Sebastien Loeb Rally EVO


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Complete Review & Description

Whenever a new generation of consoles is released, I usually look to the racing genre as a benchmark of the audio and visual fidelity that each console is capable of. Forza Motorsport 5, cranking out an assortment of gorgeous vehicles racing on courses with stunning vistas at 1080p and 60fps, at launch no less, made the Xbox One look very promising, as did Driveclub for the PS4, albeit a year later than promised.
Of course, the variety of racing available to you from the green flag is also paramount to its success, which is where Sébastien Loeb Rally Evo really excels at. While this game does a great job providing a variety of courses and chronicling the career of one of the greatest rally drivers ever, its seemingly dated audio-visuals and limited gameplay options puts the game below the echelon of the two aforementioned benchmark-worthy games.

Right off the bat, you get a solid introduction to the world of rally racing, specifically surrounding Sébastien Loeb’s career. You’re given a chance to test drive your first vehicle on the dichotomy of the surfaces that rally racing takes place on: paved and gravel, and along the way it teaches you the ins-and-outs of video game rally driving: handbrake turning, pacenotes, and the ever-convenient rewind function. The tutorial portion was in-depth and slightly drawn-out, but for novice rally racing gamers, it does come in handy.
Sébastien Loeb makes for a good title athlete, and his career is something to be marvelled at, spanning the best part of two decades. Loeb is considered one of the greatest professional drivers of all time, who has been in four different racing disciplines: The World Rally Championship, World Touring Car Championship, 24 Hours of LeMans and Rallycross in the Summer X Games.
His career achievements are covered extensively in videogame form: from his rookie debut in 1998 to winning the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in 2013, players get a chance to take part in every era of his racing resume. As the rookie driver hand-picked by Loeb himself, your goal is to achieve the same greatness he did over the past eighteen years. Starting from the two-wheel drive Peugeot, you complete each class in order to unlock and progress to the next. The vehicles are limited to the rally discipline, but there are more than enough to pick from.

Unlike other forms of motorsport, rallying is usually a single-vehicle timed race rather than multiple competitors racing simultaneously, meaning mid-race collisions are lesser than that of other conventional racers – provided you don’t slam into the barriers and trees, or go flying off the cliff like I did many a times.
With only one car participating at once, you’d expect more resources dedicated to filling up the world surrounding the stage. Yet, in some of the stages that I raced in, I noticed the background and the environment seemed sparse: Trees and shrubbery popping into the foreground (as opposed to gradually fade in from a distance to mimic field of vision), and landscapes in your periphery view looking almost barren does takes you out of the immersive experience. Vehicles also look dull here: Whereas many racing games focus on vehicles as their “heroes”, those of Sébastien Loeb Rally Evo just doesn’t stand out. This is a shame, considering the variety of gorgeous looking cars Loeb has driven over his career.
The inclusion of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb is definitely the highlight of this game
With over 300 kilometres of track available, the content and the variety of the courses are quite impressive. In the rally championships alone, there are eight stages, each with its own characteristic: From the desolate worlds in Australia and Mexico, to the snow-blanketed wintery landscapes in Monaco and Sweden, to the bleak, muddy courses in Wales – that’s UK weather for you – the courses provide a challenge that’s different from one another.
They look good but not great, with the previously mentioned popping of the objects in the background, and other issues that hamper the game’s performance. For instance, on the stages that do have extensive woodland areas – Finland, for one – driving through the dense forest parts of the stage takes a significant hit on the frame-rate and the video becomes choppy, to a point where it becomes nigh-impossible to drive through these wooded areas.

Strangely enough, the Rallycross mode performs exceptionally well, even with multiple vehicles competing on the same track simultaneously. This unique version of rally racing, perfectly designed for X Games, is an exciting competition on a mixture of gravel and paved surfaces. But it’s not even close to the joy I experienced driving Pikes Peak.
The inclusion of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb is definitely the highlight of this game, as you are given nearly twenty thousand metres of asphalt and one goal: get to the top. The 100 year old race taking place on Pikes Peak in Colorado is the second oldest auto race in the United States, and the track record is held by Loeb after he smashed the previous record by over a minute.
Racing up this virtual mountain in near solitude is both exhilarating and tranquil, and the change in surface from a mixture of gravel and mixed sections to 100% asphalt prior to the release of this game gives you the opportunity to tear through the mountain top at break-neck speeds. That said, including the legacy surface would have been an interesting setting, too. The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb stage is how I want to drive up The Remarkables during the summer, except a certain collective of uniformed men and women in blue will probably prevent me from even reaching the car park at the bottom.
Sébastien Loeb Rally Evo is full of content: From the World Rally Championship, to Rallycross, to Pikes Peak, there’s enough for rally fans and fans of Sébastien Loeb to sink their teeth into. There are many varied stages to provide a good feel of the different approaches to rally driving, and they all have their unique identity that’s quite different from others.

Contents aside, a driving simulation game that doesn’t replicate the visuals of its real-life racing counterpart detracts players from the experience, and the additional problem of frame-rate drops at times compounds the issue further. Considering other games released two years earlier have looked and sounded better, Sébastien Loeb Rally Evo is definitely lacking on this front. The other caveat to point out is that DiRT racing, the spiritual successor to Colin McRae Rally, is due out on consoles in mere months. On the PC version that has been out for a month or so, the visuals looks stunning and almost life-like.
So, if you are a fan of rally racing and you are hankering to drive a wide variety of courses, Sébastien Loeb Rally Evo is worth a look, as the different modes of racing available provides enough driving to master your hairpin turns. But if you are looking for an audio and visual experience that transports you from your couch to the driver’s seat of Loeb’s newest Citroën racing vehicle, the lack of graphical fidelity means there will be plenty of times where you aren’t concentrating on the driving, instead paying attention to the frame-rate drops and objects popping in and out of view.
There are other driving games that have just as much content and perform better, but right now, Sébastien Loeb Rally Evo is the only one covering the rally discipline. So it’s not a case of the best rally game out there, but rather, it’s the only rally game out there…. for now.



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