WRC3 Vita Review - Team VVV

Reviews WRC3 Vita Review


Martin Bigg


Posted on

Game: WRC 3

Platform: PC, PS3, PSVita, XB360

Publisher: Bandai Namco, Black Bean Games

Release Date: 12/10/2012

Until recently, Sony’s slow-starting PlayStation Vita handheld was sorely lacking in decent driving games. The usually reliable Ridge Racer turned out to be a shameful cash-in completely stripped of content, Asphalt: Injection was irrefutably expensive for what was essentially an expanded port of a cheap-as-chips mobile game and the least said about the sloppy port of F1 2011 the better.

Thankfully, two recent efforts managed to redeem the situation and show what the Vita is capable of for racing games. I’m talking, of course, about WRC3 and Need for Speed: Most Wanted – two very different games with vastly different budgets, yet both represent the developer’s first attempt at a Vita game.

We’ll be assessing both competitors, but for now here’s our review of Milestone’s maiden Vita project in conjunction with our extensive video play-through of the game.


First, the compromises. Being a port of the core console game, it’s unsurprising to find some sacrifices were made in WRC3’s transition to the Vita, which is a shame as many naive consumers will be expecting a direct port.

WRC3’s Road to Glory career mode is the most glaring omission, meaning that, consequently, there’s no central career whatsoever in WRC3 on Vita. Milestone argue this is because they wanted to offer a quick pick-up-and-play experience that you can dip in and out of on short journeys for example, and you can certainly understand their logic. After all, handheld games are traditionally meant to be digested in bite-sized chunks, so developers make the appropriate cutbacks.

But the Vita is no ordinary handheld.  As misguided as it may seem on Sony’s part in a world with smartphones offering smaller games perfect for arduous train journeys that cost a few measly pennies, the Vita is heavily marketed as a ‘hardcore handheld’ capable of console-quality games on the go.

There will therefore be some owners that use it for extended periods and treat it like another console, thus raising expectations for the games – particularly when Vita games are often sold at a similar price to their console-equivalents, which is why Sony’s CrossPlay scheme was such a godsend. Sadly, CrossPlay wasn’t viable for WRC3 on Vita because of its differences.

For the Vita’s hardcore audience, WRC3 lacks that crucial satisfying sense of progression. Without a structured career mode, there are no unlocks to keep you coming back for more, for example, making the overall package feel barebones and aimless. Indeed, it’s a similar situation to Gran Turismo on PSP, which was universally slated for not including the life-stealing Gran Turismo career mode.

Instead, you’re left with the WRC Experience mode which follows the same pure unadulterated rallying structure as the console game, and can also be played online with up to six players. Time trial rallies can be tackled in single stages, multiple stages that make up a single rally or a full-blown championship that incorporates every location in the official WRC calendar.

Well, I say every location. But that would be a lie, as only six stages are available out of the box in the Vita version – that’s less than half the number of locations found in the core game. Do not despair, though, as  post-release DLC has since been made available adding three additional locations, bringing the total up to nine. It still falls short of WRC3’s 13 total locations (14 if you include the Safari DLC) and you could argue it should have been in the game from the outset, but, in fairness to Milestone, this would have been too much of a strain on the Vita according to the developers.

Besides which, Milestone already seem to be aware that the content ideally should have been included in the game on release, which is why the DLC is available completelyfree of charge. It’s a commendable move on Milestone’s part, especially when other developers would have seen it as a money-making opportunity. I’m looking at you Ridge Racer.

It’s a similar story for the car count. Since you are restricted to the cars found in WRC Experience, i.e. WRC, Class 2 and Class, WRC3 on Vita has been deprived of the eclectic mix of ‘70s, ‘80s and Group B cars that were a central part of the Road to Glory mode. It’s a shame, because there was a lot of fun to be had driving such a variety of legendary rally cars from different periods as opposed to being tied with the crop of contemporary cars in the current championship.

Road to Glory 
Fortunately, these sacrifices paid off, as WRC3 absolutely sings on the Vita’s dazzling OLED screen. Indeed, it’s incredible just how closely the graphics resemble the console game, as Milestone were able to virtually copy the code over. All of the bells and whistles from Spike Engine remain intact, from the advanced lighting system to the detailed car models, damage modelling and even the cockpit cameras, which is a testament to the Vita’s capability. In fact, I would go as far to say that some stages look even better than the console game – the added foliage applied to the Acropolis stage is a prime example, and details on the track textures often appear with more clarity, somehow.

Other tracks fare less well, however, such as Germany which looks comparatively bland with its plain detail-less track textures. It’s therefore by no means a perfect replication. Car decals look a little low-res on closer inspection, and the visuals unsurprisingly pale in comparison to the Vita’s first party line-up such as Uncharted and Wipeout. But I’m nit-picking, to be honest – for a handheld game, WRC3 looks very sumptuous indeed on Vita and is a shining example of a handheld game that looks every bit as good as it does on home console, thus fulfilling Sony’s aspirations.

I’ll admit I was dubious about the Vita’s analogue stick being able to provide accurate steering for the precision driving required in WRC3’s relentless rallies. Fortunately, I was proved wrong as, surprisingly, every nuance of WRC3’s improved handling model has been transferred into the Vita game, despite its limitations. As a result, the controls are extremely fluid, allowing you to chuck the car around the notoriously tight hairpin turns with ample accuracy. Granted, you can’t feather the throttle with the same precision as a standard controller or wheel, but progressively tapping the throttle trigger produces the same effect as you get into the flow of the stage.

The only downside is that, bewilderingly, you can’t change the controls. You can therefore only accelerate and brake using the triggers, which may not be to everyone’s liking. You have to applaud Milestone for taking a punt with the Vita. Given its small market (the PSP still vastly outsells the Vita to this day), releasing such a specialist title on a system with an already limited audience was surely a risky strategy.

And yet Milestone is clearly enamoured with the Vita and see its potential – a port of their motocross title MUD was released soon after, and a Vita version of their new upcoming MotoGP game is also planned. If only more developers could adopt a similar attitude, as the Vita is still in need of a true system seller and more quality games to bolster its library. A price cut wouldn’t do it any harm, either.

When porting WRC3 onto the Vita, Milestone clearly set out to fully replicate the console game’s graphics and playability as faithfully as possible, which they have succeeded in spades. While some of the content sacrifices are unfortunate, it was a necessary trade-off and the result is an absolute must-buy for Vita owners clamouring for a deep driving game. As Milestone gains more experience with the Vita, they will hopefully learn how to squeeze more out of the system in order to fit in more content in future projects.

As a complete package, Need for Speed: Most Wanted triumphs over WRC’s stripped down suite, but as a core, challenging driving experience, WRC3 is second to none and can safely proclaim itself as the most realistic driving game currently available on Vita.

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Our Review

7 /10


As a complete package, Need for Speed: Most Wanted triumphs over WRC’s stripped down suite, but as a core, challenging driving experience, WRC3 is second to none and can safely proclaim itself as the most realistic driving game currently available on Vita.

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