Still the King: Richard Burns Rally 2016

richardburnsrally_sse-2016-12-10-14-11-01-98It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where to begin with Richard Burns Rally, a title which once temporarily graced store shelves in 2004 as a no-nonsense, hardcore alternative to the Colin McRae Rally series; designed specifically for the crowd who had grown bored with the virtual Rubiks Cube known as Grand Prix Legends. With the help of the late professional rally pilot and 2001 WRC champion Richard Burns, SCi Games set out to essentially construct a rally simulator nobody could play, and as a result, nobody bought. Though there was nothing inherently wrong when it came to the physics engine, the stages remained well within the realm of what would be deemed authentic rural roads, and the vehicles accurately exhibited the same performance characteristics of their real-life counterparts, Richard Burns Rally proved a set of titanium testicles were required to post competitive speeds on the WRC circuit. By comparison, a large portion of sim racers at the time didn’t even posses valid drivers licenses, so forcing these hobbyists to execute Scandinavian flicks with pinpoint accuracy wasn’t a recipe for success by any stretch of the imagination.

Needless to say, SCi Games disbanded, and Richard Burns Rally was deemed a commercial failure.

Determined to master what quickly established itself as the ultimate challenge in sim racing, an extremely small segment of the community worked tirelessly to master the in’s and out’s of Richard Burns Rally, discovering in the process that another developer had captured the magic of Sierra’s Grand Prix Legends in a relentless and grueling off-road nightmare that has undoubtedly been the cause of many smashed keyboards, controllers, and plastic steering wheels around the world. In a manner similar to Ninja Gaiden II or the Dark Souls franchise, sim racers wanting to subject themselves to a special kind of sadomasochistic hell began flocking to the world of Richard Burns Rally purely by word of mouth reports from others who had tried and failed to keep their Subaru pointed in the proper direction.

richardburnsrally_sse-2016-12-10-14-11-18-10It took a few long years of dissecting the game’s file structure and figuring out how to reverse-engineer a one-off engine not used in other racing simulators, but a proper modding scene surrounding Richard Burns Rally eventually rose from the ashes of SCi’s demise. Yet due to the game’s semi-restricted format, installing new vehicles, stages, and external plugins to support rapid advances in home computer technology became a literal pain in the ass compared to the simplistic drag-and-drop format used in titles such as rFactor or GTR Evolution. To combat the arduous process of installing new content into the obscure rally simulator, the RSRBR mod packs were created to ease the process, though in reality they actually made matters worse. Richard Burns Rally fans were forced to download almost twenty gigabytes of additional content from a website with notoriously slow download speeds, forcing sim racers to set aside entire weekends just to update their Richard Burns Rally install – and do it all over again the following year when a new one was released.

This created a situation where most people have spent more time downloading and installing stuff for Richard Burns Rally than actually playing it. The few hardcore guys in the community merely accepted this task as part of the deal when diving head-first into the grueling simulator, but significantly more sim racers who otherwise would love to try out Richard Burns Rally in a casual setting, were instead turned off entirely.

rbr2016An Argentinean website by the name of RBRPlus have offered a fantastic solution for those looking to get into Richard Burns Rally, yet can’t be assed polluting their computer with enormous amounts of additional content. As the original Richard Burns Rally is considered abandonware software, and SCi Games no longer exist as a developer, this mythical rally simulator is now freely available for all to download – which RBRPlus took advantage of for the benefit of the sim racing community.

RBRPlus have taken the base Richard Burns Rally install, along with both retail patches released by SCi, and injected them with all relevant third party plugins necessary to run the game on modern PC hardware – such as resolution fixes, support for multiple inputs, and performance tweaks to get the most out of the application. They’ve also replaced the default car roster and list of AI drivers with the full fleet of cars from the 2016 WRC championship and WRC2 support series, powered by a completely revitalized set of physics that have been re-built from the ground up and draw upon lessons learned from ten years worth of tire model advancements made in other racing simulators.

In short, these random guys from Argentina created the ultimate 2016 World Rally Championship simulator, and the free download – which is a stand-alone package that does not require the original game to function – weighs in at just 1.6 gigabytes.

