Platforms: PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
PC Release Date: November 6, 2020
Reviewed on: AMD RX 580, Intel i7-4770, 16 GB RAM, Windows 10 x64, Build 1909
AMD Drivers: 20.9.1
DiRT Rally and DIRT 5 may share the name, but they are very different games. DiRT Rally is a difficult, stubborn and uncompromising simulation that vividly shows the weight of the sport in its full glory. DIRT 5, on the other hand, is somewhat more relaxed in terms of the simulation aspect and has so far brought a hybrid experience that has walked a thin line between simulation and arcade. Although there is interest in the market for good driving simulators, the demand for more affordable racing titles is still significantly higher. So it’s no surprise that Codemasters has decided with the new DIRT sequel to go in a completely arcade direction.
Yes, you read that right – DiRT 5 abandons all pretensions to realism and is a total arcade from the gas pedal to the steering wheel. A significant effort has been made to make this a diverse game in terms of disciplines, tracks and cars, and everything has been tuned with the sole intention of offering the player quick and affordable entertainment. First of all, the game brings a robust career, arcade mode, online and splitscreen multiplayer, and a new Playgrounds mode. The career consists of 375 diverse races in different disciplines connected by a lukewarm story about a new driver who has to prove himself in the world of rallying. Honestly, we wouldn’t have even experienced the story at all if Nolan North and Troy Baker hadn’t announced their melodious voices here and there as the bearers of the whole plot.
Instead of the story, the main component of DIRT 5’s gameplay is the diversity of racing disciplines. Forget the conventional rally in which you strive to achieve the fastest time possible. In DIRT 5, almost all of the disciplines directly confront the player with other vehicles. There are A to B sprints, drifting on frozen lakes, “Gymkata” obstacle courses, mountain climbing, driving in extreme conditions, classic city races and other disciplines. In addition to a variety of tracks, almost every discipline involves its own set of cars. Among them, about 60, there is something for everyone, whether it is a classic or modern rally car, 4×4 SUVs or some exotic and super cars.
The colorful layout of the car provides some variability in the driving model which is generally very accessible. Where the DiRT Rally offers a deep, error-free driving system, the DIRT 5 offers easy-to-manage vehicles with less focus on mastering your own vehicle and more on the track and opponents. What’s more, it’s one of the most fun arcade driving systems where flying down the track and performing drifts is a standard occurrence, and every moment of the race can look like some hectic blockbuster movie. Everything often looks like a combination of Motorstorm and Driveclub, and this isn’t too surprising when considering that people who worked on these games, also worked on DIRT 5.
The influence of Driveclub can be seen primarily in the dynamic weather conditions. First of all, the system looks absolutely beautiful – the water is wet, the snow is cold, the mud is dirty, and the thunder is blinding. In addition to the visuals, weather troubles have the potential to transform the race into something unexpected. What starts as a pleasant ride on a dirt track can very quickly turn into a storm-soaked bilge that brings reduced visibility and somewhat more difficult handling. Still, the thing looks so good that we wished each race had as much extreme conditions as possible in order to capture as many attractive scenes.
In DIRT 5, finishing each race means getting the money and experience to buy cars and unlocking cosmetics to edit them, while only in your career do you earn a reputation that unlocks additional races. Each race in the career also has a set of additional tasks assigned to the player by the main sponsor, the fulfillment of which brings greater monetary rewards. It’s nothing overly demanding, but it helps spice up races when in addition to a mere victory in mind you have to touch three opponents in the air during their course or spend 30 seconds drifting. Given the simple driving model, we definitely recommend that you switch the weight to heavy or very heavy as soon as you enter the game to avoid situations where you finish the race 20 seconds before the next opponent.
However, the career is only one feature of what DIRT 5 is able to offer. Marketing has paid a lot of attention to Playgrounds fashion. It allows you to create your own tracks in which the goal can be to win a classic race, overcome various obstacles or collect points by performing attractive moves. This mode has a lot of potential, but there are relatively few objects for trail construction, so imagination is of key importance in their use. If you lack imagination, the mode is already packed with impressive creations of players who have made the most of the limited space to build. Although it adds value to the game, the Playgrounds arenas fade compared to the dynamic, open tracks of the rest of the game, so we spent more time in classic multiplayer. It is divided between classic racing and “party” modes Vampire, King and Tansporter. Vampire mode, where one player with a vampire car aims to catch all the other players to also turn them into vampires, is by far the most fun, while King and Transporter are a variation on a similar theme of carrying items and winning points. Unfortunately, online multiplayer lacks the feature of private lobbies, which means you’ll be forced to play with random players from the same platform. On the other hand, the game supports the local split-screen which somewhat fixes that aspect of multiplayer.
More painful though is the lack of support for the steering wheels, and Codemasters promises to address this with future patches. The game, however, is perfectly enjoyable to play with the controller, however, we would also like to have the ability to use our steering wheels. So far, there is no specific date when support for the steering wheels will arrive, and we are afraid that many racing enthusiasts will cool off from the game by the time it arrives.
Apart from the weather conditions in terms of visuals, the terrain and the dynamism of the trails are quite impressive, since they are loaded with details. The rest of the game also looks pretty good on a PC, but it’s still a cross-gen title, so don’t expect to see some crazy visuals from the future. The game has only a dozen of graphical options, and the one for ray-tracing, which is mentioned only within the graphics setting for the quality of the cloud layout. In terms of the interface, the game returned back to urban colorfulness with yellow-pink neon stylized menus that seem to be made by someone who thinks he knows what “cool” is. It’s not to be taken for granted because it fits with the often festival-themed competition, but we personally prefer something a little bit cleaner. The story is similar with the soundtrack and various songs that perfectly match the tone of the game.
Ultimately, it seems that Codemasters has opted for a winning formula where in the future it will offer two polarly different approaches to racing – DiRT Rally for fans of hardcore simulations and DIRT for fans of arcade approach to racing. If you fall into the second group, DIRT 5 is definitely a game that has the potential to keep you occupied for a long time. It has its problems and drawbacks, but it is extremely affordable and heavily determined solely to offer you a fun experience once the tires touch the gravel.