I have some sort of history with the Colin McRae series. It all started with the original game I used to play on my first playstation even though it was its sequel, Colin McRae 2.0 the one I spent more hours on. Fast forward to the PS3 era and we witnessed the metamorphosis as the long running franchise turned into the Dirt series. It wasn’t just the name of the game what changed with that trilogy. It seemed, specially with Dirt 2, that the main focus wasn’t put on proffessional rally racing anymore. Probably trying to appeal to those who thought the game had lost its path, Dirt Rally was born. Let’s see if they succeded.
Dirt Rally is a racing simulation game centered around the world of rallying. Unlike the Dirt games from last gen, the game no longer tries to cater to the extreme sports enthusiast but rather offer a much more classic rally experience. The game isn’t casualized in any way either. Long gone is the rewind feature and the new physics make the driving way more demanding.
Back in Dirt 3 you could tell the difference when driving an all wheel drive car or a rear wheel drive but that was as far as they went. In Dirt rally every car it’s its own world. Some will be a joy drive cruising on the finnish ridged roads and others will have you clenching your hands dead scared as you take every corner.
There was definitely care when they were crafting the driving of this game. It certainly is demanding but it feels natural and overall good.
The game has no story mode. The main mode of the game consists in buying cars, participating in championships with them and then buying more cars with the money you manage to earn.
Even though the main focus is on classic rally racing, there are actualy three types of competitions. Being the other two, hillclimb and rallycross. The gymkhana challenges that plagued the last two Dirt games are nowhere to be seen and I’m pretty pleased with that decision myself.
Within the rally modes the game includes different car types mostly sorted by time periods. There are cars from the 60’s, 70’s, group B cars, contemporary cars and more. The roster is wide and the cars chosen from each era are pretty spot on. I can only think of a couple cars they might have omitted but overall it’s a great selection.
As for the tracks included in the game, I can’t be as pleased. Codemasters obviously didn’t forget about the most symbolic rallies finland and monaco. They also had to include every surface possible with the tarmac on germany, the snow on sweeden or a very rainy wales. Add greece to that list and that’s pretty much everything you get. 6 countries isn’t bad but considering how thoughtful they got with the car selection I can see some glaring omissions on this front.
Also, the worst part of it is that for every country there are obviously multiple stages but that’s more like an illusion. They’re actually different parts of one long road and the inverted version of those sections. One could argue that this way you’d have an easier time memorizing the tracks but this “trick” leaves an impression of laziness.
Dirt Rally looks mostly good on ps4. The gameplay is very smooth and the stages feel handcrafted, full of detail. The plant life, very present in a rally game is abundant and it makes the forests you race through feel authentic.
The cars however could be better. Maybe I’m spoiled from games like Driveclub but I got the impression than the models from Dirt Rally are a little dated. They look good actually and the damage model is very well done but they’re certainly a step below from what we can see on other racing games.
Things I liked
- Driving: The physics are great, the driving is demanding but it also feels natural and thus fair. Every car feels different and, even though I never raced a WRC car, my bet is that this must be similar to how they react in real life.
- Car selection: Lancia stratos, Audi Quattro, Subaru Imprezza, Citröen C4… Almost all of the rally legends are present in the game and that makes my inner child very happy.
- Detailed tracks: The stages feel like the real deal. They’re narrow, windy and full of detail. The dissapointing part is that there isn’t so many of them if you have in consideration that every stage from the same country is reusing the same road several times.
Things I didn’t
- Punishing: If you make a mistake and get thrown off a road you’ll get a 15 second penalty that will throw away any chance of winning the stage. Restart the race and you have a money penalty as well. Restart the championship then? You can’t do that either or the game will degrade you to a lower category. And no, you can’t play it safe either if you aim for the first place. Even on the easier difficulties you’ll have to be daring to come out on top.
Who’d like this?
There’s a huge gap between the casual friendly Dirt games from the ps3 era and the punishing Dirt Rally. A gap I wished this game fell into honestly. This game demands you from the very start to have proffessional rally driver skills or either the patience and the free schedule of a buddhist monk to invest the time needed to master the game.
Dirt Rally is actually a great rally game but it is clearly aimed at the most hardcore rally-game enthusiasts and I can only recommend it to them.
<This is a review on the ps4 port of the game but Dirt Rally is also available on other platforms>