The PS4 version of DiRT Rally was primarily tested for the purpose of this review.
The DiRT franchise made its rather unusual early-access debut last year, but after Codemasters built its new installment DiRT Rally up from the ground, this April the game makes its debut on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. But even though the game isn’t exactly new to players per se, does the state of the game during its official release hold up?At first glance it already becomes apparent that DiRT Rally is quite the step up when it comes to the visual representation of the game world, which should speak for itself considering the franchise had yet to make its introduction to current generation hardware before Rally’s inception on PC earlier last year. In games like DiRT, the attention to detail when it comes to the game world and its details is quite essential, and Codemasters has put great work into the elements of the environments that the player will traverse through. From the green hills and forests to the icy and cold ridges up in the mountains, there is a lot to take in.The game is definitely a step-up from any of Codemasters’ earlier offerings, with terrain and car models that far exceed the visual fidelity the franchise’s earlier installments, though there are certain smaller details within the game world that do stick out sorely, even though these are issues often found within the driving genre. Spectators and certain pieces of shrubbery are sometimes a step down in quality in comparison to their surroundings, which in their defense are aspects that are most notable up close, and can seem far less intrusive when viewed from afar or in third person perspectives.
Natural elements such as snow and rain can be quite diverse in quality. Whilst rain elements in general are well presented, snow during gameplay sometimes seems rather flat when coming down, feeling like a separate layer of presentation rather than an interactive element interacting with the player.My biggest gripe with the game would be its rather dull user-interface design, which extends from both the menus to the in-game HUD, which whilst functional is rather uninspired when it comes to its visual design. Especially in comparison to the earlier titles in the franchise the designs desperately need a flinch of character, which it currently lacks. Its saving grace is its functionality, but even to that extent this issue remained on my mind throughout my time with the game.
That aside, DiRT Rally is one of the strongest players in its genre when it comes to graphics, and thanks to the excellent 1080p/60fps presentation the game really shines on consoles.One thing people need to know beforehand is that DiRT Rally is not a racing game, but a fully-commited rally game at its heart. Despite the franchise’s roots being similar, Rally is quite the side-step from Dirt 3 in particular, focussing on a more pure and focused rally experience that bases itself upon indirect time trial-based competition that isn’t as much about competing with your competitors, but about making sure that your run is as clean and fast as possible, which is much easier than it sounds.
One of my most intense experiences in the game involved a nighttime rally in the woods, which made me rely upon my headlights to navigate throughout the track as the darkness of the environment engulfed the screen. But little did I know, that a few minutes in a mechanical failure would lead to the malfunctioning of my headlights, which turned an already intense experience into an absolute nightmare thanks to the sheer fact that I ran out of luck.The handling model in essence bears partial resemblance to its former counterparts, but grip is the one thing you’ll find to crave for the most part. Your first goal in your career won’t be to finish first, but to make sure you don’t continuously spin out during your run, which is as inevitable as the frustration you may experience early on in the game. Trial and error is the essence of DiRT Rally, and learning to know the tracks is as essential as it is to control your car.
But whilst the game’s core gameplay is excellent, the question remains how this gameplay is packaged as a whole. Focussing on a pretty straightforward career model DiRT Rally is pretty much the definition of grinding at times, which is problematic due to the fact that the events in the available championships itself are great and to a certain extent diverse, but the simplistic nature of its setup and career management is rather disappointing with the lack of depth it has.
Next to the career championships the game also offers the ability to create custom championships and participate in a magnitude of challenges, some of which are daily. These modes and features create an extra bit of diversity, but the entire setup of DiRT Rally shows that the game isn’t DiRT 4 (which the creators have noted), but an experiment in bringing back a genre that has nearly turned into niche territory the past few years.DiRT Rally isn’t a game of player vs competitor, but a trial by fire as the battle between driver and machine rages on throughout a punishing gameplay experience that is as much frustrating as it is rewarding as you improve your driving skills over time. But as immersive as the game is when it comes to its core gameplay, the setup of the game when it comes to the career mode and the limited scale make DiRT Rally more of a side-stop, albeit one that shows great promise for the future of the franchise.