Being technically impressive doesn't necessarily mean the game is graphically impressive, however. WRC isn't a bad looking game by any stretch of the imagination, but at this stage in development it's looking a little rough around the edges. Even if the cars looked fantastic, there was a bit of texture pop in and other graphical blunders. Although there's a lot of polish still to be applied before the game's release in October, I very much doubt it'll be able to compete with the likes of Forza or Gran Turismo purely on a graphical front.
Graphics, as we must constantly remind ourselves, are not everything. For the racing connoisseur who is simply concerned with the car and how it handles on the track, WRC offers a wealth of customisation features. You can tweak just about every attribute you could imagine, and perfecting the car's set up will have obsessive racing fans entertained for hours.
One of the things Milestone has been keen to stress is the notion that the track is a character. Not only that, it's your enemy. In rally, it's you against the track, and a lot of work has gone into bringing it to life. On location, the team has amassed a whopping 27,000 photos, allowing them to put together some of the most accurate and faithfully recreated rally tracks to date. Perhaps most impressive are the game's eight different surface types, including tarmac, gravel, snow and mud, which themselves can react differently depending on weather conditions and such. It was immediately noticeable when the surface state changed; I had to adjust my driving accordingly to save myself from a date with a barrier.
As well as reacting to the properties of the track, players have to compensate for any damage their car may have suffered. If you've hit a barrier and smashed the left wheel of your car, it will veer uncontrollably to the left, and you'll have to adjust your steering accordingly. It's at these late stages in the rally, when your car's all battered and bruised, that your driving skills will really be put to the test. The handling really is the star of WRC.
Milestone is no stranger to the racing genre, and all those years of experience with Moto GP, SBK and Evolution GT have culminated in FIA World Rally Championship. "It's the definitive rally experience" says Paglianti, whose passion for the game was smeared across his face as he spoke to me. I won't pretend that I'm particularly enthused by rally racing as a sport, but the majority of the fans who attended the event were buzzing with excitement as they threw their cars round the track. If you're into rally, and miss the real rally experience that DiRT has forgotten about, this is a game you're going to want to pay attention to.
WRC FIA World Rally Championship is available for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC on October 8.