The DiRT Rally franchise has been last seen on consoles back in 2011 or 2012 if you want to count the more casual but highly enjoyable DiRT Showdown. During the last five years though the DiRT series was nowhere to be seen on a console. That is until now as it speeds onto consoles after a successful launch on PC last year. This also marks the first Codemasters DiRT racing title of the new generation of console. A title which promises to be aimed at the more hardcore rally simulation fans than the casual, Does it succeed in getting a podium finish while leaving you covered in mud and snow though?
From the moment you first start revving your engines as you slot that disc in to your console, you can see that DiRT Rally means business. The menu system is simple and mature in style and from the get go you go through a few choices of what assists you would like. It feels much like the recent DiRT titles of last-gen has grown up. Unless you are a seasoned veteran and rally pro you will want to have at least some of the assists on as you will soon find out this is a pure rally simulation, right down to the core mechanics. DiRT Rally doesn’t let you off easy and it is punishing, but this makes the game equally rewarding as you improve and shave that much needed tenth of a second of your time to take first place. Forget everything you have learned in Dirt 3 and the likes and go in with an opened mind and the willingness to learn, you won’t be disappointed.
On the main menu you the first things you will see is Career, Leagues and Custom Event, as well as your Options and Tutorials. The latter are actually tutorial videos rather than interactive, but they are quite in-depth and it is a great starting point for those new to the rally world. After all, the thrills and joys of rallying is quite a unique experience and even more so in DiRT Rally. Heading on in to the Career option will bring up the other game modes that are on offer to you so lets take a look at these in more detail.
Codemasters have taken some ideas from the Forza series when it comes to unlocking the many different rally cars on offer from across multiple decades of the sport. When you first start up a new championship you will be introduced to the three rally disciplines that you will learn to master. You have Rally, Uphill and Rallycross and all three have different cars you can use. Rallycross is when you all race at the same time. During a Rallycross race there is what’s called a Joker Lap which is an alternate route. This could be one or more times in a race and can win or lose you the race. You are giving 50,000 credits to get your championship dreams underway but that won’t get you much. You will have the choice between only the Rally open championship or the Rallycross as you will only have enough funds for one car. As you compete in events both offline and online you will gain more credits to allow you to buy other classes of cars. You will want to make sure you always keep enough for during races and to buy team mechanics etc. So now you have your first car, lets get down and dirty on the race courses.
Races will take place over multiple stages which usually have time halfway through to repair your car. So if it is a four stage rally race then after stage two you will get a chance to repair your car. These repairs will not only cost you money, but you are only allotted a set amount of time in order to do the repairs. Go over this and you will get given a time penalty, which you really don’t want unless you are way out in from on the leaderboard. It’s not just the car you will be spending cash on as implemented in to your career is some team management. The way team management works in career mode is very intuitive indeed. You will start with your crew chief who is the only person to start with that can repair your car. He will improve in his effectiveness the more you compete in races. There will be another slot opened for an entry level engineer. These engineers have ten skill effects which relate to the amount of damage your car can take during races. They will also have three perks to be unlocked which will help greatly on repair times. You will also be able to open another three slots the more mileage you do. Each person you hire is contracted for a set number of stages, and you can hire and fire whenever you want. So if you change car it will be a good idea to look at who you have on your books. This adds a nice little bit of strategy rather than just relying on your skills out on the track.
When you buy any of the cars they will all be an entry level version witch can be upgraded. Since you already have enough to spend your money on, buying upgrades is not an option. Instead Codemasters have decided that the only way to upgrade your car is through competing and using the Team Management electively. The speed of when car upgrades are delivered will depend on the perks you have unlocked for all the engineers you have on your books. I have to admit that this direction in how cars are upgraded was a risky one but at the same time the right move, especially when you see how much it can cost you throughout the length of an event. Those not wanting to play through and fully upgrade every car, you will be able to play modes outside of Career with access to all cars fully upgraded from the start.
When it comes to driven games Codemasters are veterans in this genre and quite rightly so. They have taken everything they have learned over the years on car handling and physics and refined it even more for DiRT Rally. When you first start out in career mode you can expect to be fighting with the car just as you would in real life. Especially if the car is still in its entry level form. For those looking to really fine tune the driving experience outside of the car set-ups, Codemasters have included the options to mess about with steering dead zones etc. that you find in all race simulation games. In terms of the cars handling on the varying types of terrain they have pretty much got things spot on. From whizzing around on tarmac to then power sliding around the edge of a cliff top on gravel, there is no other feeling like it. Yes I did fall off a cliff now and then and its great to see you can actually barrel roll the cars. The races can be unpredictable a lot of the time thanks to the fact that car damage carries on over to each of the stages until you get a chance to fix it and even then you will have to cherry pick the repairs.
In the Career Mode menu you also have options for Online Events and PVP Events which you can earn credits in. Online Events will offer Daily, Weekly, and Special events that will allow you to test your skill against the world. Depending on how you do you will finish in one of three tiers with varying amounts of credit on offer. Some events will allow you to use your cars from the main career mode where others will be pre-determined. With the latter if you don’t already have the car you will be giving for just that event. If there is only a specific class of car to be used during one of the online events and you don’t have any cars in your garage you will be charged a loan fee. One of the events is also wager event where you can bet against yourself, although there is a pre-determined minimum and maximum amount you can bet. We are certainly not talking small change here either. The PVP Events are Rallycross events against other players and so far in the few races I have had there has not been any lag issues. Another great online feature Codemasters have added is the ability to setup and run leagues. This will take you to the DiRT Rally game page where you will be able to set up an online league. Setup is easy as well as simple and you can make it open, closed or moderate. You will also be able to select from the three disciplines and use your own rules. This is not only a stand out feature for me but one I would like to see Codemasters integrate and build upon even further in to all future race titles.
There are over forty cars and seventy stages across the world. The cars all look spectacular and in certain points almost life like. All cars sound different as well as handling differently and there is a real sense of speed the faster you go, especially on long straights. The damage model is one of the best I have seen in racing titles. From punctured tires ripping off leaving just the rim, to side doors completely gone and a rear bumper hanging by a thread. At one point my car had a ton of smoke coming from it as it sat on the start line. The tracks themselves for the most part look stunning especially in forest locations. There is something just special about seeing the daylight break through the trees as you gather speed in a forest in Germany. Weather effects in the game are also very life like especially from cockpit view. In the rain I tried driving without my wipers on and you can see the water drain off the faster you go but still blurring your view slightly. Scattered throughout the sidelines of the courses are spectators, emergency crew and parked cars and I have to say there is not a pixilated spectator in site. Overall the graphics are quite impressive where it counts.
The Good Things
- Rally simulation hardcore fans will enjoy.
- While racing doesn’t take any prisoners it is a rewarding experience.
- Ability to set up and run online leagues.
And The Bad
- Not to sure about using in-game credits for the use of a loan car in Online Events and PVP.
- Not a game for arcade racers.
- DiRT Rally is a welcomed addition to consoles and is a proper hardcore rally racing simulation. The addition of team management in the single player career mode makes it more than being just a case of racing the car. I like how the team you hire will have an impact on how quick you can get car upgrades as well as the effect they have during your racing. This title is certainly the best looking rally sim to date and the ability to create and run your own leagues is a genius move from Codemasters. This is something I would like to see built upon for future race titles from the team. An arcade racer this is not, its a punishing rally simulation that is very rewarding the more you improve your skills.
Proper hardcore rally simulation with the ability to set-up and run your own leagues.