC as well. Baja’s own Wikipedia page states that Edge of Control: HD will also be arriving on the Windows 10 operating system, with Amazon pages also listing the yet-to-be-announced Microsoft Windows variant at $29.99. This could be a game-changer for Edge of Control’s lifespan, as while the vanilla game is hard to find fault with, pad-friendly design choices such as the lack of cockpit view and the ability to control your vehicle’s trajectory could be ironed out by dedicated modders in pursuit of an even more demanding gameplay experience, resulting in the pinnacle of trophy truck simulators.

All eyes will be on THQ Nordic for this release, as while Baja: Edge of Control was a cult classic universally adored by everyone who dared to stray from the Call of Duty craze for just a moment – and it’ll be certainly hard to mess up – the team haven’t exactly been on good terms with their core audience. MX vs. ATV Supercross, Nordic’s first major release (and subsequent remaster for the PS4, Xbox One, and PC), was seen as a total dud by the motocross gaming community due to poor framerate and lousy overall riding physics, causing many to abandon the team’s efforts in favor of Milestone’s MXGP 3. If Nordic can avoid these previous problems with Edge of Control HD, we’ll be looking at a stellar off-road racer with fantastic pick up and play multiplayer capabilities, but if the same remastering flaws found in Supercross surface once again, it’ll be time to ask some serious questions about what’s going on at THQ Nordic.

Knocking the Little Guy. Again.

The forthcoming comments will either erupt into furious hate at bashing an indie developer, or applaud someone for having the balls to say it when the majority of sim racers feel the need to cement themselves in politically correct feedback at all possible times, but I simply can’t deny what’s being presented in the above footage. gRally, the independent rally simulator developed by a passionate portion of the Richard Burns Rally modding community as a means to establish a new, updated platform for their virtual off-roading needs, is a project I’m sick of hearing about. New beta footage depicting the title in action, uploaded by YouTube personality George Bratsos, presents an extremely laughable game to the general public; a game which has spent over five years behind closed doors, teased by major sim racing news outlets on a routine basis despite very little to captivate sim racers into caring about the title.

This is not a game people will want to play by any stretch of the imagination.

I’ve written quite aggressively in the past about gRally, and that tone will certainly not change here. The footage, quite frankly, speaks for itself, and in a time where DiRT 4 is only months away from release, promising a near-infinite number of stages and a major developer team working to make the package as flashy, as engaging, and as realistic as possible to accommodate every type of rally racing fan roaming the earth, there is absolutely no longer any use for gRally’s existence. Relying on hilariously bad bloom effects to mask visuals that are now several generations behind schedule, coupled with physics that place it firmly in the iPhone-exclusive category of mobile games, I am genuinely surprised the project hasn’t been outright canned.

In fact, there would be no shame in doing so. Though the title recently made it through the Steam Greenlight process, and all original content creators appear to have given the developers of gRally the thumbs up to use their creations in a commercial video game, this does not change the fact that gRally shamelessly recycles third party rFactor mod content because the team themselves have so little of their own work to insert into the game. The bland, barren power stage on exhibition in George Bratsos’ video linked at the top of the post will make sim racers think gRally is a bad joke by a team suffering from mass delusions of grandeur upon the title’s release, but things will undoubtedly be kicked into overdrive when sim racers discover the Mount Akagi they downloaded for free in rFactor many years ago, will be something they’ll have to pay for in an inferior simulator.

Unfortunately it appears the few outlets covering the game also appear to share in these same delusions of grandeur, as Come Over Gaming state that while major elements of the physics engine need significant refining – probably not a good sign for a game that was first announced in 2011 – the graphics are supposedly “great” – even as their own footage clearly showcases a piece of software that would be eclipsed visually by Dreamcast racers such as V-Rally 2 and CART: Flag to Flag.

It’s a project that I feel needs to be put down if the creators are to retain any sense of credibility moving forward. For a game to be in development for such a significant portion of time, only to manifest itself in a way that can’t hold a candle to software on vastly inferior hardware, the sole word to describe gRally is an ugly term typically used for Nintendo Wii games your grandmother purchases for you at Christmas: shovelware.

I’m certainly left wondering how the project got to this point in its lifespan; it’s one thing to build a little indie game and sell it on Steam for $4.99 within a year or two, but gRally has been floating around the sim racing community for the better part of a decade, promised as a spiritual successor to Richard Burns Rally that relied on third party content creators to flesh the software out into something special. Instead, we’ve been treated to little more than an elaborate Unity demo exhibiting basic car physics any game from the early PlayStation 2 days could muster in their sleep, and appalling graphics that look as if someone is trying to play Assetto Corsa on a computer that doesn’t meet the minimum system requirements.

At what point do you call it a day and scrap the project? How long will the gRally team continue to parade around their work when it is so blatantly out-dated and underwhelming? This is most definitely not the rally simulator initial previews hinted at, so why continue perpetuating the farce? In my opinion, the correct call, at least in this instance, is to outright cancel the game; any other option is just complete and utter delusion.