You can grab it HERE.

richardburnsrally_sse-2016-12-10-19-43-39-15It still looks like Richard Burns Rally, so that’s probably going to turn a few people off. While the stages are loaded with detail – and the Japan environment in particular is almost obsessive in the sheer number of plants and trees lining the side of the road – the lighting engine is straight out of 2003. The car models serve their purpose, but at first glance I was under the belief they had been ripped from one of the Kylotonn Games and hastily thrown into the Richard Burns Rally platform, a theory supported by the existence of websites like GameModels.ru.

I personally believe there have been a few environment texture updates added in here and there, but I’d chalk this up to the fact that I haven’t sat down with Richard Burns Rally and spent any serious amount of time with the game for a few years. There are some spots – particularly in the Finland stages during heavy snowfall – where the scenery looks fairly impressive, but you are indeed soon brought back to reality and reminded of the simulator’s age.

richardburnsrally_sse-2016-12-10-19-00-13-07But the big topic people will want me to address is how this new set of revised physics stacks up againsthe original Richard Burns Rally driving model some of us have been accustomed to, and to that I have to say they’re absolutely brilliant. This is easily worth the ten minute download and thirty second install, especially if you’re feeling burned by WRC 6, have grown tired of DiRT Rally, or aren’t a big enough Milestone apologist to mess around with Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo.

The Richard Burns Rally 2016 Season package makes use of what the community have deemed NGP physics – a similar on-going science project akin to iRacing’s New Tire Model, where months upon months of revisions and alternative theories have gone into essentially reverse engineering everything to do with car-meets-road and car-goes-fast stuff under the hood of Richard Burns Rally. Whereas the original game’s physics turn the default selection of Mitsubishi’s, Subaru’s, and Toyota’s into literal rocket ships that can maintain crazy drift angles with minimal weight transfer effects, the NGP physics strive for car behavior on par with that of other racing simulators available on the market in 2016.

richardburnsrally_sse-2016-12-10-19-43-18-70Force Feedback-wise, I didn’t have to touch anything – it’s that good. Out of the box, it feels like someone yanked everything you like about the overall steering wheel feeling found in RaceRoom Racing Experience, and somehow seamlessly converted the whole damn into this ancient rally simulator, a task that’s extremely impressive when you consider these are just random dudes doing all of this in their spare time. It’s a very comfortable feeling behind the wheel, and it gets light over crests and in sketchy sideways moments in the appropriate fashion to remind you that there’s an edge to what the car is capable of in RBR. The more you drive, the better it gets. The whole driving experience feels extremely natural in your hands, and this is super important considering many of these stages leave absolutely no room for error.

When we talk about the overall car behavior, it’s as if RBRPlus have dug into DiRT Rally and rectified most of the problems we’ve discovered with the Codemasters release over time, such as the ability to lug the car over ludicrous leaps at maximum attack with little regard for the car’s condition, as well as the super hero-like side forces acting on the car which keep it in check during extended drifting periods.

It’s very similar to DiRT Rally in that you can hit the stage at 70% attack and make it through unscathed, a far cry from the adolescent boot camp vibe of the vanilla game – which punished you for doing so much as breathing on the steering wheel out of time – but unlike DiRT Rally, there’s a very tangible limit to how retarded you can be. Though the cars are extremely planted and balanced by default, you can’t just send the thing sideways at will and expect it to stick – this is a driving model which rewards keeping the car balanced above all else. Drifting is no longer an all-encompassing answer, but a solution to a very specific type of corner. In some sectors, you can definitely push hard provided you know the layout of the circuit, but as the loading screens state, there are times where you indeed need to back it down and ride through a technical section.

The same comments, of course, can be said about the vanilla game and about rallying in general, but this is really the first time you can put this advice to good use in Richard Burns Rally. In the version of the simulator most of you are familiar with, dialing back your performance to 70% attack meant merely shifting down a gear and reducing your speed, but with the NGP physics, you can physically feel the steering wheel settle in your hands and the car regain the stability you’re seeking with its stance – because weight transfer and body roll are a lot more prevalent this time around. It’s this weird hybrid of DiRT Rally and Assetto Corsa, with the Force Feedback effects straight from Sector 3 – which is every bit as enjoyable as that sounds on paper.

