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

Heavy Bullets

Heavy_Bullets_-_Key_ArtNow that Heavy Bullets has actually received a full release, and my colleague Dedwoods42 is not available to do a follow up on it, the task has fallen on my shoulders. Following up on his stellar preview will be difficult, but I will try my best.

Let me start by saying that I found Heavy Bullets frustratingly addictive. It reminded me of spending all my money on House of the Dead, just to try and get a step further in the arcades. This is partially due to the Perma-death aspect of the game (that’s right- if you die it’s back to level 1) but not limited to it. I feel that games like this don’t really need a great story to drive them. The developer hasn’t provided a whole pre-game book to read, instead we have been given a few lines to explain there is a virus in the mainframe and you have been tasked with going in and resetting it. The reward? $5000. Fair bargain I’d say. This is more than enough story for me; I just want to shoot things.

This is my first Rogue-like game, and if they’re all like this then I’d happily scoop them up all day. What I really enjoy is the fact that is procedurally generated, which makes it damn hard! Death has never felt so inevitable, or so enraging! After having a few runs on this trying to progress – but falling prey to hidden worms, or a fatal wasp sting. I have devised myself a plan. You can bank money and power up objects to use in future lives, which is helpful. As the game is procedurally generated, sometimes the right power up machine or bank won’t appear when you most need them to.

Heavy_Bullets_1One gripe I have with this game is that no descriptions are given for the power ups. I was faced with a pair of sparkly stripper heels over a silver heart and I didn’t know what to choose. As is always the case, trial and error prevails. I feel that the life insurance and last will upgrades do need a description though, but I suspect that’s me not being used to the genre. I will say that the game offers many power-ups, but I can’t really tell you what they all do. As Dedwoods stated in his preview, the stripper heels give you a heightened perspective, by about 9 inches! I found the backpack was probably the most useful, giving you the ability to carry more than one power-up and toggle between the one you want equipped. Other than this my money is mainly spent on extra life hearts- giving you the ability to take more damage and red potions. There are more typical power-ups, such as missiles, but if you are a half decent shot I don’t find these as necessary as, for instance, the knife (close range one hit kill – if you remember to use it!)

Anyway, back to my completion plan. So far I’ve established you need to save as much money as you can, it’s best to probably have a few play-throughs, gather up money and store it. Having one item slot sure is a drag! The reason I would save so much money is for potions and life upgrades. Sometimes shops are few and far between, and as the game is procedurally generated they are never in the same place. This makes for a challenge: An incredibly frustratingly addictive just-one-more-go type of challenge.

Heavy_Bullets_3What’s perhaps so positively mystifying about this game to me is how all the elements complement each other; there is something beautifully enticing about the colour scheme – mixed with the amazing soundtrack from Doseone and the voxel-ish graphics. This game is like Minecraft on LSD with a revolver. The monsters further complement this sentiment. It draws me in like a moth to a flame, every time. Which is something that even Minecraft couldn’t do, perhaps that’s why I find this indie title so impressive. I haven’t before this found much of a solid footing on the indie scene.

One thing I really enjoyed about this game was how eco driven it is, you can have more than 6 shots for your revolver, but why would you need them when you can recycle your shots fired? Recovering you’re expended rounds adds a little extra challenge.  With a great soundtrack that makes you feel like an 8bit gangster, courtesy of Doseone and a colour scheme that for some reason reminds me of a GTA: Vice City sunset. I could see Heavy Bullets in an arcade cabinet in the back of an arcade where many kids would spend their weekends, crowding round watching as their friends spend their allowance to destroy the variety of enemies and bosses the game chucks out at you. If you wish to read the Preview – CLICK HERE

Score 8/10

Publisher: Devolver Digital