EA Sports WRC is the latest officially licensed World Rally Championship game and, thanks to EA for providing me with a copy, I've been lucky enough to get hands-on with a preview build of the game a few weeks before launch.
That of course means that everything you see here is subject to change and not necessarily representative of the final version, but things certainly seem to be shaping up well.
- EA SPORTS WRC // FORD FIESTA -
Being developed by the racing afficionados at Codemasters, this is a WRC game with a lot of promise, especially considering the studio's 25+ years of experience with rally games that includes the Colin McRae Rally and DiRT series. It's a promise that they look set to fulfil as the game already plays very well and has an 'easy to pick up, yet challenging to master' feel that should offer something for those new to the genre and returning veterans.
- EA SPORTS WRC // FIESTA ROLL -
Codemasters also know their way around a photo mode with a pedigree that can be seen in recent F1 titles and DiRT 5, as well as ONRUSH which itself can trace some lineage back to the excellent photo mode of Driveclub via the short-lived Codemasters Evo team.
- DIRT 5 // ONRUSH -
No surprise then that EA Sports WRC includes a fully-featured photo mode, and it can be found during any post-event replay where it is possible to fast-forward and rewind through the last rally stage to find the right moment to capture some shots.
The camera itself offers both orbital and free-cam movement modes with pan, tilt, and 90° roll, all within a range of 25 - 30 or so around the car. That's plenty of range to get shots of the vehicle from lots of different angles, but not quite wide-reaching enough if you are hoping for helicopter style shots as you barrel through the terrain.
- EA SPORTS WRC // PHOTO MODE -
The on-screen UI brings up a host of options that include a modest zoom range of 10 - 60 mm, fully manual focusing, and variable aperture values to create depth of field. There are even a handful of different bokeh shapes should you want to tweak the look of defocused light sources – note that the difference between the shapes is most prominent at larger f/stop values.
- EA SPORTS WRC // BOKEH -
A focus plane and thirds grid add some useful visual aids, but by far the most significant option here is shutter speed. Adding a sense of motion is absolutely critical when shooting any form of motorsport, and having shutter speed control to determine exactly how much motion blur appears in the shot is absolutely the best approach.
The available shutter speeds range from 1/8000 s at the fastest, to 1/30 s at the slowest with 9 stops along the way to find the right amount of blur, and using the Attach to Vehicle toggle, the effect can be applied to look as though the car is zooming past the camera or being tracked by it.
- EA SPORTS WRC // MOTION BLUR -
Note though, that you won't see any immediate effect while simply cycling through the values. Instead, you will need to press the RT to process the motion blur and then give it a few seconds while the rendering blends a number of frames – presumably using the replay for movement data – to generate the blur.
- EA SPORTS WRC // AUDI QUATTRO -
With the composition taken care of, a bunch of picture options let you adjust the end result with colour filters of variable intensity, as well as saturation, contrast, and a rather underpowered exposure setting. Film grain, chromatic aberration, and vignette effects add some imperfections that mimic camera flaws, and a selection of frames include a cinematic crop and some nice graphical overlays.
On the final tab, the WRC logo and stage information are things that I'll personally be turning off on almost every shot – perhaps setting these to off would be a better default – but the ability to add dust and dirt to the car is a welcome one.
- EA SPORTS WRC // MCRAE R4 -
Overall then, the EA Sports WRC photo mode is looking pretty good and, although it may not be the most comprehensive camera suite to come out of Codemasters – I'd like to see the spotlight from DiRT 5 included for a start – it's great to see the studio continuing their support for virtual photography.
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