Wet weather driving makes the new tire model come alive, as locations such as Japan really force you to pussy foot around technical sections and roll on the throttle gradually for the wet gravel tires to have a better shot at regaining grip. I can’t stand the Japan stages, they’re still a bit much for me, but I gained a new appreciation for them thanks to how I was required to drastically alter my driving style in a way that both made sense and felt natural – which can’t be said about the original game.

The original stages are still every bit as demanding as they were when the game first launched in 2004, but the key thing is your average sim racer will be able to complete many of them in a row without blasting into one of the several low poly spectators lining the route. Only when you push for competitive times and dig for every last bit of grip does the game bite back in the way we’ve come to expect from RBR, and it does so in a way that feels much more natural and justified than it did with the vanilla physics.

richardburnsrally_sse-2016-12-10-20-02-56-83And unlike the RSRBR bundle of mods, Richard Burns Rally 2016 still functions as a complete game. The entire single player campaign mode has been overhauled to include the names and teams of the 2016 WRC season, allowing you to embark upon a five hour championship marathon if you choose to do so. To my surprise, the artificial intelligence have been re-engineered to produce elapsed times on par or sometimes better than the player’s performance, creating a highly compelling offline battle against the bots, but there are a few inaccuracies I’ve found during my own championship season. Sebastien Ogier of Volkswagen, who has won every WRC championship since Loeb’s retirement at the end of 2012, has failed to complete a single rally in a season and a half of gameplay on my end. Meanwhile, relatively unaccomplished WRC drivers such as Mads Ostberg, Kris Meek, Pierre-Louis Loubet, and Craig Breen, can consistently be seen fighting for the title.

Though the 2016 package earns points for how little time was required to configure everything – it was literally just a matter of entering my resolution in the INI file, mapping a few buttons to my wheel, and downloading CamHack for my custom cockpit position – it was definitely shitty to see such weird AI performances that hardly matched the real WRC standings.

richardburnsrally_sse-2016-12-10-14-03-15-04As a whole, however, I’m certainly glad RBRPlus have put out their own custom rendition of Richard Burns Rally based solely on the 2016 WRC season, as it allows people who are unwilling to download a ridiculous amount of mod packages to indulge in the absolute best parts of what has been hailed as one of the greatest racing simulators ever. Weighing in at only 1.6 gigabytes, featuring all the top cars from the current WRC calendar, and bundling everything with a phenomenal set of rebuilt physics which draw upon ten years worth of tire model advancements in other simulators, you certainly owe it to yourself to check out Richard Burns Rally 2016. DiRT Rally has the presentation of an AAA-title, Sebastien Loeb has more content, and WRC 6 may have the official FIA World Rally Championship license, but Richard Burns Rally is still the king when it comes to the raw driving authenticity.

http://rbrplus.blogspot.com/2016/12/rbr-2016.html

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WRC 6 Scrubbed from the Marketplace?

20161126093554It may not be a big enough title to warrant any sort of justified outrage, but some people did pay full price for it, and obviously there are decision-makers from above who felt the quality of the product did not live up to what’s expected from a PlayStation 4 game. While browsing the PlayStation Store for some Black Friday deals yesterday, I noticed something particularly odd; Kylotonn’s recently-released World Rally Championship title – WRC 6 – is nowhere to be found. This game simply does not exist on the PlayStation store, nor can it be found on the online hub traditionally accessed from a desktop computer. If you are planning to purchase WRC 6 for your wife’s son as punishment for failing his mid-terms, you won’t be able to do so.

wrc6There is still some sort of game overview page held on Sony’s official domain – indicating they’re aware the title exists – but actually busting out the credit card and trying to purchase the digital version of WRC 6 as a North American region consumer isn’t possible. This is not a game I was interested in buying for my PS4; I was merely confused as to why only WRC 5 appeared on the marketplace under the racing game category, when the title is over a year old, and was unanimously trashed by virtually everybody who touched it. I also have yet to see a physical copy of WRC 6 out in the wild; during my own black Friday adventures, boxes of WRC 5 still line the shelves at places like Best Buy and Wal-Mart, clearly left untouched for a period of several months.

I’m basically left under the impression that WRC 6 has been scrubbed from the PlayStation store, at least for North American users. Though some outlets, such as sim racing news hub TeamVVV and YouTube personality FailRace, have praised the title as a serious alternative to DiRT Rally, upon merely examining raw gameplay video of WRC 6 on YouTube, it’s hard to understand where this praise is coming from. WRC 6 is a PlayStation 4 game in name and compatibility, easily surpassed by the officially licensed WRC offerings released by Evolution Studios over a decade ago.

