Review: DiRT 4 (PS4)

Review: DiRT 4 (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
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Title: DiRT 4
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (34.2 GB)
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Publisher: Codemasters
Developer: Codemasters
Original MSRP: $59.99 (US), €69.99 (EU), £54.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 3
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

I have been a fan of the DiRT series since the beginning. My favorite has always been the first one with its memorable menu design and stunning graphics that put many other games to shame.

Then along came DiRT Rally to this generation of consoles and it reignited my passion for the genre. Will DiRT 4 keep that passion alive or snuff it out?

Gameplay:
This iteration caters to everyone. With a gamer or simulation choice you can play this refined racer the way you want. No matter what you choose, the fun remains and you are free to focus on the things you prefer.

With several modes and a plethora of vehicles, you can spend ages doing what you like without even glancing at what else the game has to offer.

You are eased into each mode with a short introduction and helpful pointers. If you are still in doubt then a press of the Triangle button on any of the screens explains what you’re looking at. You can skip the fine tuning and upgrading if you chose the gamer route but each menu option is still available should you want to tinker with things once you feel confident.

A lack of confidence was a factor in the older games with most new players feeling slightly overwhelmed by everything they needed to do in order to get racing, or at the very least, keep their vehicle from falling apart. It doesn’t feel that way anymore.

What DiRT 4 has for the new players who are unaccustomed to the genre is a competent tutorial that has you driving around the DirtFish Academy with lessons in the different types of cornering and an explanation of the co-driver route notes among so much else.

The Career mode is the main part of the game and it’s where most people will spend the majority of their time. The menu is easy to navigate and allows you to dive into any discipline whenever you wish. You can adjust the difficulty settings at any time but it shouldn’t take long to find the right balance.

You can also choose and then adjust a difficulty bonus, which has numerous settings that let you pick anything from automatic windscreen wipers to a manual launch control. Basically, the more realistic the game, the higher the bonus. So now it doesn’t feel like you’re being punished if you just want to have easier settings turned on, but you are rewarded for turning them off.

With my preferred play style as the more simplistic Gamer setting and I have several assists to make life easier. Turning some more of those off increases the experience bonus and even makes some of the sponsors happy. I opted for a couple of percent over the champion level but might increase it now that I have completed the rally part of the game.

… whipping the rally car round a tight turn feels great …
There might not be every rally course imaginable stuffed into this game but there are enough to deter any illusions of repetition. With favorite Rallycross courses also returning like Hell and Lydden Hill, I am very happy. You also have the Land Rush discipline to mix up the racing style.

What I adore is the course generation system in the Freeplay section that allows for a randomly generated rally course based on a few criteria like length and complexity. It works surprisingly well and adds a great deal to the longevity.

You can add many generated events and create an entire championship that can be saved and even shared with your friends. You can even set the weather conditions, time of day, and whether you want to race it in reverse.

Another way of pleasing the sponsors is to simply wash the car. That might sound obvious but keeping the vehicle pristine and shiny takes time in the service area, valuable time. If you don’t want to worry about that, you can just go with the recommended repairs and get back to the action quickly.

The developers at Codemasters have refined their controls perfectly and whipping the rally car round a tight turn feels great. The DualShock 4 rumbles to varying degrees in order to signify anything from the road type and speed to a flat tire or fault with the ride. It’s subtle enough that you will mostly register it at an instinctual level.

DiRT 4 works very well with my racing wheel as well. I hooked up my Thrustmaster T150 and was having a great time until the table I had it fixed on, fell apart from the force feedback. Time to buy a proper wheel stand I suppose.

… the lighting and particle effects are excellent …
Joyride challenges in and around the DirtFish Academy really test your driving skills in a time attack or, my favorite, a smash attack that has you smash apart large foam blocks that are strategically placed all over the academy in the quickest time possible.

Each challenge has bronze, silver, and gold medals to acquire and if you manage to get the last one, your time is uploaded to the leaderboards. Figuring out the best route and perfecting it is half the fun with this mode.

Don’t get me wrong, the time attack challenges are good too, with the green floating markers taking one second from your time and the evil red ones adding a second. You have to take some risks and go for the perilous jaunt on the top of some containers or around a hairpin bend just to collect some of the pretty greens.

Visuals:
This is a good looking game. Not only is it fast and smooth but the lighting and particle effects are excellent. All of the weather types and time of day differences look just right. In fact, I was amazed at the contrasting effect of a bright sunny day and the shade of a forest.

