DiRT Rally Xbox One Review
Publisher: Codemasters Developer: Codemasters Genre: Racing
Players: 1-4 Age Rating: 3+ Other console/handheld formats: PS4
I pity those who go into DiRT Rally expecting the game to control just like another DiRT game. If you don’t already know, I should warn you now, this is a raw simulator – the vehicle handling requires lots of practice, patience and concentration, and a rewind feature is nowhere to be found. Yes, this game is Codemasters’ first racing simulation in quite some time, although it’s definitely the trickiest one they have ever made, which quickly resulted in the game being branded the Dark Souls of racing games when the game was initially released in early access on PC.
As DiRT Rally isn’t an easy ride, there’s no instant gratification to be found here. At least in this console version, Codemasters have added in 21 instructional videos, which attempt to give you some sort of idea as to what to expect, although if you watch these before playing the game, it might just make things seem all the more intimidating than what they already are. I do feel that a driving school feature may have been all the more welcome, as the videos just overwhelm you with the accompanying voiceover attempting to get you to understand the different driving techniques as well as the strengths and weaknesses of a rally car. At least with a driving school feature, it would have allowed you to get to grips with the car at the same time as being schooled. With that said, the videos are in-depth and helpful enough, but a driving school feature would have been much more appreciated.
Previous games in the DiRT series were a hybrid of arcade and simulation, but the only thing to be found here is a brutal simulation that doesn’t welcome you with open arms. That’s not the only change with the latest DiRT game though, as, like the Colin McRae games of old, the main focus of the game is the rallying, and thankfully the extreme presentation of DiRT 2, which seemed to be pandering towards loud American teenagers, is nowhere to be found. Has the game managed to avoid the word dude entirely? Unfortunately not, as there’s one mention of the word that pops up on the loading screens from time to time.
With traction and stability control, DiRT Rally does feature handling assists, although they don’t help out as much as they do in some other driving games. They’re a good starting point, but you’ll still find yourself hitting ditches, rolling down steep banks, slamming into trees and rocks, and everything else that you are meant to be avoiding at first. The car may look like a crumpled up bag of crisps at the end of a stage, but hopefully you would have learnt something as well. Yes, the game is tough, but sometimes tough love can be a good thing. Even when I was struggling to get to grips with the game I could tell that there was an excellent handling model in there, and one that obviously was born out of lots of tinkering and research. I’m also happy to say that the game plays perfectly well on a controller, although a steering wheel is still the best manner in which to experience its thrilling driving.
The game certainly captures the thrill of rallying and racing against the clock, and you really do have to listen to your co-driver to know what lies ahead of you. It’s also helpful for your brain to work as fast as your hands, as this is definitely a game that requires steely concentration and quick reactions. As the game runs at a very consistent 60fps, the speed of the real life motorsport has also been triumphantly captured as well. It’s nail-biting stuff, it really is.
DiRT Rally features six locations, with over 70 rally stages spanning across Wales, Germany, Monaco, Finland, Sweden and Greece. The varied locations gives you differing terrain to deal with, and just when you’ve got used to the gravel, tarmac and mud of the likes of Wales, Finland and Germany, snow and ice are thrown into the equation in Sweden and Monaco. There’s also rain and night driving to contend with; the latter of which is absolutely terrifying. You really do have to understand the language of rally driving to get the most out of the game, or at least try your best to understand it.
The career mode has you purchasing cars and hiring staff to repair your car, and, as your team gets more to grips with a vehicle, you’ll unlock upgrades. You can take part in rallies, and limited options in rally cross (against AI or other players) and hill climb events, although you’ll have to own at least one car for each event in order to participate. At least in the way of earning money and purchasing new cars, the career mode can actually be a bit of a grind, particularly as the driving itself already requires so much work and commitment. Still, at least there’s multiple ways to earn cash, which includes taking part in monthly, weekly and daily challenges; each of which have their own online leaderboards. The difficulty of the rest of the game has also found its way into the career mode, as restarts are not encouraged, and you’ll lose $1000 for the first five times that you restart a stage. Other than the grind of the vehicle purchasing and the rally cross and hill climb events feeling rather limited (the focus being on the rallying), the no frills approach of the career mode is appreciated.
DiRT Rally is an uncompromising racing simulation if ever there was one, and it’s also a very, very good one. Speeding along through countryside, knowing that one mistake could cost you dearly is a thrilling feeling, but also one that will put many on the edge of their seats. It’s a game that is as frustrating as it is satisfying and thus won’t be for everyone, but if you are the type of person that will stick with it, it’s also one that is well worth all the time and commitment that it asks of you.