Oh, you thought I was kidding?

We have reached out to Kylotonn for further info, because $60 games traditionally don’t disappear into thin air in this manner.

Reader Submission #123 – Poor Post-Release Support for WRC 6

wrc-6-screenshotIt’s a rally themed weekend here at PRC.net, and while our post on Saturday celebrated the overwhelming spontaneous spike in DiRT 3’s Steam activity thanks to a fantastic deal over at Humble Bundle, we’re shifting gears for Sunday morning to talk about a rally title on the other end of the quality spectrum – Kylotonn’s WRC 6. Though the boys at Team VVV have praised WRC 6 as the best officially licensed piece of rally racing software in a long time, in reality those who have actually purchased the title and not been invited on a tour of the studio are more vocal than ever before about the title’s shortcomings. Today’s Reader Submission comes from Oliver T., who is frustrated with the way Kylotonn have handled the launch of WRC 6 – basically ignoring the legitimate complaints customers have made about the game.


wrc-6-screen-ps4-5-1024x576Hey PRC. I just want to point out the fact that WRC 6 still has no proper wheel support, and there has been complete radio silence from Kylotonn since the 18th of October – shortly after the game came out. I have a Logitech G27 with a TH8A shifter, yet because I don’t use the stock G27 side piece, I can’t use my wheel with WRC 6. It’s supposedly required to make the game register my G27 as a supported wheel. Take a look at the Steam forums, there are many people complaining about the various controller issues – eighteen pages worth!

One of the more comical problems people have found are scoring loop issues in the Super Special stages; you know, the ones where it’s a head-to-head crossover duel like the Race of Champions events? Even if you intentionally lose to the AI driver you’re pitted against, you can actually still win in the overall times at the end of the event, and I’ve created a video to demonstrate this.

There’s also a bug where French voice clips are inserted into the English co-driver pack, so as you’re driving your co-driver will randomly spout French phrases.

drunk-copilotWRC 6 isn’t that bad of a game, in fact I’d say it’s actually improved a lot compared to the trash we received last year, it’s just that some of the issues above – including lack of support for all but the most basic of steering wheel setups – serve to really ruin the experience.


9694_wrc6-yaris-2016_001_896x504Not surprised by any of this, to be honest. I remember back when I bought WRC 5, I noticed that the AI seemed to be heavily scripted, and regardless of how fast I thought I was going, I always ended up being a few tenths ahead of the field provided I ran a clean stage. I believe Kylotonn have structured the AI in a way where your finishing position is directly related to how many off-track excursions or incidents you have over the course of a single stage, and nothing else. For example, if you bounce off five barriers, the game detects you’re having a shitty run, and predetermines your finishing position to be third before you’ve actually crossed the finish line. Shady? Yes, but when you’re a company operating on a shoestring budget like Kylotonn, you don’t have the option of coding proper AI behavior.

I’d honestly like to see someone test this by sitting stationary at the starting gate for a good five minutes before going on an absolute tear, and seeing how the game scores their finishing position. If it still awards you with the win, it’s clear that WRC 6 doesn’t feature any actual artificial intelligence to speak of; just random times generated by the player’s performance.

As for the other issues, welcome to shovelware. That’s really what we’re dealing with here, and I’m still genuinely curious as to how these guys landed the World Rally Championship license in the first place.

Please Don’t Buy WRC 6

wrc6-2016-10-08-12-11-18-38This is more of a public service announcement than a proper review, but if you’re considering checking out Kylotonn’s WRC 6, which just launched yesterday, here’s a tip: Don’t. These guys should not be making video games, you should not be giving them your money, and hopefully the World Rally Championship will award the license to someone else in the near future. Now obviously we all know based on the history of the developer, as well as their previous outing in the genre, that maybe this isn’t going to live up to the standards of Richard Burns Rally, but will otherwise be a fun diversion for console owners and casual rally fans.

This is simply not the case. WRC 6 didn’t work for me, it isn’t working for a host of other people on the Steam forums, those who can play it are running into rather amateurish technical problems, and as a whole the product is yet another shining example of why there should be consumer advocate groups pushing for a base set of standards for all modern video games. This game is a scam, a rip-off, a waste of a license, and above all, a product that isn’t worth the $39.99 purchase, the fifteen gigabytes of space it takes up on your hard drive, or the one-hour download time.

