What do you get if you cross WRC with online play and falling boulders? An evolution of course. And this certainly feels the case when the game opens with a belting Kasabian soundtrack and an impressive montage of in-game crashes.
As before, the locations stretch right across all four corners of the globe, and frequently feature climbs and descents so horrifyingly steep that you'll be asking for a safety rope in some instances. It's at these high speeds that the graphics really start to impress, and thankfully scenery pop-up is largely constrained to when you've just fallen off a mountain.
Better still, WRC's random weather and racing events - which include floods and competitors' cars randomly catching fire - can greatly affect how stages play out, so any notion of racing on autopilot goes out the window.
Progression is made via the standard World Championship mode, with tracks and cars unlocked as you complete and win races. Care must be taken this time around though, as damage can be carried across stages, meaning that vital repairs in between races are even more essential.
TIME FOR A TWEAK
A range of customisation options are also available, allowing just about every element of your car to be tweaked and tuned, from brake bias to gear ratios, spring and damper settings. Driver aids are equally comprehensive and include traction control and steering assist. Taking time to tweak your motor to suit your style and the nature of the stage is the key to success in WRC, and results will vary drastically depending on whether you get things right or not. In addition to the bog-standard choice of rally vehicles, WRC's garage also houses a bunch of concept and historic cars for you to unlock. That takes the total number of vehicles in the game to over 40 from the past, present and future.
But it's not all roses in WRC's asphalt garden. Owners of last year's game will find little to justify the outlay on the latest instalment. As the title suggestions, it's very much 'evolution' rather than 'revolution' this time around. The 'revolution' presumably being saved for the inevitable PS3 game. But when the action is this fast, furious, comprehensive and unpredictable, first time rallyers will have few if any complaints. Darwin would be proud.
An excellent rally game that would sit proudly in your collection. Ranks alongside Colin McRae as the best in the genre.