EA Sports WRC has been quite some years in the making and not just because Codemasters acquired the WRC rights in 2020, or their billion-dollar buyout by the publishing giants at EA. No, there's more history to this.
The studio goes way back to the days of Amiga, with Micro Machines being a firm favourite, but it was arguably with the original Colin McRae Rally on PlayStation that they really made a name for themselves. Eventually morphing into DiRT series and spanning a total of 14 games, you can see why they say this is a WRC game built from the DiRT up.
- EA SPORTS WRC // FORD -
As an evolution of the sim-oriented DiRT Rally 2.0, as opposed to the more arcade-style of DiRT 5, this is the culmination of over 25 years of experience with the rally genre. If like me, you're more of a circuit racer, can be unforgiving at times and there's no doubt that the slippery loose surfaces and undulating bumps come with something of a learning curve if you want to drive quickly and keep the car in one piece.
It's certainly not unapproachable though, and a series of lessons at the Rally School will introduce the concepts and techniques of rally driving that are needed to handle the 500 hp turbo-hybrid WRC beasts. There is no need to start at the top either, and the career mode lets you either dive straight into the WRC cars or begin with the less powerful WRC 2 and WRC Junior cars to work up from.
- EA SPORTS WRC // MODES -
There are also a host of cars and classes like the 1960's works Mini Cooper and legendary Group B cars to enjoy across custom championships and the seasonal Moments that offer real and fictional scenarios from rally history. Regularity Rallies offer a change of pace with the target being a specific average speed instead of going flat out, but if you do want to be tested, the online leaderboards and competitive events will show exactly how fast you are, or aren't as the case may be.
The good news though is that even though it is rewarding to build up the speed, you don't technically have to be that fast to be able to enjoy the photo mode.
Key Photo Mode Features:
Shutter speed with motion blur rendering
Adjustable bokeh shape
Control to add dirt to cars
Controls & Implementation:
The photo mode in WRC can be found by entering any post-event replay and pressing the ☐ button. That does mean that if you skip the replay then you miss any opportunity to shoot that last run, but does at least remove any distraction to grab photos while driving.
To access the rest of the settings, you just need to hit the Options button...
Once open, the photo mode initially uses an orbital camera that rotates around the car, but another press of ☐ switches to a free camera that can be repositioned and aimed in any direction. The range extends to maybe 25–30 m which is enough to explore dynamic shots of the car along with the 90° roll, but does fall short of those wide-framed dust trails that the replays often tease.
- EA SPORTS WRC // SUBARU -
To access the rest of the available settings, you just need to hit the Options button to bring up the three UI tabs, note that this does disable the camera movement, so it helps to setup a quick composition to work with first.
The main tab includes the essential camera controls including a moderate zoom to adjust the field of view, aperture f-stop values to control depth of field, and manual focus. You'll also find a handy thirds grid, the option to adjust the shaped of defocused bokeh to match different aperture shapes, and a visualisation of the camera's precise plane of focus.
- WRC // PHOTO MODE UI -
That last one is worth paying attention to because the WRC photo mode also features shutter speed, making it possible to generate varying amounts of motion blur from a stationary camera or by tracking the car – which is where accurate focus is critical.
Essentially, the visible depth of field is deeper than you might expect, even at the widest apertures, and the motion blur relies on the precise plane. So, what can look like perfect focus on the front of a car may not actually be when things start moving.
- WRC // OUT OF FOCUS -
The focus plane visualisation helps here and is what you should rely on to keep the car as sharp as possible at longer shutter speeds, just don't forget to turn it off before pressing R2 to render the motion or it will baked into the shot.
Jumping onto the next tab, a selection of edits and effects are available to make some alterations to the image, again though, this has to be done before applying motion blur for it to take effect. The 21 colour filters are quite attractive and useful, especially thanks to their variable intensity which means that even the single colour filters can be softened to use as a mild tonal adjustment.
- WRC // FILTERS & FRAMES -
Contrast and Saturation work just as you might expect, but the Exposure setting is largely ineffective. This is a shame and leaves you with very little control over how much light there is in the scene, especially given that this photo mode unfortunately hasn't been treated to the custom spotlight that we saw in DiRT 5.
Chromatic Aberration, Film Grain, and Vignette round off the image effects with some useful camera flaws, and a handful of stylish frames and borders can be found on the final tab. This is also where you'll need to come to find toggles for the on-screen stage information and WRC logo and, although I totally get their purpose, I do wish these were disabled by default.
- EA SPORTS WRC // AUDI -
Don't sleep on the very last setting though. It's titled Dirt and will cover the nice, clean car with various amounts of dust and crud from the road surface – I'm just a little sad that it wasn't stylised as "DiRT".
The inclusion of shutter speed & motion blur make all the difference when creating a sense of speed...
Photographing EA Sports WRC is inevitably going to be all about the rally cars and, although is it possible to turn the camera around to take in more of the scenery, don't expect this to be a particular strength. That doesn't stop the various locations from being excellent settings though with each providing different feel as you rally through Chilean mountains, Kenyan Savannah, and Swedish forests over gravel, dust, and snow.
- EA SPORTS WRC // FIAT -
As for the cars themselves, there are 10 current machines to try across the WRC, WRC 2, and WRC Junior classes, plus another 68 iconic vehicles that cover the last 60 years of rallying. Models are detailed enough for close-ups and will suffer realistic, and in some cases drastic damage over the course of a stage.
- EA SPORTS WRC // DAMAGE -
The inclusion of shutter speed and motion blur are also great things to have and make all the difference when creating a sense of speed, totally transforming an otherwise static shot into something much more dynamic. The only downside is that is does seem to cause a small downgrade in quality on the car itself, with the loss of finer details and more visible aliasing.
- MOTION OFF // MOTION ON -
Despite that, the game remains a great opportunity to capture shots of rally cars from across the eras doing what they do best. Plus, with the novel car builder system, it's even possible to construct and design a bespoke one of your own.
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EA Sports WRC is everything you'd expect from a studio with deep expertise, not only with making rally games but also with in-game photography tools and is excellent to play and to photograph. The inclusion of shutter speed and the resulting motion blur is undoubtedly the prize feature, and although it is unfortunate that this comes with a slight cost to image quality, this is still a photo mode worth getting DiRT-y for.