Challenging But Brilliant – DiRT Rally Review (Xbox One/PS4)

Challenging But Brilliant – DiRT Rally Review (Xbox One/PS4)

* Review based on Xbox One version*

For a while now, driving games have tended to drift in and out of trends. We’ve seen street racing dominate the scene, points focused titles and open world sandboxes. At one point in time, rewinding time to correct mistakes was all the rage, creating a number of titles in the process. DiRT Rally happily sticks its fingers up at modern trends, opting to do its own thing.

Codemasters are not messing around, DiRT Rally is a full on experience, forcing players either to learn the game or taste failure. This is quite possibly the most robust rally experience ever in video games. Codemasters are back on form, all while offering genuine option to a market somewhat forgotten by other devlopers.

DiRT Rally doesn’t wait around in terms of showing exactly what it is. The menus are simple and clean, no unneeded touches or frills, a rare thing in the modern market. Career mode forms the bulk of the content. Players choose from various types of events, all of which require a certain class of car. Expecting to win every event and race is foolish , DiRT will kick your arse, but you’ll like it and learn.

Each and every car handles with a true sense of weight. The gameplay never feels floaty or unresponsive. Every turn, bump, jump and scrape is felt, it’s hugely satisfying. No other game has nailed the break neck thrills of Rallying, never before has it been this visceral. Gameplay can be further enhanced depending on how willing you’re are to dive into the various settings on offer and tweaks on offer.

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Cars be tuned to optimize the relevant areas depending on the race track and conditions. Weather takes a huge toll on how each race pans out. Rain makes every corner a test of skill while snow pushes handling to the limits. Each weather effect requires its own approach in terms of driving style and preparation.

One key element of DiRT Rally is the removal of a mini-map in favour of a co-driver. There’s no ability to see what’s coming up next. The only aid available to the player is the information fed through by the co-driver. Calling out the turns, jumps and tightness, the information given is vital to success. It’s a subtle feature that enhances the experience.

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The level of challenge is what keeps the career mode, along with most of the game, rolling. Each event feels like a step closer to improvement, even when rolling up last on the leader board. Mastering the tracks and shaving off precious seconds from a personal time produces a genuine sense of satisfaction. Clawing your way up the board earns the player in-game currency. After a few fairly successful events, players will be able to buy new cars from different classes and eras. This is where things get juicy.

Eyeing up the likes of the Ford Focus RS Rally, Lancia Delta or Renault Alpine provides motivation for the player, essentially a carrot on a stick. It’s good motivation, encouraging improvement to performances while crafting a keen eye for the minor details. Each new car class feels like a whole new game, mostly due to how powerful the cars are.

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As each event progress, the challenge increases. Racing along side the AI can be hell, especially when the weather isn’t favourable. AI drivers race differently, from passive and safe to all out aggressive. Suddenly every lap becomes a struggle, a constant battle to record quick times while defending your racing line.

Career mode is genuinely thrilling and unpredictable. DiRT also offers individual events that can be played without the need to buy any of the cars. Hill climbs, Rally and Rally cross can all be accessed and played on their own merit, along with option to change weather and lap settings. It’s nice to see that DiRT caters for long play sessions and short bursts without sacrificing any of the quality.

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DiRT Rally looks and sounds beautiful. Each engine bellows with power, echoing through the respective courses. Every little dent is registered in the audio, gravel can be heard clashing with the car. It’s the perfect partner for the hugely satisfying gameplay, resulting in the complete rallying experience. DiRT’s visuals are also a highlight. Each car is modelled in stunning detail, from the bonnet to the spoiler, it’s perfection. Collisions are realistically reflected on the cars themselves with parts flying off and huge dents forming. Witnessing the DiRT in full flow is a treat ot behold.

Codemaster’s have produced the definitive Rally game. There’s little here to criticise, it’s just that good. The sheer challenge and lack of assists won’t appeal to everyone, but the hardcore will be smitten. It looks, sounds, plays and runs fantastically, DiRT Rally is simply a brilliant game that achieves everything it sets out to do. A new standard has just been set for games of this type.

 

 

Sean Halliday


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