Published on May 6th, 2016 | by David Guild0
Review: DiRT Rally
DiRT Rally is the newest instalment from Codemasters DiRT series which used to be Colin McRae Rally but Rally legend, McRae’s name was dropped officially in the 3rd game but personally DiRT and the old Colin McRae Rally games were two different styles of gameplay.
The later DiRT games focused more on Gymkhana events and specially designed circuits while the old McRae Rally games were the old fashioned Rally cross races in which you drive through woodlands and hill sides. DiRT Rally is the return of the old ways and doesn’t focus on you being the next big star in which they plaster you in sponsorship deals. YAY!
Codemasters went down a different route with this game as they released it on Steam under the Early Access label so players could jump in early and play the game through the latter half of the development cycle and basically help find bugs and make suggestions. I myself was one of the players who jumped in early to play it. I’ve seen the game grow with monthly content updates and gameplay when finally it was released fully last December and is now on console.
The problem with DiRT is its showing me how bad I’ve gotten with the more serious racing titles. In recent years I’ve been playing more arcade racers with some Forza Motorsport thrown in to mix it up but circuit racing and rallying are two completely different styles so in my first play throughs it was mostly me crashing and rolling about in to trees while I struggled to make simple turns. So I had to go back to basics, I had to switch on easy mode. You see DiRT Rally uses a completely different physics model from the previous titles, it was rebuilt from the ground up so my previous experience from the other DiRT titles was useless.
So I switched on most of the assists to help me get through the tracks because while this game has a tutorial selection, it’s mostly just like ‘Rallying For Dummies’ guide videos which I still highly recommend watching, especially the pace notes selection. I just wish it gave you more of a hands on teaching system because now you will have to play through tracks not focusing on becoming first but just learning to get through a stage without crashing. Once you do that you start getting faster and once you’re comfortable with the speed you take off some of the assists then you start all over again with the crashing. DiRT Rally is basically Dark Souls but for racing, failure is always an option. Once you start racing through the dirt, whizzing past trees and making those hair pins with a Scandinavian flick, you will feel like a God … I’m yet to feel that God like moment. Granted I can get through the courses now but it isn’t without its troubles.
For anyone who hasn’t played a Rally game, you complete in timed stages on tarmac and off-road terrain in all sorts of weather. Racers are sent out at a time so all you need to focus on is the road, pace notes and your driving. Sometimes the slower you look the faster your time will. Before each race you can tinker with the cars set up if you know what you are doing of course and go on a shakedown run to practice. Once you feel comfortable with the set up it’s your do or die moment. The race feels extremely quick, I usually like the bumper camera in racing but I genuinely thought I was getting motion sickness due to the blur of the trees and how bumpy the ride was, my eyes struggled to keep up, the in-car camera is far superior.
Mistakes will happen, simple bumps will only cost you a few seconds but crashes that need to be recovered will cost you a larger time penalty. In worse cases you will start causing damage to your car, I remember crossing the finishing line with two tyres and two wheels on its rims and smoke pouring out of the engine as the radiator was over-heating. Fixes can be done at the side of the road but again, that requires another time penalty and credits. The game is rather unforgiving, gone are the days of rewind and no crash damage.
This is a game where practice is very much needed, you don’t want to go wasting your credits because you go balls to the wall with every race. Pick your battles, so if you’re a better driver on certain driving surfaces and weather then aim to give your best times then and then sacrifice on the tracks where you know you will struggle and take it easier. You can gain more credits if you are willing to up the difficultly and opting out of some assists but let’s take it one step at a time. Credits will be needed to upgrade the car or your team plus buying new cars.
Once you’ve figured out the driving and start getting good, then maybe online will tickle your fancy. The daily/weekly/monthly events are pretty much like driving a stage on single player but the times at the end aren’t the A.I. but other players, anything that offers me a chance to beat my friends times and focus on the racing is always a thrill. If you fancy some circuit racing with other drivers involved DiRT Rally does that and it can be a blast if you get in with the right people. I mention ‘the right people’ as with most racing games, you get the folk who play it serious or you get the idiots who treat the game like there at the dodgems and rather be playing Destruction Derby. Granted there are gamers like myself in the middle who don’t have the skill not to hit folk but we don’t mean it.
DiRT Rally doesn’t have as many tracks and cars as other racing games but it doesn’t need to, its quality over quantity. From the forests of Wales to the sandy roads of Greece the tracks are stunning and detailed. You will notice the difference in how the car handles in all the different types of road surface. Codemasters haven’t just made the game look great but it also sounds brilliant with the sound of the road and the engine noises of all the different cars. DiRT sounds and looks fantastic. Anyone who is a fan of rally will get a buzz looking through all the classic rally cars like your Subaru Imprezas and Lancia Delta but personally the first car I always look for is my dream car, the Ford Sierra Cosworth which I’ve had the pleasure of driving in real life and also drove the class down from it a Sierra Sapphire on a local rally track. Sadly some manufacturers like Citreon and Toyota didn’t make the list, maybe due to licensing but some of the classics have made it in.
I do recommend if you’re a fan of racing games and want to take DiRT Rally seriously get a proper steering wheel, pedals and gearbox set up. The controller is alright but once you get used to the wheel and pedals you won’t look back. On the PC I played with my Logitech G25 which was fantastic. I was able to control the car far more than I was with a controller, the ability to dip the clutch to give me some over-steer on those tight corners made all the difference and just having a proper manual gearbox and my experience of real life driving just completes the experience. I know folk who go one step further and have the handbrake set up along with driving gloves but my driving days are done after this one I think.
Personally I love how Codemasters have gone back to their roots with DiRT Rally, while Codemasters were one of the first developers to add a rewind feature on GRID, removing that gives this game a more pure sense. If you want the most realistic and unforgiving rally game, then DiRT Rally is the game for you. It won’t hold your hands and while there are assists to help drivers or a lower level it’s no way for the newbies or arcade racer. The tutorial system will give you want you need to know to become a better driver but only if you were average to begin with I feel. I’ve played rally games since the Amiga and while I admit I struggled and still do, I know my limits and playing with a near finished racing set up, it’s a fantastic experience but if you are a casual gamer who likes a quick race then stay away, unless you are willing to put in the hours to become a better driver, there is no handing holding here.
Some images were taken from Codemasters blog which features ‘Screenshot of the week’
Summary: Codemasters have gone back to their roots with DiRT Rally. If you were a fan of the previous installments, you may want to give this a miss unless you want to crash endlessly with no skips or rewinds like the previous games. This is the Dark Souls of Rally games.