“…by far the best simulation of rally driving as a sport that the gaming world has ever seen.”
DiRT Rally is the latest in Codemasters’ specialist rally racing series, and the first new DiRT game since 2012. More recently, the publishers released a particularly shiny version of Colin McRae Rally for PC in 2013, which received very mixed reviews. I personally enjoyed this most recent game, and was thrilled to have the chance to play DiRT Rally during its early access stages and now upon its final release. To describe my experience with the game in short, this is about as close to the experience of the real thing as you can get.
I am no expert on rally driving as a sport, but I understand the basic concept enough to enjoy a game based around it. If you are not familiar with it yourself, it is essentially a form of timed, off-road racing in which a driver and a navigator attempt to complete complex courses as quickly as possible. It requires superb driving ability, well-trained reactions and huge attention to detail in order to do it successfully and safely. Emulating this intensity accurately in video game form has been an endeavour of Codemasters for years now; since 1998. It is fantastic to say then that they have surpassed themselves in their latest and greatest attempt.
The game hits you quickly with its striking realism, showing a great understanding of what fans of the sport and gamers alike will want to see. Every vehicle, both inside and out, has been meticulously designed to an incredible level of accuracy. Driving in first person is an amazing experience as a result, especially in some of the classic cars which the game features. Realistic damage is also a pleasure to experience. Whilst the aim is of course to keep your car intact, the fine details which appear for each knock you take are awesome. The tracks are incredibly carefully modelled as well, not only in the sense of making them location-accurate, but even in the way that dirt and dust looks and moves as you drive through it. The lighting effects are strikingly impressive to top all of this off too. DiRT Rally, simply put, looks fantastic.
The actual driving experience is as difficult as you might expect from a technical sports emulation. If you follow the clear instructions of your AI companion, you stand a far greater chance than you do alone, however more help would have been nice here. Again, I am not a big follower of rally driving, and so some of the instructions being shouted at me do not entirely make sense. The game does not do a huge amount to explain what certain calls mean, but there are at least some graphical prompts to help out if you need them. Nevertheless, as good as you may be at other racing games, DiRT Rally is difficult on a whole other level, and you will almost certainly take some time before you become good at it.
If you do happen to be a natural at tackling tight corners and listening well to instructions, the game does plenty to vary the challenged you will face. Intelligent weather systems dramatically affect the difficulty of courses and the way in which you should handle certain features of them. Beyond this however, the very composure of the track has been considered by the developers, meaning accuracy in the attention to detail put into every course is unmatched by any other racing sim on the market. It is impressive to see that the figures for hard and soft grain surfaces make genuine differences to the driving experience as well. Even a novice to the sport can witness the distinct differences that these track composures make in the game.
When you are off the track the game doesn’t stop with the detail. Career mode allows you to purchase a car, make personalised modifications and upgrades to it, and then hire your ideal team of staff to take along to competitions. If you ever wanted to experience the professional side of the sport, this is very much your chance to do so. The fine tuning options are vast, and once again make a genuine difference to your racing experience. Between races, you can decide what repairs you need to make too, which are limited based on time available and the training of your engineering staff. This underlines how important your off-track decisions can be to your on-track success. As a package, DiRT Rally really works hard to round of your experience.
If you are a fan of racing games who wants something a little bit different to try, DiRT Rally may well be for you. It has immense levels of detail that any petrol head will easily be able to appreciate, and it offers a greater challenge through its unique racing style than many other driving games can simulate. Rally fans in particular however will appreciate this game a lot. It is by far the best simulation of rally driving as a sport that the gaming world has ever seen. The experts at Codemasters have surpassed themselves with this release, and after their years of efforts they deserve great praise for doing so.
- Impeccable design offers incredible visual detail in every aspect of the game.
- A highly accurate albeit challenging form of driving game experience.
- A near-perfect simulation of rally driving, from controls to track textures.
- Intelligent weather effects and detailed track compositions vary gameplay.
- Location-accurate track settings make the game even more immersive.
- Career mode is very detailed, from car customisation to hiring of staff.
- The ultimate rally package to come out of years of efforts by Codemasters.
- Non-rally fans may not understand some co-driver callouts.
- Some driving game fans may find the challenge of the game very heavy.