The only DiRT game I really invested myself in was the original in 2007, back when the late, great Colin McRae’s name could still be found on the cover. I thoroughly enjoyed it but for some reason ended up skipping the sequels, despite the praise they received from reviewers and consumers. I don’t know, I think I just grew a little tired of the rallying nature of the games. I’ve returned to the series with the recent release of DiRT 4 though, and I’ve had a blast. It’s high-octane racing that mixes up time trials with some hectic competitive tire-to-tire dust ups – it’s left me wishing I came back to the series sooner…
Despite only really playing the original game, I did try DiRT Rally in virtual reality. It didn’t really do much for me though thanks to the hardcore realistic nature of the game. Seriously, I was crashing so much and coming last in so many races that it started to become a bit ridiculous. Thankfully, DiRT 4 gives players two play options: ‘Simulation’ which offers a realistic approach similar to DiRT Rally, and ‘Gamer’ which offers a more arcade-style approach with more assists available to help you out. It means you get two wholly different ways to play the game that accommodates all different kinds of players. It’s something I could really appreciate given my clear lack of expertise in the racing genre.
You can actually fine-tune the assists if you prefer too, so you can have DiRT 4 cater to your playing style perfectly. There are a lot of details for you to potch around with which will in turn gives you the best experience with the game. It’s just incredibly accommodating for gamers of all skill-sets, so it guarantees you’re going to have a good time.
One neat feature of DiRT 4 is the ability to create your own rally team, with things like your car’s livery and the sponsors of your vehicle completely customisable. You’ll even be able to hire and fire different people to fill the roles within your team, in turn allowing you to assemble a rallying ‘dream team’ to help you achieve success. As you make more money with your team you can improve your garage too, offering you an expanded selection of vehicles (from all different decades of rallying, might I add) as well as improved facilities as far as repairing them goes. It’s a neat little feature of the game that’s incredibly easy to lose yourself in, plus it makes the game’s career mode feel a lot meatier.
If your team doesn’t have the appropriate car for an event, you can actually race under another team. Whilst this was appreciated in the fact that it alleviated any barriers upon a player with a limited garage, it actually made me feel a little detached from having my own team. Not being able to partake in these events would’ve encouraged me to actually work to earn these cars with my own team and push for those higher positions for more cash. It’s a minor detail and something that really isn’t that big of a deal as far as gameplay goes, but it could make the whole team management aspects of the game feel a little redundant at times when there’s always an easier ‘plan B’ on offer.
One of DiRT 4’s seemingly unsung (yet most impressive) features is the ‘Your Stage’ procedural track creation. I’ve seen procedural generation done in racers before and it’s often provided unnatural results that although functional, don’t feel quite right. However, in DiRT 4 it works incredibly well. You set some simple prerequisites and then the game works its magic in producing a set of tracks that feel as though they’ve been handcrafted by one of the game’s developers. It means that there’s ALWAYS something new for you to see. It’s often easy to see all of the racetracks that a game has to offer after a few hours play, but DiRT 4’s impressive ‘Your Stage’ track creator always ensures you’ll have somewhere new to race across. It’s also utilised in the career mode too, meaning you can reap the benefits of them whilst earning some cash for your team in the process. It’s almost limitless in what it can offer – it’s great. Oh, and you can save any courses you particularly liked to race across again or share them with your friends too, so if find something you particularly liked you can come back for more.
This time around you’ve got five different countries to race across that offer completely different terrains, with Wales, Australia, Sweden, Spain, and the USA the home to each rallying showdown. It’s not just a change in weather conditions or anything though, but also the layouts of each location with some testing you with much tighter and more confined courses. On the other hand, some locations are a lot more open and give you more margin for error, though this is countered by the more difficult road types they feature. Wherever you are, each location always feels unique and gives you something different to be wary of. This is further complimented by the game’s track generation tools, meaning each of the five locations will always have something new for you to see.
Outside of the standard rallying where you’re essentially racing the clock and not active racers, DiRT 4 also offers a variety of extra racing modes. There’s the fully-licensed Rallycross mode which sees you racing against others in tough terrain across a set of real-life tracks in locations including Great Britain, Spain, and France. These are hectic races that feel a bit more unconventional to the typical rallying nature of the game. It makes everything feel more chaotic and competitive, in turn pushing the player to have tire-to-tire battles with their foes across tight bends. It’s an incredibly fun and much more unpredictable way to play the game.
Then there are the Landrush races that see you taking buggies across gravely race courses in super competitive races. In principle, this should be one of the most enjoyable modes of the game, but it could actually feel a little boring. The courses were incredibly simple in design, whilst the random nature of crashes and collisions with your opponents could leave some races feeling like they’re over before they’ve really had a chance to begin. Don’t get me wrong, they could provide some exciting races when they were competitive, but more often than not they were a bit of a bore.
At least everything offers a great amount of variety though and you’re never stuck doing just the same thing. I know some people might be put off by the fixed lap racing of rallying, but it’s incredibly intense in DiRT 4 and will keep you on the edge of your seat. Add in the different experiences offers by Rallycross and Landrush and you’re onto a winner.
The visuals featured in DiRT 4 are some of Codemasters’ most impressive yet, with slick vehicle designs complimented by the luscious environments. It’s not quite Forza or Gran Turismo levels of realism, but you won’t be able to help but feel impressed. The way courses transition between weather conditions as you race across them is pretty neat too; seeing a tight forest track that was well lit getting covered by a blinding fog not only looked great, but made me a more cautious driver too. Add to that the fact that the game runs at a constant 60fps and you won’t be able to help but be impressed at what you see in front of you.
As expected, there’s a decent online multiplayer component in DiRT 4 that lets you take on racers all over the world in competitive rallying action. It’s fun, though there’s nothing new you wouldn’t have seen before – it’s just your usual online racing set up with actual multiplayer races mixed with global cross-platform leaderboards. There are plenty of different challenges to complete though, with the game adding fresh events on a daily basis for you to compete in. It’s a nice addition that along with the game’s ‘Your Stage’ feature offers endless gameplay options. Like, seriously – you’re never EVER going to run out of things to see or do in DiRT 4. That’s some next-gen racing, right there.
Following on from DiRT Rally’s hardcore simulation racing, DiRT 4 returns to the incredibly accessible and thoroughly entertaining roots that the series has always been known for. It looks great, it’s a lot of fun to play, whilst the revolutionary ‘Your Stage’ track generation ensures you’ve always got somewhere new to race across. I’ve spent a ton of hours making my own race teams and taking them to rallying glory across the world in DiRT 4, and I can see myself coming back for more for a long, long time.
Release Date: 09/06/2017
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC