DiRT Rally is a massive leap forward for developer Codemasters. These guys have been in the racing business since 1986 (who remembers BMX Simulator on the Amiga and Commodore 64?), and while most of their recent offerings have struggled to keep up with the competition, DiRT Rally is the pinnacle of their success. There are more than a handful superb racers out there, but very few titles come close to DiRT Rally’s sense of realism. There are no Gymkhana, head to head or circuit races. This is point to point rally racing in its purest form. DiRT Rally doesn't mess around. Forget racing lines and rewind features. If you make a mistake, you have to live with it.
DiRT Rally was an immediate hit ever since it hit Early Access on Steam, and Codemasters have since then continued to refine every aspect of the experience into what may very well be the greatest rally game ever created.
I’m a huge racing fan, and I consider myself relatively competent when it comes to sim racers. However, nothing could prepare me for DiRT Rally’s relentless difficulty. My first few races were an embarrassment. Without making any major mistakes, I barely scraped by 6th place. Then I tried again, and again and again. Eventually I drove a flawless race, yet I still only managed to secure the second position. I looked at the winning driver, and he somehow surpassed my time by nearly 15 seconds. That’s the beauty of DiRT Rally. It doesn’t let you get away with an easy win. Like rally in real life, every split second counts.
"If you like the racing genre, DiRT Rally deserves a spot in your collection. It's unquestionably one of the greatest rally games ever made."
Despite its difficulty, DiRT Rally is never unfair. It forces you to learn the game’s mechanics and master each vehicle. You can’t simply slide into a corner at high speeds, nor can you spam the handbrake too often like in so many other racers. I played with a gamepad during most of my testing, but DiRT Rally is clearly designed for a steering wheel. The handling is notably different. Turning doesn't feel as smooth with an analog stick, and it’s somewhat harder to drive with manual transmission. I got the hang of the gamepad controls eventually, but I’d definitely recommend a wheel if you’re looking for a truly authentic rally experience.
Previous DiRT titles provided a satisfying mix of arcade and simulation, but DiRT Rally is a sim racer through and through. Since you’re always racing against the clock, learning to properly read your co-driver’s directions is invaluable. The tracks are long, and memorizing each turn and bump isn’t as easy as in circuit racing. A small slip up usually means there’s no chance of advancing to the top three. To make matters worse, you’re penalized 1000 credits for restarting a race, which is a lot considering how low the payouts are. If you slip and find yourself falling off the track, you can use the restore action to get back on, but that too costs a hefty time penalty. Ultimately, it all comes down to skill. Even if it seems impossible at first, the satisfaction of finally seeing the zone markers turn green is unparalleled.
"There’s an impressive amount of detail in both the gravely roads and distant backgrounds, and the snowy environments with all effects set to ultra look absolutely gorgeous."
Before each race, you’re granted a limited number of test drives (called shakedowns) in order to properly tweak your vehicle for the road conditions. Those familiar with advanced car tweaking are going to appreciate the ability to adjust handling to their liking, but if you’re not sure what each setting does, there aren’t any instructions or guides. Further vehicle upgrading is handled by your teammates who can be leveled up with perks between championships to cut down on repair time and increase effectiveness. Other performance increases are installed as you progress, so there’s not too much fussing around customization options outside the races.
"DiRT Rally is one of the most enjoyable racers I’ve played in a long time. The racing is brutally challenging, but never unfair."
DiRT Rally is not only different in its handling when compared to previous entries, but the visuals too. Codemasters is going for a more realistic aesthetic with a very natural color palette. Menus are clean and slickly designed, and gone are the obnoxious announcers from the predecessors. The tracks look absolutely stunning. There’s an impressive amount of detail in both the gravely roads and distant backgrounds, and the snowy environments with all effects set to ultra look absolutely gorgeous. Cars are meticulously rendered too, although some of the interiors still appear like they’re a work in progress. The console port comes very close to its PC counterpart. I've encountered zero glitches and fps drops, which is a big compliment for a game of this complexity.
DiRT Rally is one of the most enjoyable racers I’ve played in a long time. The racing is brutally challenging, but never unfair. The driving mechanics are unlike anything I’ve ever played, and it’s pretty safe to say that DiRT Rally is Codemasters’ greatest achievement. Between Asseto Corsa, Project Cars and now DiRT Rally, the racing genre seems to be making a monumental comeback.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Playstation 4