Among the many racing games that have been released this year there’s been one thing myself and many others have been questioning: What’s going on with CodeMasters? Unlike the Forza series, Project CARS, DriveClub and so on, there’s two specific areas in which CodeMasters manages to excel whereby it succeeds at capturing people’s attention: immersive excitement and a tightly-focused experience. Point in case: DiRT Showdown and GRID.
While each of its racing competitors are great within their own rights, they seem to be holding a juggling act between being a technical showcase for pushing PCs and stress-testing consoles as well as proving themselves to be a truly refreshing experience, both of which will always remain in the eyes of the beholder. Enter DiRT Rally, it knows exactly what it is and doesn’t pretend or promote itself otherwise. It focuses on one thing: The core rally experience, something of which it manages to deliver throughout its intricate driving mechanics, astonishing sound design and various set-pieces.
"While it may not have the aesthetic flare of games such as Forza or Need For Speed, it’s by no means a slouch. Initial advertisements may not have placed enough attention on the game’s visuals, but as we’ve seen with previous CodeMasters titles: great visuals are expected and received."
So how does the game fare in bringing choice to the race track? Well, its not bad. There’s enough locations and environments on-hand that will allow players to become familiar with the tracks should they favor one over the other, and there’s plenty to choose from should they wish to try something new due to the many choices in terrain and environmental settings. Sweden, Germany, Monaco, Wales, Greece, the list goes on. All of which contain the appropriate weather patterns in reference to their real-world locations. The mists of Monaco will reap havoc on your vision, the blistering gravels and stones of Greece will have no mercy on your body-work, and then there’s Wales…well it’s muddy and wet just like real-life.
It’s also worth mentioning that CodeMasters has promised to support the game long-term by adding free updates consisting of vehicles, game modes and locations just in case there wasn’t enough locations already. Keyword here: Free. If there’s one thing in particular that has to be said about the game’s level design, it’s that it’s authentically disgusting. Sluggish and dull. From the icy, black mush torturing the body of your vehicle, to the sharp and gritty pebbles of Germany’s off-road trenches.
It’s within the game’s level design where the small things are easily appreciated and go hand-in-hand with the realistic deformation and functioning of the player’s vehicle. Scraping trees, slamming into rocks, skidding out of control due to the surface of terrain battling against your every move while you attempt to stabilize your car. It’s also within these aspects where the game’s visual department opens up its doors. While it may not have the aesthetic flare of games such as Forza or Need For Speed, it’s by no means a slouch. Initial advertisements may not have placed enough attention on the game’s visuals, but as we’ve seen with previous CodeMasters titles: great visuals are expected and received.
"The career mode is where players are most likely to spend a great deal of their time as it’s both rewarding and encouraging to player progression, which adheres to the familiar route of race to earn money, spend money to buy cars."
However, as mentioned previously it’s within the small details of the game where appreciation is due. Aspects such as the cracks in a damaged window reflecting light, rubble and dirt staining the windscreen, as well as the smearing of ice across the body of the player’s vehicle. There’s so much within the game’s visual design that allows it to stand-out among its competitors due to the fact it’s a rally game, all of which contribute to making a great deal of sense in reference to the driving experience it manages to deliver. DiRT Rally is the type of game which you show to your mates and say, “Yeah, you knobs! With your Driving Club and your Project Cars and your drizzly rain effects. DiRT Rally has rain, snow, mud and ice. ‘Ave at it!”
None of these locations would be worthwhile if there wasn’t a driving force for motivation, no pun intended. The game offers up a career-based championship mode consisting of traditional rally, hill climb, and rally cross. Completing these championship events and reaching a certain driver’s rank will result in an FIA world rally cross championship being available to participate in. While offline modes consist of largely the same things, this is custom to the player’s preferences giving it an entirely unique experience unshackled by the progression system from the game’s main career. League events for example, allow the player to create and join PVP events which should have rallying enthusiasts taking to this with passion.
The career mode is where players are most likely to spend a great deal of their time as it’s both rewarding and encouraging to player progression, which adheres to the familiar route of race to earn money, spend money to buy cars. Depending on the player’s experience with rally-based racing games, this may prove to be a pain or a blessing. Upon entering the rally championship players will find a selection of racing tiers to participate in, all with a varied selection of motors to feast your eyes upon. Feasting your eyes is the best way of describing this since this initial stage in the game is but a tease. 1970s, 80s, Group A and B categories, modern rally and so on, there’s certainly enough cars and classes to give the game some strength.
"The game’s physics model is quite outstanding. This is by no means a lesson in rally driving nor should it be labelled the ARMA 3 of racing games, it’s just something worth paying attention to."
