We have waited a good few years for Codemasters to bring us a true sequel to DiRT 3. The last release in the DiRT franchise was DiRT Rally, which while a great game, it was more for the hardcore rally SIM fans. This title did however still bridge a gap until the release DiRT 4. I get my racing gloves on and get dirty as I take Codemasters latest offering of the highly popular DiRT franchise to the test track.
In DiRT 4 the team have taken all the best bits from DiRT Rally and expanded on them to offer a much more polished product. In your career you will tackle four different disciplines, Rally, Land Rush, Rally Cross and Historic Rally across various car classes. You will not just be driving cars in the career mode, in fact you will be managing a full team upon purchasing your first car. This was a feature I loved about DiRT Rally but now there is even more to do this time around. Money will be tight for the first couple of championships and to get you started on each of the disciplines you will be able to choose to race for other teams. This will of course mean that the team will take a percentage of your winnings for staff etc. but this will soon change.
Early on in your career your wallet will be bursting with cash if you have just stuck to driving for other teams, I had near one million but I soon spent almost all of it on my team. When you finally decide on purchasing a car you will be taking to the branding suite. Here you will get to choose sponsorship deals as well as changing team colours, name and driver details. There isn’t much choice on car designs but you can go crazy on the colours. The sponsorship deals will determine how much extra credit you get at the end of events and championships. With every sponsorship there is a criteria you need to meet during races if you want to impress and get that much needed extra credit. This involves things like winning a stage, have fewer recoveries and even more challenging tasks like achieving nine fastest splits over the course of the event. There is even some sponsorship deals that will require you to increase that difficulty to impress. The sponsors are not permanent and only last a certain number of championships so you need to keep tabs to make sure you are earning to your maximum potential.
There is also the question of team staff, after all you are going to need Engineers, PR people, Co-driver, LandRush and Rally Cross Spotters. Each staff member will come with a rank determining how useful they can be. Staff management really does have some amount of depth which will affect your competitiveness in events. There are traits and moods to keep tabs on, but you can buy perks for each of your staff members that can help make them more positive and overall more efficient. While some staff are free, others will cost and they will want a cut off your winnings. You can negotiate the length of contract as well as the percentage of winnings they take. Some will refuse offers just out right while you can haggle slightly with others. There is certainly a great dell of depth in the team management and makes the Career mode much more engaging.
A team is not a team without having the adequate facilities, so this is the menu you need to head to if you want to expand. There are twelve areas in total and to name just a few we have Accommodation, Logistics, Sponsor Hoardings and much more. Each of the twelve areas have grades up to A and these will depend on who you can hire, to the category of upgrades you can put on your car. This is really quite an in-depth feature and can be quite rewarding.
When it comes to the games four disciplines they are all pretty much self explanatory, especially if you are already a fan of the genre. Rally is of course all about getting from A to B in the fastest time possible while your co-driver shouts out oncoming directions. There will be plenty of back end swinging as you navigate round deadly cliff side tracks and through town villages. You will also be able to repair your car between runs but you only have a finite time to do so, and you will need to make sure you have the staff at hand. During the races you will be penalised for straying to far of track or doing road side repairs like replacing a flat tire. LandRush is great as you race over mud filled tracks in Buggies, Trucks and even CrossKarts. Rally Cross is where you race a number of laps and you have to take the joker route at least once. Finally we have Retro Rally, which you take to rally tracks in retro cars.
The gameplay in DiRT 4 is much more accessible than that of DiRT Rally, while that focused on the hardcore rally SIM DiRT 4 brings it more in to the arcade realm. Don’t get me wrong you can tweak settings and make this more SIM than arcade but if you just want to jump in and have fun you can do so with ease. On track the cars handling is superb except for the CrossKarts. It’s not always plain sailing in the rally stages as there can be broken down cars on the trail, as well as helicopters to impair vision and even spectators with drones. The damage model is sublime and its is ever so easy to make life difficult if you cut a corner or stray from the gravel path to much.
When it comes to the rally stages the game gets the excitement and fear factor spot on, with some amazing course design sure to test the seasoned pro. There is a whole host of content to go through that will keep you busy. When it comes to LandRush I feel it is short lived, and could have done with some more tracks but it’s fun while it lasts. The arcade style mechanics creeps in, in the form of the car physics, crossing the line when you car is on its side never gets old. There are terminal collisions just to teach you to reign in that fearless driving, although I’m not sure a car should still stand after five barrel rolls. Some of the manoeuvrers I don’t know how I am still driving for another DiRT filled day.
DiRT 4 also welcomes the return of the Joyride park where you can get to show off your skills via time attack challenges and smash target challenges. Both are pretty self-explanatory with a total of sixty challenges over ten chapters with each using different car types. Your times and scores are uploaded to online leaderboards where you can keep track of how you are doing. You will also be able to learn the skills of the four different disciplines via the driving school if you are having any trouble keeping the cars on the road and in one piece.
When it comes to the multiplayer element of DiRT 4 the team have got pretty much everything covered. There are three option to choose from, Freeplay, Multiplayer and Competitive. The latter allows you to take part in daily, weekly and monthly events. These are split up in to Pro Tour and Community Events. The latter will only give you one chance at each event so there’s no pressure then? These are also the events that change on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. The Pro Tour will have you race opponents for points and as you gain points you will move through the tiers. These events change on a daily basis, with each tier proving more challenging.
Where DiRT 4 really shines is the Multiplayer and Freeplay in which you can create championships and with the exception of the Land Rush you literary have an unlimited amount of rally course track design. When you are setting up a championship you can modify the track length and complexity and then just hit generate and voilà you now have a new course. In freeplay you can set up your events and share them with friends, where as in Multiplayer you can host or join online sessions in competitive head-to-head challenges.
When it comes to the visuals there is no denying that the game is the best looking DiRT title in the series. Track degradation is good and so is the visual damage modelling. The feeling of racing through a forest with the rays of light shining throw the tress can really drag you in. The weather effects are great but deadly in heavy fog since you cant see a car length in front of you. Your co-driver is key to surviving foggy conditions for sure. There is a right sense of impact if you hit a tree or any other hazard that does trick your eyes in to thinking you are there in the car. That said don’t expect the to-die-for visuals of the Forza titles. I have to applaud the team on the games soundtrack though that didn’t want me to turn it off.
The Good Things
- Team Management aspect is engaging.
- Much more accessible to arcade racing fans, while still offering a challenge to SIM fans.
- The track creator makes this great for multiplayer racing.
And The Bad
- Those CrossKarts are twitchy as hell.
- I want my avatar back dangling from the rear view mirror.
- LandRush while fun is short lived, and doesn’t make use of the track editor that the rally stages do.
- While DiRT Rally was aimed at the true hardcore rally SIM fans, DiRT 4 makes the franchise more accessible for those looking for the more arcade experience. Codemasters has expanded on the whole team management aspect of DiRT Rally resulting in a much more engaging single player experience. While LandRush is a fun but short lived experience, the rally modes is where all the adrenalin, action packed excitement is. The titles podium winning feature though has to be the track editor for the rally stages giving access to an almost unlimited amount of tracks. It may have lost some features from DiRT 3 but this is still one of the best rally titles in the DiRT franchise.
DiRT 4 has expands on the offerings of DiRT Rally while making it more accessible to arcade racing fans.