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?
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.
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.
Both visuals and sounds are impressive
Car’s handling and physicals are accurate
Most lean and tight driving package release to date
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