Sebastien Loeb Rally EVO
Sebastien Loeb has been rally racing for 18 years now, and he’s finally got a game that bares his name. Conversely, Milestone has created many racing games, and while a lot of their output is questionable, their WRC series of rally racers has been highly-regarded and this is essentially acting as its spiritual successor. In typical rally game fashion, you’ve got career, regular rally races, rallycross, pikes peak, and snow racing to compete in. There’s also a new twist on the career mode – the Sebastien Loeb Experienece, where you’ll experience his greatest rally moments. Compared to games like the Rallisport Challenge series, there aren’t as many modes offered up here – but the ones offered up are executed fairly well.
No matter which of the core game modes you play, the key is that the racing action itself is exciting and well-crafted. Milestone’s game engine has been used in many games, but it rarely results in much excitement. Games like MXGP and MotoGP have routinely been functionally okay, but very boring to actually play. This trend generally continues with Rally EVO and its plethora of modes that follow a formula that gets old fairly quickly.
Whether you take part in the uphill climbs of pikes peak, rallycross events against others, or general rally racing, you’re treated to a basic race>menu>repeat formula. It’s something that can cripple even the best of games – like the Forza franchise, but that can at least be aided by having other features to help mix things up. There, you have a lot of racing styles to enjoy and can do things like craft designs and explore the interiors of cars. Here, you don’t have that variety and the overall presentation is pretty lifeless.
If you want to do something other than rally racing, then your only option is rallycross. Fortunately, it is executed very well and the AI doesn’t just roll over and die for you. They will engage and be competitive, so you at least feel like your time is being spent well as opposed to being wasted. The core engine is by-the-numbers good, but rarely results in exciting races. The controls are excellent though – and using the Xbox One’s impulse triggers with vibration going throughout the entire controller really does add to the experience.
Speaking of that, the Sebastien Loeb Experience mode is part self-congratulatory tribute and part game mode. A dubbed interview with Loeb goes over how Loeb was a high-level gymnast before racing on bikes, scooters, and then becoming the greatest rally driver of all-time by virtue of simply being more gifted than everyone else. Fortunately, he’s very humble and gives credit to co-drivers and sponsors. As a gaming mode, it delivers both a well-rounded array of game modes and some unintentional comedy – so it’s fairly satisfying to go through.
Those who prefer a traditional rally game where you just battle the clock will love the rally modes. Racing on each kind of terrain feels very different, and adds a bit of challenge too. If you’re racing on asphalt, you’ll have a lot of grip, while racing on dirt is trickier. Your car will slide around a lot more, so you have to be more careful with your movement. Snow is the toughest surface to race on, and will challenge you quite a bit. Sadly, there’s no ice racing – which is a shame since that was one of the best parts of Rallisport Challenge and something very few games have had since then.
The overall racing physics feel a bit iffy at times. While driving on pavement feels fairly natural, other surfaces almost feel like you’re gliding over them and not actually having wheels interact with dirt or snow. Similarly, any time you wind up flying in the air, there’s no real weight to your car – it’s as if a paper replica of it has been sent airborne. It doesn’t kill the game, but does break the immersion whenever it happens.
Online play is featured for every in-game mode outside of the career and Loeb modes. Rally racing online with just times to compare one another two may not be exciting, but is a lag-free experience and something that is honestly more fun than playing online rallycross. When playing that online, you wind up with everyone in a mad dash for first and then just hitting one another constantly. This game engine isn’t really optimized for arcade-style racing like that, and you’ll spin out with ease and be guaranteed a loss when someone spins you out. Fortunately, every other mode is just fine and even when playing rallycross, most players aren’t out to be jerks.
Visually, Rally EVO is fairly impressive. Whether you’re racing in the cockpit or outside of it, you’ll be treated to high-quality car models. Damage is intricately-modeled, and you’ll see the windshield get gradually destroyed over the course of a rage – or outright smashed to bits during a huge crash. Trackside objects also look good, while dirt kicking up is realistic in theory – even if it doesn’t really pile onto the car much. In keeping with Rallisport Challenge, even the first game on the original Xbox built up the dirt and snow on your car in a more impressive manner than this game.
Musically, the soundtrack is rock-heavy and fairly forgettable. Fortunately, it’s a rally racer – so the soundtrack isn’t a huge deal. What matters most is being able to hear your co-driver, and they come in loud and clear. On-screen indicators showing how large the upcoming turns are help too – in case you want to play a relaxing silent game. The overall sound design is good, with solid crashes and paint-rubbing – but nothing that stays with you or wows you.
Overall, Sebastien Loeb Rally EVO is a disappointing affair. While it delivers a technically-good game, it rarely delivers exciting action. Rallycross races are one of the game’s best parts, except for when they’re played online. Off- and online, the rally races can be very fun in short doses, while long play sessions can drag on due to the overly-formulaic nature of the game’s structure. As a full-priced title, it’s hard to recommend this game – but it can easily be enjoyed as a rental or a $40 or below purchase.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Square Enix
This review is based on a digital copy of Sebastien Loeb Rally EVO for the Xbox One provided by Square Enix.