I’ve got a lot of love for the DIRT series that stems back to the original Colin McRae Rally on the PlayStation all the way up to 2017’s DIRT 4 (we don’t talk about DIRT Rally… it’s too hard for me). It’s not even like I’m a big racing fan – there’s just something so satisfying about the game’s user-friendly racing action, whilst the more off-the-wall modes such as the Gymkhana offer plenty of adrenaline-fuelled fun too.
Naturally then, I was super excited to see that the series would be launching on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X with DIRT 5. However, with those consoles still yet to release, I’ve checked the game out on the PlayStation 4 first to get a taste of the action.
At its core, DIRT 5 will feel familiar to anyone who has played any previous game in the series (or any other racer, really). You’ll partake in a Career Mode that sees you travelling the world and competing in countless events, you’ll build up a collection of cars that each bring with them varying stats, you’ll give them a fresh lick of paint to your taste, and you’ll eventually become a racing superstar. Those hoping for a rich selection of cars to race certainly won’t be disappointed, with a ton of different classes on offer that range from 80s Rally Classics and durable Cross Raid vehicles to Motorstorm-esque Rock Bouncers and the wacky looking Sprint vehicles. Each different class genuinely feels unique to use and best-suited for different events, whilst the fact that they also look incredibly slick in-game is always a plus.
Interestingly, the Career Mode of DIRT 5 actually brings with it a narrative that is brought to life by the dynamic video game voice acting duo of Troy Baker and Nolan North, who will guide you along as you make the decisions that shape your rallying destiny. It adds a personal touch to all of the racing that isn’t always present in the genre, which helps give DIRT 5 a unique sense of characteroutside of the action that takes place on the racetrack. Don’t get me wrong, you shouldn’t expect a narrative masterclass by any means, but it’s still a nice addition that shows that the game is willing to do something a bit different. You can also play through the career mode in split-screen if you like, allowing you to enjoy it with up to three other players… it’s good stuff.
One of my favourite things about the racing genre is the variety of countries that you get to race across, with DIRT 5 certainly delivering on that front with its selection of ten locations including the harsh deserts of Arizona, the snowy Scandinavian mountain of Norway, the muddy marble mine of Italy, and under the gaze of Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, just to name a few. These environments bring with them over seventy routes to race across in total too, meaning you’ll have plenty to see as you progress through all of the game’s events.
Even on the PlayStation 4, these locales all look incredible. There’s so much detail to be found across DIRT 5’s world, whilst the dynamic weather effects really bring everything to life. Believe me, when it rains on a muddy track you can expect PLENTY of filth on your vehicles, whilst seeing the lightning strike when cruising your way through mountains always kept me in awe. If it looks THIS good on current-gen consoles, I can’t wait to see how DIRT 5 looks on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X…
Of course, it’s all well and good having impressive tracks to race on, but it means nothing if the events on offer aren’t actually fun. Fortunately, DIRT 5 features an enjoyable and varied selection of events to race across, ranging from simple races and time-trials to more traditional Rally Raids that see you working point-to-pint and progress through an expansive track or the Path Finder events that really test your mettle by sending you through harsh terrain. You can tackle these in the Arcade Mode too, so you’re never simply restricted to the tasks that the Career Mode gives you if you’re looking for a specific racing buzz.
Want to know where the most fun comes? With DIRT 5’s Playgrounds Mode, which allows you to build and race across a variety of over-the-top tracks that’ll have you slipping and sliding through a bunch of zany turns, speed across loop-the-loops, and jump through hoops of fire in intense yet brilliant action. Best of all, you can share your creations online or play those which other players have created, meaning you essentially have an endless selection of challenges to race through… neat, huh?
Playgrounds brings with it some unique game modes of its own, including Gate Crasher that challenges players to speed through an array of gates in a level, Smash Attack where they have to burst through obstacles in their path in order to build up a high score, Gymkhana which is all about showing off your slick driving skills to amass points, and Vampire which sees a player hunting down other racers to infect them. I haven’t really had a chance to try out these modes competitively yet since DIRT 5 hasn’t officially released, but what I’ve played of them solo has been a blast. These modes will definitely be a gamechanger for players who want to do something a bit different to traditional racing, whilst the fact that they take place on custom made tracks means that we could be partaking in some ridiculous yet brilliant showdowns when the more creative players show off their top notch creations.
I’m not experienced enough with the racing genre to describe the intricacies of how DIRT 5 feels to play, but I can say that racing its many vehicles always remains mighty satisfying. Naturally, you’ll need a bit of skill to control the vehicles and know when best to ease off the accelerator and brake, but I always felt like I could pull off tricky manoeuvres with ease and could speed ahead of my rivals. Admittedly, I did have a few assists on here and there, but those who want a more authentic experience can disable them if they prefer – it’s one of those things that comes down to player preference. Either way, the racing of the game feels sublime and is easy to dive into for both complete newbies and veterans of the racing genre. What else would you expect from the racing game magicians at Codemasters, though?
Whilst DIRT 5’s racing is enjoyable throughout, the game did have a few small issues here and there. Load times could feel pretty lengthy in places, with there often being a bit of a wait before events start. Whilst this won’t be a problem on next-gen consoles, it could break the pace of the action a little here. It could be argued that some of the Career Mode’s events could lack a bit of depth in places too, with some events repeating regularly – it doesn’t take long to purchase the best vehicles either, with cash earned quite fast. Again, this isn’t a big problem (and it could be argued that I’m nit-picking), but it certainly doesn’t offer the depth seen in titles such as Forza or Forza Horizon.
DIRT 5 is a super fun adrenaline-fuelled racer that’s packed with epic sights to see, cars to race, and game modes to have action-packed showdowns in. I had a blast experimenting with the new Playgrounds modes and putting together my own unique and outrageous courses, whilst the narrative-driven Career Mode adds a neat twist to the genre. It also just so happens to look beautiful too, which leaves me especially excited to see how it looks on next-gen consoles…
The occasional repetitive event and some long load times did show that it isn’t quite perfect, but DIRT 5’s awesome racing and unique features will certainly tick plenty of boxes for fans of the genre.
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC