Dirt Rally Review Xbox One

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Dirt Rally has finally moved over to consoles nearly a year after its PC Early Access release, this, in theory, should have given Codemasters time to fine-tune their engine and with feedback from the PC overlords release the ultimate Racing experience. Codemasters, whose name is synonymous with driving games, have turned back the clock and have dropped the numericals, with this unforgiving Rally simulation.

Fans of the recent 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.

In my case Eddie my 2 year old with his limited vocabulary was a poor choice of team-mate, his pace notes were unclear and sometimes even random, and he also had a knack of sitting on my lap and applying the handbrake on crucial corners of the stage, luckily for me the in-game driving assistant provides none of these drawbacks, each corner dictated in crystal clarity as you hear the rocks bounce off the body work and the engine scream under the heaviest of acceleration.

From the off there are 39 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.

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, each surface you drive on effects how the 4 wheels act on the claustrophobic track, acceleration applied at the wrong moment can have disastrous consequences. There is no ‘Y’ to reverse time and eradicate mistakes, the most you can hope for is to be positioned back on track, which incurs a timed 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 this incurs a cash credit penalty each time. 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 a specified amount of labour, take any longer than that and you’ll incur a time penalty which could affect your final position, so you’ll have to choose wisely. Do you repair the car so it’s in optimal condition and suffer the timed consequences or drive knowing you may very easily understeer off the edge of a cliff?

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Driving conservatively is a new skill drivers will have to pick up if they want to achieve results in Dirt Rally, the learning curve to controlling each of the cars over the different terrain is steep, like Pikes Peak challenge steep. 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. With options allowing for brake bias, dif, gears, suspension and damping there are plenty of options for the enthusiast. thankfully there is an option to go for the default setup if you don’t fancy adjusting your gear ratios or changing the camber angles…

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 have an adverse effect on your course time.

With 6 rally courses in total between 70 stages Dirt takes you places like the infamous Pikes Peak, the wet corners of middle Wales and the Frozen death-trap of Sweden which are all beautifully detailed, the loading screen before each race gives you details of the conditions and breakdown of the surfaces you’ll be driving upon, which leads to my only grumble of the game, the loading times seem slightly excessive, as I’m sat waiting for the next nerve destroying stage to begin.

Career mode is present, starting out with a small budget with the aim of building a racing team equipped to assist you in becoming a champion, earning the real $ to upgrade your car, employ better staff or part ex for a shinier motor.

Multiplayer comes in the form of online events, which gives you daily, weekly and monthly courses to pit your driving skills up against the best, giving you one shot to stake your place amongst the world, in addition to this a Rally Cross event which allows you to race against others on the track at the same time, and finally a Dirt league, where you can set up or join an existing league where the restrictions & events are determined by the league manager.

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Graphically the game looks damn fine on the Xbox One, 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 slide past them, the game feels like it has all the frames, that along with the concentration required to complete the course had my eyes experiencing screen burn on a small number of occasions, but I couldn’t look away through fear of failure.

As mentioned earlier the sound quality in Dirt Rally to be another highlight, there’s no mistaking the co-drivers instructions and he 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 a rally driver.

Any hardcore enthusiasts will already have this saved on their HD, after a day 1 purchase they’ll be adjusting car settings to shave the precious seconds off their course times, and without a doubt be driving with the latest Thrustmaster wheel for the completely immersive experience, anyone new to the series or those who have played previous Dirt games are going to have to put on their L plates, stick with it, and prepare for the ride of your life.

Pros

Both visuals and sounds are impressive

Car’s handling and physicals are accurate

Most lean and tight driving package release to date

Cons
Will not suit everyone, difficulty level requires perseverance

Small delay on loading times between courses

You’re going to want to buy a racing wheel

Score: 9/10

Dirt Rally | Hands On Preview

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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

Frugal Gaming Review: F1 2014

8You’re in second, the safety car has come in this lap and there’s nothing except you, the track and your opponent from you lifting that winner’s trophy, then spraying champagne at the end of the race. The 90 seconds of tight street circuit, the most well known and challenging race of your first season, and if you can stay out of the wall maybe, just maybe, you’ll have the chance you’ve always dreamt of.

In 2009 Codemasters took their history of creating excellent racing games and focused all that energy into what would become F1 2009: The first proper, full blooded, Formula One game that wannabe racers had seen in a long time. The driving was tight, the wheel to wheel racing frantic and the extras that supported your time in the cockpit felt like excellent flair and fleshed out around the edges – something the franchise had always struggled with before. You felt like a Formula 1 driver. You felt part of a team as you stepped into your trailer.

F1_2014-07-11_09-58-41-45_screen_15_1406716979It’s disappointing then, that a lot of this has been removed from the latest edition of the game, and you’re as far removed from the life and soul of Formula One as you could be. You begin a career and you no longer have a young driver’s test, where you’re welcomed and able to prove your ability. Rather than this, you are thrust into a single lap challenge (Basically a time trial) to show what you can do and then able to select a team to drive for, with difficulty ratings dependant on your selected team. The game has lost some of its soul in removing the fringe aesthetics of the game. Instead you’re faced with bland menus and the game has very little personality outside the cockpit.

Inside the cockpit the game is as solid as ever. You’re faced with full race weekends, where each session brings its own challenges; during practise you’ll want to achieve a research goal to aid you down the line in improving your team and qualifying. This will have you trying to get the highest position possible. During the race you’ll be fighting against the 21 other drivers, jockeying for position while, ultimately racing your own race and pleading other drivers not to plough into you on the first corner after the start.

The driving feels as tight as it ever has, you’re going to spend a lot of time hitting the hour long practise to improve your times and master that tricky third section. You have the usual handful of assists to provide you with the support you’ll need when starting out your journey, but the real challenge comes when you’re sat back, all assists off and ready to race. Of course, this will also provide you with the most frustration in the game. For example; if you’ve just raced a 50 lap race and overshoot Monaco’s Mirabeau (one of F1’s most famous corners) and have to limp back to the pits to change the front wing you left all over the track. The lack of available ERS (Energy Recovery System) on the cars feel like it takes away some of the stress from the racing but also takes away from the immersion and one of the things you have control over to aid your race winning strategy (Although Codemasters say this is now applied automatically rather than manual as it was in previous iterations).

F1_2014-07-11_10-48-34-91_screen_26_1406716980The game lets you know when you have messed up and punishes you for it, but the feedback and tight controls make things very clear – you’re the one responsible: You messed up and now you’re going to have to fight to get back in the race, just like a real racing driver.

Along with the career mode you’ve got all the usual modes, such as time trials and challenges where you’ll be the underdog in a number of scenarios. The online Multi-player is solid when you want to get together with a load of people and run a full F1 race. The additional stress of other drivers on the track other than AI, which can be adjusted to suit your skill level, adds an entire new dimension to racing.

F1 2014 feels like a holding year for the franchise. The lack of total immersion and focus on creating a simple, tight, racing game that only appears on last gen (Xbox 360, PS3 and for arguments sake, I will include PC) has me hoping this franchise is waiting for a big comeback on next-gen next year. F1 2014 comes late in the Formula One calendar so is going to suffer by not being out in conjunction with the hype of the F1 season opener, but at its core is still a solid racing experience that will appeal to core fans of the series and of Formula One. Unfortunately the sterile feel to the menus will fail to impress people new to the series. A disappointing entry to an excellent franchise, that I’m hoping will give the development team time to bounce back and excel in future iterations.

 

Score: 7/10