A dazzling sun streaming through the gaps in the canopy and a few sections of complete shade makes it quite difficult to make out parts of the road. All of this and I don’t even have a 4K HDR television. It’s not just the sunny days that bowled me over, the weather effects are excellent too.

… Heavy rain or snow flurries can really obscure your vision …
On a few courses, I have driven into a dense and unnerving fog that made me thankful for my co-driver telling me where to go. This reminded me of one nighttime rally that was going well until my lights kept shorting out. This worried my partner enough to suggest that we stop and check them but I soldiered on through the winding Spanish roads.

The dazzling lights from your vehicle illuminate the pitch blackness of a Welsh night and help to show off the intricate details of gravel on the road and the countless trees making up the dense forests and woodlands stretching out across the countryside.

Another immersive feature is the other rally cars breaking down or crashing with warning signs signaling their presence on the road ahead and sometimes the driver waving us away from the crippled ride. Startled birds and animals dart out in front of the rally car as you pelt along the dirt roads. You might even see one or two man-made flying machines getting a bit too close for comfort too.

Heavy rain or snow flurries can really obscure your vision if you opt for a more realistic in-car view. The detail of the vehicles themselves, both inside and out, is impressive too. The destruction modeling works well and I often switch views just to check out how badly I have wrecked the automobile.

… it’s paramount to hear the sounds of the engine and the co-driver clearly …
DiRT 4 isn’t just aesthetically pleasing, the banks of snow allow you to dig in slightly and a sign post will just bend, instead of breaking if you don’t plow into it with enough force. Traffic cones can get stuck under the car and crash barriers crumple in a realistic way.

Some of the returning courses in the Rallycross mode look even better now with an added sense of realism, from the types of gravel and dirt that spill over onto the asphalt to the clouds of dirt that spill out from other vehicles. It all looks so good now and I took an excessive amount of pictures with the Share button to prove it, around 350 to be exact.

Audio:
A wide selection of popular music fills the menus and replays, all of which fit the style of the game perfectly. These can be turned down or off should your tastes differ or you prefer to listen to your own music instead.

There is no option to have the co-driver calls emanate from the DualShock 4 speaker like it does in DiRT Rally, which is a shame as I quite liked the effect. All of the sound effects are excellent and it I feel it’s paramount to hear the sounds of the engine and the co-driver clearly, so I prefer to have the volume up high.

The crowds cheering and the thunderous roar of the engines sound excellent and really immersed me in the nail-biting action. Even a slide over gravel or splash of a puddle is worth hearing as it’s all been captured perfectly.

… caters to both the simulation enthusiast and the average racing gamer …
Online/Multiplayer:
Cross-platform leaderboards means I have many more people to show me how bad I am at the game. This is optional and I was tempted to turn it off but I kind of like seeing the full breadth of player’s times.

You can compete in some daily, weekly, and monthly competitive events. These are set by Codemasters and could be anything from a quick rally to an entire event. It’s quite tense but also fun and makes competing on the leaderboards with random people more structured and enjoyable.

You can also play the regular multiplayer mode where you join or host championship events in a public or private session. You can tweak the handling style, the amount of events, and whether assists are allowed. It works well and I enjoyed my time with it.

I did encounter a person who found an exploit to win a race putting me in second. They then proceeded to ram my car when I was winning again. This did not deter me from playing online and I just switched to another event.

Conclusion:
DiRT 4 is the best rally game I have played since the old classic that started this popular series. It does everything right and caters to both the simulation enthusiast and the average racing gamer. The developers at Codemasters have proven that they are indeed, masters at their craft and DiRT 4 has become the game to beat.

Some might argue that the lack of courses hinders this excellent title, and while I see their point to some degree, I feel the course generation feature alleviates most of that issue. There is enough content here to keep you playing for a long time and you know what they say, everyone always wants more of a good thing.

I am so happy that this became my 200th review for PS Nation as I was hoping for something memorable. I am not only going to find this game hard to forget and I will be playing it for a long time to come, but it has become my favorite racing game full stop and will be one of my Golden Minecart, Game of the Year contenders.

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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  • Nice review Chazz! Good to hear this one is more accessible to non-sim racing fans. Only Dirt game I got into before was its arcade-racer-friendly Dirt Showdown so I may have to give this one a whirl. Nice screens too, game looks fantastic as expected.

    • ChazzH69

      Thanks Gruel, I hope you enjoy it.