Sebastien Loeb Rally EVO Review (XONE)

A More Accessible Rally Game on Xbox One

SLRE screen
SLRE screen. Square Enix

Buy Sebastien Loeb Rally EVO at Amazon.com

Sébastien Loeb Rally EVO is starting off at a disadvantage in the eyes of its potential audience for a couple of reasons.  The first being the question of, for casual rally fans that only really experience the sport in games, anyway, “Who the heck is Sébastien Loeb?”   The second being the looming release of DiRT Rally casting a huge shadow across the rally game landscape.

  There’s good news on both of these fronts, thankfully.  First, the game has an awesome career mode that makes darn sure you know who Sébastien Loeb is by the end.  The second is that, in terms of accessibility and options, SLRE is a much easier game to pick up and have fun with than DiRT Rally.  It is likely going to get totally overshadowed regardless, but race fans shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss Sébastien Loeb Rally EVO. 

Game Details

  • Publisher:  Square Enix
  • Developer: Milestone
  • ESRB Rating: “E" for Everyone
  • Genre: Rally Racing
  • Pros:  Tons of events; lots of cars; fantastic Sebastien Loeb-career events; accessibility options mean all skill levels can play
  • Cons:  Inconsistent visuals; so-so sound; understeer-heavy handling

Features and Modes

I love playing rally videogames, but I don’t follow real world rally racing at all, so the Sébastien Loeb branding didn’t mean much to me at first.  It turns out that while Colin McRae is probably the most famous rally driver ever (in the U.S. at least), Sébastien Loeb is actually far more successful with many more event wins and an impressive nine overall World Rally Championship titles.

  McRae became a household name through a successful videogame series and X-Games appearances, so maybe Loeb can do the same.  He certainly deserves it. 

There are a couple of career modes with the main mode being a fairly standard collection of events where you start out in slower, easier to drive cars and work your way up to better machines while rising through the world rankings.

  You start out ranked 401, so it takes quite a while to reach the top.  There is a ton of content in this mode, and you’ll actually reach #1 and still have a stunning amount of events still to play.  In addition to traditional rally time-trial events, there are also rallycross events on closed tracks in a few different variations that really add a lot of variety to the game. 

The other carer mode is the Loeb Experience.  In this mode you take the wheel in the same cars and events that were defining moments throughout Sébastien Loeb’s career.  These events are highlighted by a lengthy interview with Loeb himself, and it is a great way to learn a ton about the man and why he is the best rally driver ever.  If you didn’t know about Loeb before, the Loeb Experience is a fantastic introduction that totally justifies his name being on the box.

The overall selection of content is very impressive.  There are more than 50 cars available, and while many of them are Citroén, since that is what Loeb spent most of his career in, most of your other favorites like Imprezas and Lancer Evos are present as well.  You can also spend an extra $5 (or it is included in the “Day One Edition” of the game) and get the legendary Suzuki Escudo (or as we liked to call it, Gran Turismo 2 cheat mode), if you want.

  Yes, I have been tempted, but didn’t buy it yet.  I love that car, but it is probably like driving a rocket ship off a cliff here ... There are also dozens and dozens of courses in a wide range of locations as well as multiple surface and weather types.  The course design is absolutely fantastic.

Gameplay

The gameplay is a little iffy, however.  I have to say I kind of hated the game at the start because it was bloody difficult.  The game is simulation-focused at its core, but the handling also has severe understeer, which is a rough combination to get used to at first.  The physics also feel a bit off as the cars don’t feel like they have enough weight to them, a feeling intensified by how easy it is to flip over and how far they bounce when you hit something.  I know the idea is you don’t hit stuff and this isn’t a problem, but it’s hard!

Thankfully, there are a number of accessibility options that allow you to tune the game to match your skill level.  You can turn on a number of handling assists if you need to, but I can’t really recommend them.  Steering and braking assists in racing games take too much control away from you and aren’t fun.  On the other hand, turning on the optional driving line so you know where you’re going so you can learn the correct lines and braking zones, is much, much more helpful.  As is adjusting the A.I. difficulty so you can actually post competitive times.  Once you learn to play better, you can turn these options off.  I love having options.  If you aren’t a die-hard dedicated snobby hardcore big shot rally game fan, you probably like options too, which is why this is one area where SLRE easily tops DiRT Rally (which doesn’t have any accessibility options at all …) – it is much, much more accessible for casual fans.

Graphics & Sound

Visually, SLRE is decent looking, but not particularly impressive compared to other racing games on Xbox One.  It is very inconsistent.  Sometimes the lighting and weather hit the environments just right and the game looks awesome.  More often, however, the areas you race in are marred by bland textures, an overall lack of detail, and a lot of jagged edges that should be smooth.  The opening cutscene when you boot the game that features a curved section of road but the painted lines are all straight angular chunks is just embarrassing.  The cars, thankfully, do generally look pretty decent.  Driving in a third-person view makes the visual issues stand out more, but the in-car view hides them fairly well. 

The sound is also just sort of “there”.  The engine noises are thoroughly mediocre, and sound effects for tires squealing on pavement or the crunch of metal when you hit something are well below par.  Voice narration when new event types are introduced is well done, at least.

Bottom Line

All in all, Sébastien Loeb Rally EVO is a generally solid rally game with a ton of content that can be a lot of fun when you get things set up to your liking.  I really don’t think it is so easy to just dismiss and say “Buy DiRT Rally instead” like a lot of folks are saying, either.  The competition has far superior presentation, but eschews accessibility in favor of a more hardcore sim model that won’t appeal to everyone.  If you liked DiRT, 2, 3, because they were on that razor’s edge of sim and arcade accessibility with lots of options that let anyone of any skill level have fun, I honestly think you’ll prefer Sébastien Loeb Rally EVO over DiRT Rally because it plays more like those games than DiRT Rally does.  Sébastien Loeb Rally EVO might not have as much appeal to hardcore rally sim fans, but for everyone else it might be the better rally game on Xbox One.  

Buy Sebastien Loeb Rally EVO at Amazon.com

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