Review: DiRT Rally (PS4)

2016 Golden Minecart Awards:

  • Best Racing Game (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
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Title: DiRT Rally
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (43.3 GB)
Release Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Koch Media GmbH
Developer: Codemasters
Original MSRP: $59.99 (US), €59.99 (EU), £54.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: E
PEGI: 3
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

DLC Review(s) For This Game:

I still recall playing the first Colin McRae: DiRT rally game on the PS3. The exceptional graphics and gameplay were excellent, even the menu was blissfully refined and effortless in its beauty. There were many rally and racing games from Codemasters before and after it, but in my opinion, it was the best.

I became overly obsessed with the game, spending an absurdly long time perfecting each track and striving for the best times. Since then, I never found that same pure undiluted racing bliss. Other games came close, some even acted the same or looked better but none truly compared.

I had a recent fling with one particular rival which lasted a while and I had a lot of fun. On several occasions, I stayed up all night playing with it. I even treated it to a Platinum trinket. After a time I started to compare them both and things fizzled out after that.

Gameplay:
DiRT Rally is not an easy simulation, or better yet, it is not forgiving. If you are new to this kind of game then expect to be thrown into the deep end as there are no beginners lessons, you aren’t eased in with a training area.

You will often crash, restart countless times, and struggle to place in the top three. It will probably take some time before you become accustomed to a particular vehicle and learn how to corner will a degree of finesse.

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Don’t get me wrong, there are assists that offer modicum of help but they made the experience less enjoyable and I quickly turned them off. In fact, I turned the entire HUD off and settled into the driver’s (cockpit) view for the majority of my time with the game. Bonus credits are given with each display component and assist you turn off to encourage a more realistic approach that I now favor.

I went a step further and assigned buttons to my windscreen wipers and lights, the latter isn’t really used as any night races have the lights already on before you begin and I see no reason to turn them off mid-race.

You can even adjust the seat if you assign it to some buttons or the directional pad, now this might sound silly but you are essentially adjusting the field of view when the camera is in the car.

… A good wheel adds so much to the experience …
You can adjust every conceivable control option and save presets, ergo switching between various control styles and schemes is almost effortless. I hooked up the Thrustmaster T150 steering wheel and after a small degree of adjustment in the wheel menu it felt great, very responsive and realistic.

You can even adjust the degrees of vibration and feedback from a host of things, like wheel friction, collision, self-righting torque, suspension, and more.

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Are you going to feel the difference between some wheel friction and a jolt to the suspension? To a degree with the DualShock 4 but absolutely, with a decent wheel like the T150. A good wheel adds so much to the experience and makes DiRT Rally extremely realistic, especially when you factor in the optional camera shake feature.

Learning the long stages will take some time and listening to your co-driver helps tremendously with this. More on that later as I first want to talk about the road design. Not the levels, but the roads themselves.

Every stage feels different from the others with every bump, curve and groove making the car rattle round the track like a roller coaster from hell. A slight mistake and your times are ruined, come off the track and it is usually a punishing fourteen second recovery penalty or an obliterated car.

… the Rallycross mode can be cruel and ruthless …
Even restarting the entire stage punishes you and removes some potential bonus credits that you might earn at the end of the rally. Then you have to pay for all the broken and damaged parts on the vehicle at the end so every knock and ding diminishes your total credits.

You spend credits on buying new cars and hiring crew for a limited time. They help and specialise in repairing your car and the longer they are in the team, the better they perform.

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There is plenty to keep you entertained and a nice selection of cars to buy and upgrade. I favoured the Rally mode but did venture into the nail-biting Hillclimb and Rallycross modes that mix up the action quite a bit.

I felt the desire for a plain old difficulty setting to make things easier for the newcomers as the Rallycross mode can be cruel and ruthless.

The PlayStation Vita has not been forgotten by Codemasters. DiRT Rally has a preset control scheme and it is a joy to play on the handheld using Remote Play. Collecting all of the trophies will take a long time and only an experienced player will attain the difficult Platinum.

… sunlight excitedly dances on the dashboard …
Visuals:
A wheel came flying off when my poor little Mini slammed into a tree, this was after a terrifying roll when I clipped a large rock and almost killed some frightened spectators. Yes, the cars take a beating if you drive anything like me.

Lighting and the attention to detail is superb, especially when you are hurtling down a tree-lined road and the sunlight excitedly dances on the dashboard and bounces off the windscreen showing the thin layer of dirt caked on it.

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During the replays, you glimpse parts of the course through the drone’s perspective flying above the track and can sometimes see the midday sun reflect on the lens.

A nighttime rally is worth mentioning too, the headlights cast a long beam on the deadly road ahead and it really is something to test the nerves. With the moonlight struggling to pierce the pitch-black countryside, it is only your headlights showing you the way ahead. Now you could cheat and adjust the contrast but I found it disturbingly enjoyable to make it as real as possible.

Dirt, apart from being the name of the game, also features heavily in it. You see clouds of it snake behind your rally car as it hurtles along the dusty road. It cakes onto the vehicle and its windscreen, only washing off if the car takes a dip.

… pay extremely close attention to the surroundings …
The water effects are stunning too. I am continually impressed at the beads of water snaking across the glass and the icy rain hammering down on the cars and their surroundings.

The varied camber of the road lined with ditches, dense foliage, fragile wooden fences, countless spectators, rocks, and steep ravines means you have to pay extremely close attention to the surroundings and more importantly, the co-driver. Speaking of which…

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Audio:
Other games have used the DualShock 4 speaker to great effect but it would seem the developers at Codemasters have stumbled upon an added layer of immersion with DiRT Rally.

You can opt to have the co-driver’s voice come through the little speaker and it sounds fantastic, it almost makes it feel like he is sat next to you. Static bookends the spurts of hurried speech as he relays each curve and turn ahead.

… an authentic pleasure to hear …
You can also make out the jolts and knocks as if he is taking part in the rally, and not sat in a booth reading off a script. Sadly there is no reaction when the car takes a tumble or really hard knock, just maybe a comment on the radiator leaking or that we are facing the wrong way.

Grit peppers the underside of the vehicle as the tires dig into the loose surface as you hurtle down the road. Each sound, effect, and voice coalesced to deliver an unparalleled realism that makes DiRT Rally an authentic pleasure to hear.

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Online/Multiplayer:
You can create or join Leagues via a redirect to the DiRT Rally website, take part in multiplayer races and attempt daily, weekly, and monthly events. Each online game I played was hassle free but I would strongly suggest opting to have collision off as some random players like to sideswipe at every possible moment.

You can set up you own championship with a plethora of choices or search for others with a few variables. I didn’t really focus on the online modes too much as I prefer the pure single-player rally experience but it does work well and the timed events are good fun, if you have the correct cars unlocked to take part.

… beautiful, fast, and very dirty …
Conclusion:
Codemasters has surpassed my lofty expectations and delivered a breathtaking experience. I have had many rally games over the years and always compared them to Colin McRae: DiRT, but now with DiRT Rally I think I have found my one and only. It can be difficult at times, maybe even too demanding and overly critical, but it really is beautiful, fast, and very dirty.

Just don’t expect any training wheels on this extremely authentic rally experience. If you are looking for an easy ride, I suggest looking elsewhere.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Chazz Harrington

Chazz Harrington

You can find me on everything: PSN, Twitter, Wii U, Origin, Steam, etc using my universal ID: ChazzH69

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