Dirt Rally | Hands On Preview

DiRT_Rally_KeyArt_04_1429865916 review

Dirt Rally quietly rolled up to the starting line surprisingly listed as an Early Access title on Steam. Codemasters, whose name is synonymous with driving games, have returned to their roots and have dropped the numericals, with this unforgiving simulation experience.

Fans of the recent number of releases with their donuts, drifts and ‘Monster’ wired dazzling arcade driving may want to apply the handbrake, as Dirt Rally demands you to belt up, strap on your helmet and listen to your co-driver explicitly.

From the off there are 17 vehicles to choose from, each rendered almost perfectly from their original versions, from the Mini Cooper S of the 1960’s through to the Lancia Stratos of the 70’s, the Sierra Cosworth RS500, the Peugeot 205 T16, the Lancia Delta S4 up to the Ford Fiesta RS, with the promise of more to follow.

Tearing away from the start line, the car struggles for grip on the loose surface, you can feel each lump and bump as the physics engine goes to work. The track width can be best described as narrow and acceleration applied at the wrong moment can have disastrous consequences. There is no ‘Y’ to reverse time to eradicate mistakes, the most you can hope for is to be positioned back on track, which incurs a 12 second penalty. A crushing impact may result in irreparable damage forcing you to retire from the stage. There is an option to restart the section however which incurs a cash credit penalty each time, a small deterrent if anything. In between stages there is also an opportunity to set the mechanics to work for any knocks you’ve picked up, each fix will cost time which is free up to the first 30 minutes of labour, take any longer than that and you’ll incur a time penalty, so you’ll have to choose wisely. Do you repair the car so it’s in optimal condition and suffer the consequences or drive knowing you may very easily under steer off the edge of a cliff?

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I have become the Arsenal of racing drivers, each championship I entered I was always a few seconds off the leaders pace, with no sight of making up the deficit and always finishing around 30 seconds off the number 1 spot, with the bottom of the pack nearly 3 minutes behind which slightly strokes the ego. I’ve changed my approach when replaying the stages but that hasn’t affected the results. The split times that pop up are currently only displayed against the race leader, but it would be useful to see your position at each split, or maybe even being able to see the ghost of your competitors, but I guess this may be confusing on such narrow and winding courses.

Each track gives you details of the conditions and breakdown of the surface you’ll be driving upon, which can help you set-up the car accordingly. With options allowing for brake bias, dif, gears, suspension and damping there are plenty of options for the enthusiast. Luckily there is an option to go for the default setup, if you don’t fancy adjusting your gear ratios or changing the camber angles…

Multiplayer as it stands comes in the form of online events, which gives you daily, weekly and monthly courses to pit your driving skills up against the best, at the time of writing the Dirt Daily Live will only give you one attempt at the leaderboard.

At the beginning of each race the cars handle really well and you can feel the difference if you’ve made any changes to the setup. Any damage taken as you progress has a noticeable difference with the way the car will react, bursting a tire changes it again as you mentally cross your fingers in hope that you’re not sparking around the course on 3 wheels, which will cause real concerns.

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Graphically the game looks really respectable, the cars at the start of the stage are impressive and finely detailed. The vehicle damage looks as it should so when you do take a knock the car visually looks broken along with the handling issues you’ll now experience. If you dare look away from the parking space width of the track, the scenery, fans and even parked cars look exceptional as you whiz past them.

I’ve found the sound quality in Dirt Rally to be another highlight, your co-driver sounds crystal clear and it actually feels like he is sitting right next to you, when he says ‘hairpin’ ‘anything’ you know he means business. The believable sounds of a revving car engine, the crunching up through the gears and the rattling and screeching of the tires creates real immersion and a feeling of being in the vehicle.

Currently priced at £24.99, it’s quite steep for what’s currently on offer, but there is plenty more to come in this package with the ‘Pikes Peak’ additions already mentioned as a late May release. Codemasters have promised there will be no micro transactions introduced, which is refreshing compared to other unnamed driving games.

Depending on how often the updates role out will affect the recommendation of this game, my advice is to follow @Dirtgame for updates an announcements, unless you’re already a massive fan of rally sims, in which case stop reading and hit this link.. http://store.steampowered.com/app/310560/

Pros

Both visuals and sounds are impressive
Car’s handling and physicals are accurate
Plenty more lined up from Codemasters

Cons

Content not yet worth £25.00
Will not suit everyone