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Why EA WRC uses Unreal Engine 5, not EA's Frostbite, and is current-gen only

EA WRC is leaving last-gen in the dust by releasing solely on PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X/S.

A Toyota WRC rally car racing down a dirt track with a trail of dust spraying behind it
Image credit: EA Sports/VG247

After 16 years on its proprietary Ego engine, Codemasters is developing EA WRC using Unreal 5, and will only release the game on PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC.

Despite Codesmasters’ acquisition by Electronic Arts in 2021, it will not use the Frostbite engine for EA WRC, even though many other EA studios use Frostbite exclusively.

Several considerations apparently went into the decision, but ultimately it was the ability to port over Codemasters’ lauded handling physics into the new engine that swung things in Unreal Engine’s favour.

“Ego was a fantastic engine for us and we made a lot of incredibly good games on that, but it had reached a point where we wanted our stages to be longer and longer and our environments to be bigger and visually richer,” Ross Gowing, Codemasters senior creative director, explained to VG247.

“EGO was not going to be able to do that in the time we had and the team size that we had. A big evaluation took place on which engine we should move to and it was actually pre-EA that we made the decision to change - hence Frostbite not really figuring at that point.

“Our biggest hurdle to overcome was how to get the handling to be the “Codemasters handling” and that wasn’t something Unreal had out of the box, but it turned out we could work with them to bring our own handling across. Unreal enabled us to bring across all of our handling physics and essentially plug that into the engine. Unreal has been a great collaborator and so supportive of what we’re trying to do, putting us in touch with other professionals working in Epic to help us fold the engine to our own needs - that’s been a fantastic benefit to the project.”

Watch professional rally driver Jon Armstrong take on EA WRC stages from Japan, Estonia and SwedenWatch on YouTube

The Ego engine was first used in 2007 for Colin McRae: Dirt on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC. EA WRC is Codemasters’ first game to appear only on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S alongside PC, with F1 21 and F1 22 and Grid Legends dropping as cross-generation releases.

However, the choice to leave the Xbox One and PS4 behind wasn’t solely driven by the engine swap, but the trend for more expansive games with greater visual fidelity in general.

“[Releasing on current-gen hardware] wasn’t a restriction of Unreal at all,” Gowing said. “It was more that we wanted to push what we were doing over a 35km stage. We want you to see something that’s believable as the real world for those 35km. To allow the team to focus on that, our commercial departments made the decision that last/current gen wouldn’t be supported.

"So to give the team the biggest quality remit possible we focused on current gen only.”

While it does boast a shiny new engine, one thing EA WRC won't have in the first year is driver ratings. However, EA WRC will release on PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X/S on November 3rd, 2023.

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