Review: DiRT Rally
After a bland Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo (previously reviewed on the site), it is finally time for rally enthusiasts to get a taste of a real dish, created by one of – what I believe is – greatest rally racing simulation developers of all time: Codemasters and the reboot of the DiRT franchise with DiRT Rally.
For those of you who are not in their thirties, it is important to how the DiRT series came to be. Started as Codemaster’s Colin McRae Rally, this series subsequently evolved a lot throughout the year, since its first episode launch in 1997, and the game transformed into Colin McRae: Dirt, finishing with Colin McRae: Dirt 2 as a dedication to Colin McRae featuring videos and a special tournament in his honor, as he passed away the year before. The British developer then continue the franchise without the Colin McRae name, focusing its brand into DiRT, and opening to other types of competitions as well as a wider audience with a steering that was close to arcade racing games like DiRT: Showdown with Hoonigan based career. And now almost 3 years later, Codemasters brings a brutal comeback of their prized franchise, with a comeback to the root with steering and racing sensations true to the original titles.
Based on the premise of brand revival, the game starts with a serious tone, almost of a monastic sobriety – but effective, admittedly when starting the career mode. Don’t expect trumpets and confetti when you win a championship, or Hollywood-style video presentation or even 3D models of the cars when shopping … Codemasters goes straight to the point and ignores all these little extras that most developers would abuse. And so, players will either pick “Custom championships”, to create its own competitions or the usual “championship” section where we find a set of pure rally challenges and FIA tracks, divided into ten events, split into vehicle categories or classes. Like most other racing game, you’ll be tasked to earn medal to win money/credit to get a new car that fits into a newer or harder class, and progress throughout all sorts of championships. The money earned will also allow the purchase of higher performance parts, but also engineers to reduce repair time between races, or help get your car’s more accurate settings. A nice option, but far from overwhelming in terms of simulations.
Other than the classic rally game, Codemasters slipped in a hint of Rallycross and also uphill races that are great for fans of the sport, although in both cases, are kind of limited in range. If the FIA full licence is there for Rallycross, the number of events is quite low, but I appreciate the approach that reveals different sensations: the tense races and strategic situations for Rallycross and against the clock races are insane with the powerhouse cars of our modern time. The online part is not denser, but it does generally the job. You will be happy to join real players in rallycross, and I also appreciate the different leaderboards, leagues (although hate that dedicated “menu”) and various temporary championships organized here and there which will still provide a motivation to excel and ride again and again.
DiRT Rally has the luxury of being one of the most beautiful game rally of the universe
If the game seems minimalist in its design, it’s also the general direction of the content. Only six countries are present in the game: Germany, Sweden, Finland, Wales, Monaco and Greece. It is not a lot in comparison to previous Rally games, but the selection has the merit to highlight all possible race conditions. From the sandy and dry slopes of Greece to the muddy roads of Wales, passing through the icy lakes of Monte Carlo and the snowy roads of Sweden… This is an opportunity to discover the excellent work that developers did on the realism of different surfaces. You feel the changes of grip with great precision and each environment imposes its own rules to find, digest and master the tracks.
From the first championships, even by driving a “simple” Mini Cooper S with its humble small 4-speed, DiRT Rally delivers the amazing driving sensation. Progressing a bit in the vehicle classes, players will discover a gameplay that constantly expands, enriched thanks to the variety of cars and their behaviors: the indomitable hindquarters of a Stratos, the effective spirit of a Renault 5 Turbo, to the rage of the Impreza … the gaming experience evolve over time and test you in everything you have learned so far. Again, DiRT Rally will tap into this variety of behaviors with a depth and density that compensate the thinness of the race tracks choice proposed in the game.
To fully master DiRT Rally though is something that takes a lot of patience and will. You will need to go through a series of video tutorial to familiarize yourself with the common Rally jargon, but also understand how to properly tweak the settings of its cars. Differential, dampers, gearbox, braking distribution … There is a lot of parameters that are in play to improve and refine the behavior of your car based on the environments. It is by accepting this depth in simulation that you will experience the most exhilarating driving sensation where you can subtly play with the mass transfers: tickle the hand-brake to send the rear slide, trying brutal re-accelerations to cause a slight over-steer in the middle, align more effectively on exits… There’s a certain joy in successfully driving and optimizing your control.
In terms of graphics, DiRT Rally has the luxury of being one of the most beautiful game rally of the universe. Well, I must say that the competition is far from glorious in the matter and, if one broadens the scope of comparison, the title of Codemasters is not near the perfection of other non-rally racing titles. However, it has plenty to satisfy this graphic-hungry gaming world, if only by its technical foundation, with an impressive stable 1080p and 60 fps on PC, as well as a dynamic resolution on Xbox One to make sure the console reaches the constant framerate. But I have to point out that textures and colors are limited, even though the detailed environments and clear views create this sort of feeling of freedom, the reality is not the case.
The soundtrack and audio effects are a great work of art, when it comes to the engine noise, raw and rough as can be, but especially on secondary sounds that immerse you into the race: the gravel rattling against the body, the whistle of the turbo, the crackling pf the exhaust… With good headphones on, and playing with the cockpit view, you would feel like you’re a real rally driver. In the end, this proves – if proof were needed – that Codemasters has managed to concentrate all its forces on some crucial aspects of the game to deliver a title that knows exactly what a Rally game should be with formidable efficiency.
DIRT Rally was reviewed using an Xbox One retail copy and PC redeemable code provided by Codemasters. The game is also available on PlayStation 4. The game was tested on a PC running Windows 10 Pro, with a 4GB NVIDIA Geforce GTX 960 fitted on a 5th Generation Intel i7 4720HQ 3.2Ghz CPU and topped with 16GB of RAM. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published
• An excellent compromise between sim and arcade
• Demanding but rewarding
• One of the most beautiful rally games on the market
• Formidable gameplay mechanics
• Large lifespan
• A bland career mode
• Slight lack of content
• An online mode that lacks finesse
• Tutorial reduced to video tips