A true winner.
Codemasters shocked many when they released one of the best rally games in the form of DiRT Rally on the PC late last year. Depicting realistic simulation and physics, it was a shame that such a masterpiece can only be experienced on the PC at that time. However, Codemasters have finally launched the game on current gen consoles which has given us the opportunity to check out how well the three versions match up against each other.
Codemasters are no strangers to the rally racing genre. It all started with Colin McRae Rally in 1998 on the PC and PlayStation One. I still remember spending hours with the game on my trusty PlayStation One. It was such a visceral experience back then. It’s not unfair to claim that Codemasters made rally racing a popular genre so it’s kind of nostalgic playing this game on a modern console with far better visuals than what was possible 18 years ago.
Regardless, DiRT Rally on consoles and PC is an interesting title to analyze. Unlike F1 2015, DiRT Rally runs on the company’s EGO 3.0 engine instead of EGO 4.0. We are not sure why one of the company’s greatest games is running on a three year old engine. EGO 4.0 has already been optimized for mainstream processor graphics, high end multi-core and DX12. Furthermore, it is an engine designed from scratch and is supposedly scale-able across multi-core CPUs which would have made it an ideal candidate for DiRT Rally on consoles and modern gaming PCs. Regardless, what we have with EGO 3.0 is still impressive.
To begin with, DiRT Rally runs at a full native 1920 X 1080p resolution on the PlayStation 4. The Xbox One version too at a full 1920 X 1080p too but as Codemasters confirmed to us in a recent interview; Microsoft’s version employs a dynamic buffer for resolution when it needs the GPU resources for a consistent frame rate. However the use of dynamic resolution on the Xbox One is rare and the game is more or less a 1080p title. Both versions target a 60 frames per second cap and for the most part the engine does a great job in maintaining that frame rate with slight drops and the occasional screen tearing. We are quite delighted with what Codemasters have been able to achieve with DiRT Rally especially given that it’s running on an outdated engine. It’s also fair to assume that the game is indeed utilizing the 7th core CPU on both consoles something that both Sony and Microsoft unlocked recently via SDK updates.
Talking about the differences between two version, there is a actually very little to choose from. Mirror reflections, texture quality, crowd density, screen space reflections, shader detail and the several volumetric and alpha effects look similar across both versions. Given that you will be racing across denser forest and tracks that have a lot of foliage, minor pop ins can be observed which could be distracting for some players. Both versions used a custom post processing anti-aliasing solution which does a great job of reducing the jaggies. Overall the image quality is decent across both versions. Granted it does not give the likes of DriveClub and Forza Motorsport 6 a run for their money, but DiRT Rally looks and also plays well good on consoles. The controls are tight and the physics are spot on. It must be noted that this is a hardcore simulation game so this game may not appeal to players who are interested in arcade style racers.
So how do they compare against the PC build? Well, right off the bat you can observe better texture filtering and anisotropic filtering on ground surfaces for the PC version. Furthermore, it uses a far better and resource intensive anti-aliasing solution in MSAA resulting into crisper image quality. Shadows on the console versions seem to be of medium quality compared to the PC build and the level of detail is far better on the PC version. Further advantages of the PC build include improved shader detail, better quality water and screen space reflections and ambient occlusion. Weather effects seem to be similar across all three versions (however it’s no DriveClub). Overall, the console versions are close to the ‘High’ Graphical Quality preset of the PC build which to be honest is a fair trade off to achieve that highly sought 1080p ad 60fps standard.
We also wanted to talk briefly about the performance of the PC build. The game recommends an AMD FX 8350 and Radeon R9 290 GPU along with 8 GB of RAM. We used the same build to test out the PC version and we are pleased to report that we were able to achieve a consistent 60fps plus experience with all settings maxed out.
Overall, DiRT Rally is a return to form for Codemasters. It’s also in many ways a testament to the fact that one should try to work on something that they love. In the last few years, Codemasters have simply become known for their work on F1 games and those games haven’t been able to improve with each installment every year. Codemasters should stick with the rally genre because as their work on DiRT Rally shows, this is where they truly shine.