One of rallying’s greatest icons steps into the limelight once again.
Developer: Milestone S.r.l.
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: Xbox One (Version Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC
Release Date: March 22, 2016 (U.S)
Finally, Sébastien Loeb has joined the ranks of those who have forever been etched into video game history. Italian developers Milestone are handling the task of doing his legacy justice, having had plenty of experience in the field of rallying already. In fact, Milestone were the developers of the official WRC games from 2010 – 2013, and Sébastien Loeb Rally Evo marks the end of their three-year absence away from the genre.
The first thing that strikes you when getting behind the wheel in Sébastien Loeb Rally Evo is how awkward the handling feels. It’s not easy to drift around corners, particularly because of an abundance of understeer. The default behind-the-car camera is particularly tricky to get used to as well. It doesn’t feel like it has a place here — it looks awkward and feels unnatural. Switching to the in-car cockpit option suddenly made me feel more at home and better equipped to navigate the roads.
Although it’s a competent racer, the game suffers from a lack of speed. We all know how frantic real-life rallying can be, but in Sébastien Loeb Rally, races feel like more of a badly-planned afternoon drive than a hotly-contested competition. That doesn’t mean you can afford to lose concentration, though. Make no mistake about it; Sébastien Loeb Rally Evo is all about simulation. There’s little room for error in your actions, so paying attention to your co-pilot’s directions is a must.
There’s a lot of variety on offer, from traversing the winding roads in Italy to skidding along the snow and ice in Sweden
That said, the game does its best to cater to the casual audience. You can alter all manner of options to assist with things like braking and the difficulty of the game’s AI. There’s also a particularly useful rewind feature that, although it may not be an original creation, certainly helps to correct any wrongdoings. Veterans of the genre haven’t been neglected either, with all sorts of options available for tinkering with the feel of each car.
You’re going to need that fine-tuning when navigating the various stages. There’s a lot of variety on offer, from traversing the winding roads in Italy to skidding along the snow and ice in Sweden. The game also boasts over 50 car models of different shapes and sizes. From the Peugeot 106 to the Ford Fiesta R5, there are plenty of licensed vehicles to get your teeth into. You can purchase these cars with in-game credits or rent them for events, and certain models can even be earned by completing specific races. Unfortunately, they don’t come packaged with copious amounts of detail, but they do a good enough job of representing their real-life counterparts.
You’ll come into contact with all sorts of scenarios when playing through the game’s extensive set of modes. In addition to the traditional rally events, you can also compete in rallycross and the official Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The game’s career mode is lengthy and varied, but lacks a bit of substance. After a while, it all starts to feel a bit samey and the desire to progress gradually fades.
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The Sébastien Loeb Challenge is a particularly welcome addition, allowing you to replay key events in the driver’s life. This mode is packed with extensive interviews featuring the man himself, detailing the important moments of his career. It’s a great way to learn about the storied history of one of rallying’s greatest stars. Online play is also present, with races being contested by up to twelve people. I didn’t notice any issues with lag during my experience, which was welcoming to see.
Unfortunately, Sébastien Loeb Rally Evo’s weakest aspect is its visuals. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the graphics look like something out of a game from the late 2000’s at times. The environments don’t look too bad when you’re cruising at high speeds, but they lack detail when viewed up close. I also experienced a few bugs throughout my time with the game, including literally never-ending loading screens and videos failing to load.
In the early days of Sébastien Loeb’s career, not everything went as smoothly as he’d hoped. He was still doing incredible things, but he hadn’t reached his peak yet. Just like everyone else, he hit a few pitfalls along the way, and there were occasions when it seemed like he wasn’t going to be able to recover. Sébastien Loeb Rally Evo shares many similarities with this part of his career. With a little refinement, it could be the best rally experience on the market. As of yet, it hasn’t quite reached its potential, but remains a worthy competitor.