I have attached hardcore DiRT Rally enthusiast Daniel Perry’s video of the game in action, to give people a non-obstructed example of how this game might look with a semi-talented driver at the wheel. Perry notes WRC 6 “should be a beta”, with the cockpit view not even centered with the steering wheel, stuttering occasionally disrupting the action, and an experience Perry notes to be a “good premise, but the release execution was terrible.” Beginning at the 2:30 mark, Perry goes on to describe some of his own personal grievances with the game; elements that simply should not have made it into the retail release.

I purchased WRC 6 because this is my role here on PRC.net; to evaluate new racing games that have come out and give our readers a brutally honest take on products that are sometimes dishonestly represented by mainstream driving game outlets. Earlier this morning, I had the pleasure of reading an article by Red Bull Gaming describing how WRC 6 is the best World Rally Championship game yet. I wish articles this misleading could be reported to someone who watched over this sort of thing, and the marketing practices fueling them could land the companies who spearhead these campaigns in hot water. My experience with WRC 6 simply does not mirror what Red Bull have written about this game in the slightest. It is my own personal opinion that Kylotonn have paid off this publication to write a positive piece on their product.

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It took three tries to start WRC 6; the first occasion I was rewarded with a small dialogue box stating DirectX Has Failed to Initialize, the second attempt opened the application in windowed mode before outright crashing, whereas the third successfully booted the game. Framerate problems, in which the application failed to surpass 19 FPS, were present beginning with the introduction video – which is literally just a video file and not rendered in-game. The menu chugged along to the tune of 15 FPS despite rendering a rather basic scene of a Citroen DS3 sitting in an empty garage, and immediately whisked me away to take part in the tutorial race. While the game was nice enough to ask me whether I’d like to calibrate and configure all of my shit before running the sample stage in the Volkswagen WRC car, I quickly discovered multiple input devices are once again not supported despite basically everybody complaining about it for the better part of a year with WRC 5. If you are any kind of serious sim racer who mixes and matches wheels and pedals to get the most out of your experience, you can’t play this game unless you’ve got an Xbox controller floating around. And with how precise you need to be in the discipline of rally racing regardless of what game you’re playing, an Xbox 360 pad obviously doesn’t cut it.

wrc6-2016-10-08-12-10-13-10I have not driven a single foot in WRC 6. The framerate problems are unbearable; present even when navigating menus to get to the stage in the first place, and common sim racing controller configurations aren’t supported. Daniel Perry mentions these issues in his video above, though he was lucky enough for his PC to handle the game where he could complete a stage for his YouTube audience.

So what about the people who have invested time into this game? What do they have to say about WRC 6?

lost-but-wonSteam user Oliver outright lost a super special stage, but WRC 6 declared him the winner. Another user by the name of Harry claimed he finished 9th in points after his first career mode season in one of the support classes, but the game glitched and suddenly claimed he had won the championship before giving him a random time penalty for.exceeding the repair time limit.

stutterMany users are reporting framerate issues, with some drawing attention to the fact that these stability concerns were never fixed in WRC 5, essentially making people drop $40 just to see if the new game addressed concerns that had been brought up twelve months ago. It’s despicable to treat your customers like this.

vrVirtual Reality support for WRC 6 had been advertised during the spring of 2016 at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in California, but Kylotonn have backpedaled on the feature at the eleventh hour, stating that they were not satisfied with the end result and they will explore the possibility of Virtual Reality functionality in the future. There are some people who bought WRC 6 primarily for the VR aspect of the game, and they have essentially found out through a forum post that Virtual Reality support isn’t actually in the retail product.

powerRichard Burns Rally online championship veteran Hadi writes that power-sliding in WRC 6 is extremely difficult due to the wonky differential behavior, and has even discovered that the R5-spec cars available in WRC 6 have the wrong number of gears. For a company to gain access to the official World Rally Championship license and yet get something as simple as the number of gears in a car completely wrong is nothing short of pathetic.