The problem that resides in this system is that there’s only one tier to actually participate within and just two vehicles to choose from given the player’s starting budget. Had the game given choice as to which vehicle tier the players may actually prefer and race through within a non-specific order, then the enjoyment would’ve been much more improved.
Given the fact that we’ve been treated to over fifteen racing games in the past two years, myself personally holding Project CARS with the most amount of praise, distinction is a must in order to stand-out against the competition. While DiRT Rally does this better than most by being the only title focusing on one specific genre of racing, I would’ve appreciated the aspect of choice and freedom that Project CARS offers from the get-go while successfully leaving enough room for progression-based gameplay. Nevertheless, it’s not game-breaking and it still remains a solid racer as it does well to encourage the player to push onward with the game.
So how does the game race? In the most simplest form of explanation: As expected. If it wasn’t clear from the title of the game, this is rally. The game does well to cater for beginners but at its core it’s geared towards the enthusiasts. As briefly touched upon, weather effects and environmental terrain do have an affect on how the player drives and will disrupt the functioning of their vehicle should they refuse to learn the difference between its various off-road surfaces. With that being said, the game’s physics model is quite outstanding. This is by no means a lesson in rally driving nor should it be labelled the ARMA 3 of racing games, it’s just something worth paying attention to.
"Whether you are shifting gears or revving the engine, everything from the surface beneath your tires to the sound of the snow brushing up against the bonnet of your car is truly pristine."
What’s unique about the game’s handling model is the way it interacts with the simulation-based nature of gameplay. As the player progresses throughout the game’s career mode a management system will be in place which allows them to hire engineers, upgrade specifics of their vehicles, and tune each of their cars for very specific racing needs. This is featured primarily within the game’s team management system where things are taken that much further with a feature-set, demonstrating the capabilities and perks of each engineer. Some may be tailored towards one specific aspect of a vehicle such as the suspension system or braking mechanism, while others may fare better towards steering and handling or gears and transmission.
As the game allows the player to set driving presets based on their needs, the game also gives way to vehicle repairs at certain points during championship races. The tuning system occupies time and money and depending on what the player decides to apply repairs to, some engineers will do so more effectively than others. During these brief pauses of gameplay players are also informed of the details for upcoming tracks. Aspects such as track length, altitude difference, and variation in terrain are all taken into account. This brings about a great feeling of immersion and is well implemented. Adding to this feeling of immersion but more so in relation to actually racing is the game’s sound design. Every aspect within the game’s use of sound is well-crafted and intricately detailed.
Whether you are shifting gears or revving the engine, everything from the surface beneath your tires to the sound of the snow brushing up against the bonnet of your car is truly pristine. What Dave Sullivan and the rest of the team over at CodeMasters has created with DiRT Rally is essentially on par with that which makes EA’s Battlefield such a stand-out title amongst the competition within its own genre.
"There’s plenty to tinker with within the game’s graphical options and just like prior games it’s fairly straightforward. Anti-aliasing, textures, lighting, ambient occlusion, resolution and so on."
As my experience with the game was done so on the PC, it’s almost a given for me to deliver some insight as to how well the game performs. Much like previous entries from CodeMasters the game runs great as expected and is highly tailorable for a variety of systems. There’s plenty to tinker with within the game’s graphical options and just like prior games it’s fairly straightforward. Anti-aliasing, textures, lighting, ambient occlusion, resolution and so on. There’s enough to play with, scaling is exceptional across many different resolutions and there’s a built-in benchmark to test system performance.
Running the game at max settings and testing at three different resolutions, the results on average were as followed: 57fps at 4k, 80fps at 1440p, and bordering over 100fps at 1080p. While my rig consists of an overclocked i5 3570k, 8GB of RAM, Windows 10 and a Overclocked GTX Titan Black, the initial feedback the game has received throughout the Steam community is positive in regards to their respective systems. If there’s anything “bad” that can be said about DiRT Rally it would have to be something incline to nitpicking.
"The only real problem I actually had with the game is one that’s almost standard to most modern games and if not, then it should be going forward: Photo Mode."
While the choice of vehicles during the starting point of the game’s championship mode may have stunned the first thirty minutes of the game for me personally, this is subjective as some will hate it and others may take to it. The only real problem I actually had with the game is one that’s almost standard to most modern games and if not, then it should be going forward: Photo Mode. CodeMasters has created a beautiful game here, it’s just a shame I can’t snap photos outside of Steam’s screenshot system which I would then add to my Instagram collection. Call it vein, call it appreciation for the game, but DiRT Rally deserves a photo mode. Consider this an enticement, CodeMasters.
This game was reviewed on the PC.
Great controls, great use of level design, and supreme sound effects.
The linear route of progression that the game chooses to take within its campaign may be seen as tradition to racing games. I disagree, more choice from the get-go would've worked wonders.