Sébastien Loeb is arguably the best rally driver in history, and certainly the most successful with nine consecutive World Rally Championship wins. This racing legend takes centre stage for the latest rally driving game from developer Milestone, as it is no longer making the officially licensed WRC titles. After four very arcade-y attempts at the genre, a change has finally come with a stronger emphasis on simulation.
Many drivers within the motorsport world have had their name attached to video game titles, including rally drivers such as Colin McRae, Richard Burns and Tommi Makinen. However, with this title, Milestone hasn’t just slapped the name on the cover and then spat out another generic WRC clone like its last few offerings.
Instead, the game features a special mode that focuses exclusively on the many highlights of Loeb’s occupation. Known simply as the Loeb Experience, it allows players to step right in and drive the cars and stages from the defining moments of Sébastien’s distinguished career. Complemented by a lengthy and very personal interview with the man himself, it’s a great feature that rally fans will no doubt appreciate and enjoy.
SLRE also has a more traditional career mode, with a long list of events across all the different vehicle classes. The game features three distinct forms of racing with rally, rallycross and hillclimbs all being represented. Some variation is thrown into the mix too: a knockout elimination mode for rallycross will keep you on your toes, while a very cool rally-drift mode will task you with tackling full length stages without pace notes, all while trying to rack up a massive drift score.
Stages are one area that have been harshly criticised in Milestone’s previous WRC games, and rightly so, as they have been flat and uninteresting. This trend has finally been broken, though, with truly nasty tracks that are both narrow and dangerous replacing the wide slothful roads from the WRC 4 game. There is also some excellent track variety not only between the countries but within each rally as well. For instance, the Wales rally features the iconic Great Orme tarmac stage, which is a nice addition to the gravel Sweetlamb-Hafren complex that is more commonly seen in games.
Next up is the car selection, which is actually very good. However, the focus on Sébastien means that for better or worse, every single Citroën rally car for the last 15 years has to make an appearance. While this does artificially bolster the line-up somewhat, the remaining vehicles are classic rally cars right through to more modern favourites. Most of them also feature the official liveries too, which is a bonus.
The detail is perhaps a bit subdued on a few of the car models, though the ability to change the paint liveries to other preset designs is nice. There is also an annoying issue where no gear shifter lights are mounted inside the cockpit for many older vehicles, which will possibly frustrate players using a manual transmission. But these are small nitpicks, and with plenty of variety across all types of drivetrain, there’s something for everyone.
And now it’s time to talk about the less praiseworthy parts. While the frame rate for the PS4 version hovers around the 30fps mark most of the time, racing some stages at night causes the frame rate to yo-yo constantly with frequent and very noticeable drops. Careering along gravel roads in the pitch black is difficult enough as it is, but with the performance issues piled on top, these courses become almost un-drivable.
There are also a couple of annoying audio flaws. The incidental sound effects such as the car hitting various objects and the tyres squealing are atrocious – there’s no variation here, but there are clipping problems! I even struck instances where no sound was played at all after I smacked a guard rail at high speed.
The co-driver pace notes are also a small let-down, as while they are serviceable, there are no special calls for objects on the track (like gates!), and this led to my car meeting a sticky end on more than one occasion.
Multiplayer does feature in the game as well, with both single stage rally and rallycross options available. The feature list is spartan from my brief perusal through the lobby menus, but there is also an online leaderboard if you want to compete indirectly against other players. The game does feature a server browser instead of just match-making which is a plus, though I was unable to try out the multiplayer as no one else was online during my time with the game prior to the review embargo.
Sébastien Loeb Rally Evo is not perfect or even anywhere near close to it, though with a couple of patches it could definitely be markedly improved. However, the key point to take away here is that this a huge step in the right direction for Milestone, and certainly its best rally game to date by far. The tracks are vastly superior to previous WRC games, and the tweaked car handling model makes the game a far more pleasant experience. Only the execution leaves something to be desired, with poor performance on the PS4 and some gammy audio work holding it back.