Saturday, 30 January 2016

Sebastién Loeb Rally Evo

Developed by Milestone S.r.l and out now for PS4, Xbox One, and PC comes Sebastién Loeb Rally Evo. At last, the current gen Frenchman simulator we've all been waiting for! If you like prancing around the house, affecting a French accent in the obnoxious and insensitive way that the British are unmatched at and saying things like “oh look at me, I like ze baguettes and ze onions”, then you might be interested in this. If this is an accurate description of you then please don't talk to me though – you sound like a bit of a racist prick.

The 'Frenchman simulator' thing wasn't (just) an excuse for a cheap and questionable joke. Whereas the vast majority of sports games with a team or celebrity name stapled onto them wouldn't be any different without, that's not the case here. Of course, there's the familiar claim that Sebastién Loeb himself helped design the game to ensure that it's as realistic as possible. We'll never know how much involvement Monsieur Loeb truly had, but it's certainly accurate to say that this is usually a pretty unforgiving racer. For example, the press release goes to pains to explain that other, (presumably) lesser rally games artificially widen the tracks. I know, right? Tweaking the roads so that things are a little more comfortable for players? Utter bastards!

The claim is, naturally, that the tracks and car handling are as close to the real thing as is humanly possible. I'll reluctantly admit that I have participated in very few professional rally races, so I'll basically take their word for it. Some very important boxes are ticked, though. For one thing, there's an immediately noticeable difference between cars, though this tends to be in terms of power rather than handling. There's a variety of road surfaces you'll find yourself driving over too, sometimes more than one in the same track, and the impact they have on your car is enormous. Dry tarmac? Pah! Bring it on! The likes of icy roads, gravel, and snow will however have you reassessing your skill level very quickly.

One thing that will probably strike you on your first session is the graphical quality. It's not bad – not really – but, well... if Forza 6 is a high class call girl, Sebastién Loeb Rally Evo is a strumpet who does special favours in exchange for a pack of Benson and Hedges. In a weird kind of way that adds to the rough and dirty atmosphere of the rally driving, and only for two brief moments in cockpit view did I experience any kind of frame rate issues.

As well as a career mode with the aim of eventually joining Loeb himself, there are a series of events where you replicate notable moments in Loeb's real-world career, each time assigning you a specific car and track accordingly. It's a neat idea, and you're even given a specific objective to match. Most of the time this basically just means 'win' but in one event, for example, you must win and attain a top speed of at least 100mph.

It's not all roses and sunshine. I played this before release, and literally nobody was playing online, so I can't comment on that. This is unfortunately often a sign that things won't be much better when the game releases – but who knows? Then there's the now-obligatory rewind feature, both a blessing and a curse. It's a godsend for those who find rally games challenging at the best of times (which this is even with all assists on), but the limits placed on the regularity and length of its use can on rare occasion render it useless. Worse yet, I twice somehow managed to crash in such a way that my car was stuck on its side and the game wouldn't reset me to track and the rewind feature wouldn't go back far enough. But then, that sort of thing does seem to happen to me.

So online is a complete unknown at time of writing, there are minor technical issues, and on top of that some car design and track combos make playing in cockpit view impractical. And yet... it kept me coming back for more.

It's unforgiving, but rally rather good. 3/5.


Luke Kemp

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