THQ Nordic to Remaster BAJA: Edge of Control

baja-edge-of-control-hd_2017_03-01-17_001Almost a full decade ago, during a time when PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 owners were gearing up for yet another World War II shooter in Call of Duty: World at War, Forza Motorsport 3 and Gran Turismo 5 were still yet to be announced by Turn 10 Studios, and the whole racing simulator market was basically a genre exclusive to hardcore PC enthusiasts, THQ and Rainbow Studios took a major gamble and churned out BAJA: Edge of Control – a radical departure from their predominantly motocross based games, packing a comprehensive, semi-realistic off-road racing experience into a title which received practically no mainstream exposure, and in some cases was completely misunderstood by those tasked with reviewing it.

Save for the abysmal framerate on the PlayStation 3 copy of the game, and the admittedly simplistic visuals – which sucked all kinds of ass, even back in 2008 – Edge of Control featured a surprising amount of depth to the package and came with vast array of content, turning it into a cult classic of sorts; those who bought it knowing exactly what to expect from a desert racing quasi-simulator, were quite frankly blown away by just how much shit there was to see and do. The game boasted a lengthy, open-ended career mode with an appropriate amount of vehicle customization and upgrade options, nine massive landscapes, eight of the most popular four-wheeled vehicle classes combining for a grand total of something like 170 vehicle models, and over one hundred total tracks, with the point-to-point stages lasting upwards of fifteen minutes. If all of this sounds spectacular on paper, that’s because it certainly was.

2200_02THQ Nordic, of MX vs. ATV Supercross fame, have announced that they are in the process of re-mastering BAJA: Edge of Control for current generation consoles, anticipating the title to hit the online marketplace in the second quarter of 2017 – or in other words, very soon. Though PC sim racers will obviously feel left out of the festivities, most of us own at least one current generation console and a wheel that is fully compatible with said console, meaning a whole bunch of people who missed out on the greatness that was Edge of Control back in 2008 will be able to experience it in a significantly refined fashion.

According to WorthPlaying, THQ Nordic will make no fundamental changes to the vanilla Edge of Control experience, with only three main adjustments planned:

  • Greater immersion via various graphical improvements including better textures, higher framerate and increased details
  • More authentic racing by improved rendering techniques for shadows, lighting and dust effects
  • More accessible gameplay due to improved controls, user interface, and an easier career start

As I mentioned above, the game’s framerate was simply not up to standard on the PlayStation 3 version of the game compared to the Xbox 360 rendition, so it’s nice to see this will be bumped up to what will most likely be 60 FPS. Lighting and special effects will also be refined, though the simplistic vehicle models and environments most likely won’t do a whole lot to help with the game’s obvious lack in visual fidelity – a primary drawback of the original title.

However, THQ Nordic plan to make a second pass on Edge of Control’s ironic lack of control, which contributed to the steep learning curve that turned a lot of people off. In my opinion, this is a very good move for THQ Nordic to make, as the game indeed had problems when driving at maximum attack. As someone who invested a lot of time into BAJA back when it was a brand new title, partaking in multiple online 1000-mile races with a buddy to help kill boring evenings, trucks could enter an uncontrollable death-wobble with the right combination of speed and uneven terrain, where the vehicles would rapidly shift weight laterally from side to side until the truck shook itself into a spin or violent roll. This lead to situations where driving at a moderately quick pace was an absolute crap-shoot, because a control stick was simply inadequate at keeping the vehicle in a straight line. It was as if the moment you started pushing, the truck always exhibited mass body roll to one side and you constantly had to treat the never-ending body roll like an elongated grind as if you were playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. It was weird as hell, but you got rid of it by backing off the throttle and driving conservatively.

THQ Nordic are supposedly going to fix this, so that’s nice.

baja-screenshot01Career Mode will also see a bit of a makeover, which is probably a good design decision in the long run. The original BAJA: Edge of Control forced you to start in the slowest class available in the game – the lightly modified Volkswagen Beetle hobbyist championship – meaning the first few hours were spent in a car that was simply painful to drive, and that’s before we mention the car had no upgrades whatsoever, therefore putting you at a huge disadvantage to the AI.

Most of the tracks and locations in Edge of Control were designed to compliment the two fastest vehicles on the roster – Trophy Trucks & Class 1 Unlimited Buggies – so early championships were the equivalent of taking a Spec Miata to Spa-Francorchamps in iRacing, or the Honda Fit to the Nordschleife in Gran Turismo. I tried many times to sit down for the single player campaign, and I simply couldn’t. It was unbearable to drive the slow stuff, so it’s nice to see THQ Nordic have recognized this as a weak point and are making an effort to change it.

baja-screenshot31I’m extremely excited to see how Baja 4K will turn out, as it’s truly a unique title that is unlike anything the world of sim racing currently has to offer, even if I’m forced to bust out my PlayStation 4 to play it. Edge of Control was a comprehensive off-road racer; a literal encyclopedia of modern desert racing that was created by a team who were obviously passionate about the sport, but simply released at the wrong time, and unable to fully capitalize on the power of either gaming system it was created for.

Thank you, THQ Nordic, for bringing this game back. I’m hoping we eventually see this on the Steam platform as well, because there are a whole bunch of sim racers who would love to try their hands at this stuff.