At this point, it’s easy to write off the Kylotonn series of WRC games as a complete waste of time that should be avoided by virtually anyone who’s even the least bit interested in auto racing, but we can actually take things a step further. Digging into the history of the company and their World Rally Championship licensed efforts, I’ve actually discovered portions of their previous title, WRC 5, were outsourced to students enrolling at Hetic, which is a French game design school. Kylotonn and Big Ben Interactive are literally selling you a school project passed off as an official WRC game.

wrc-5-school-projectThe articles are difficult to track down thanks to being written in Francais, but the premise is quite simple – segments of WRC 5, and possibly WRC 6 as well, were developed in part by kids sitting in a classroom, and sold to you for $60.

wrc5-2I think it’s fairly easy to see what I’m getting at here. WRC 6 is not a product you should even contemplate purchasing. This is a game that in any other genre would be torn apart by mainstream gaming outlets in a manner similar to No Man’s Sky or Batman: Arkham Knight, but because racing games have been placed firmly off to the side in favor of first person shooters and virtual card collecting sports games, Kylotonn will be able to get away with pushing a broken game via deceptive marketing practices with basically no repercussions. For the length of time these guys are tasked with making officially licensed World Rally Championship products, avoid them like the plague.

Kylotonn Enters the Previous Console Generation

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We were all fully aware that the inaugural officially-licensed World Rally Championship release by Kylotonn Games would be one of the worst racing games ever created for next-generation consoles, but few were prepared for just how bad of an experience WRC 5 would be when it arrived in our hands during October of last year. Featuring driving physics and visuals eclipsed by even the lowliest of PlayStation 2 titles, technical issues requiring several updates to rectify, and horrifically pitiful stage layouts, WRC 5 landed somewhere between a flash-based MiniClip.com offering, and V-Rally 3 by then-backmarker Eden Games. It was hard to believe license holders for the FIA World Rally Championship would deem a product like this to be acceptable for a virtual representation of their sport; the only person who seemed to genuinely enjoy WRC 5 was a rabid Eastern European individual hard who had developed an obsession with the shovelware title.

Somehow managing to retain exclusive rights to the license for yet another season, Kylotonn Games are set to give the series another go with the release of WRC 6 later this year. Acquiring the talented Jay Ekkel from Sector 3 Studios, and promising to listen to the community’s numerous complaints regarding last years entry, Kylotonn have immediately came out and proclaimed that stages in WRC 6 are said to be much longer and increasingly more difficult – though those two issues are merely a light sampling of the drastic changes required to make this title worth a purchase.

Footage of the title has arrived, and aside from it being shot off-screen, meaning some of the visual fidelity will be lost, we at least get a chance to see this game in action. And as you expected, it looks like a shitty PS3 game:

There’s been a tangible effort to improve the amount of trackside objects, but judging by the standards set from previous Milestone efforts, this is how last year’s game should have looked from the start. The game’s lighting is a noticeable improvement over WRC 5, but still fails to match what Codemasters could accomplish in DiRT 3 – on hardware released to the public in 2005. There are shots of an inexperienced console pleb driving poorly with a standard gamepad, but the notoriously poor physics are set to make a return, albeit with reduced grip levels, and increased weight transfer effects. The whole offering looks like something you’d see on the PlayStation 3, and promptly decide after a few minutes of preview footage, that you weren’t interested anymore. This may have been fine in 2006 or 2007, but it’s 2016 – a full decade later.

PRC.net is obviously a place for the hardcore sim crowd to talk openly about what we as a group want from sim racing, so indeed we’re naturally going to take a very negative approach to casual titles like WRC 6. However, given the fact that Codemasters managed to achieve so much with the dudebro DiRT trilogy, and those three games are still tons of fun to play and extremely polished, seeing a game like WRC 6 stumble out of the blocks is nothing short of pathetic. I can easily recall the days when yearly Colin McRae, WRC Rally Evolved, and eventually the DiRT series were brand new, and each title was something I genuinely wanted to grab within the first few days of release. Had Kylotonn’s WRC 6 been announced in 2007 as an Xbox 360 title, with the same exact screenshots and gameplay footage, I’d be just as uninterested in it back then as I am now. I’m not saying the series should be put out of its misery, but from an objective point of view, WRC 6 appears to add nothing of value to the genre, and can barely match the visual fidelity of products on inferior hardware.

And for the PC audience, at least, they appear to feel the same way.

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