Dakar Desert Rally is massively ambitious. It’s huge, beautiful and unique. But could a newbie like me find joy in racing the dunes with off-road vehicles?
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Racing games have been a staple of the video game world since the very beginning of time it seems. Ask any gamer and they’ll be sure to rattle off a slew of titles from Need for Speed: Most Wanted, Gran Tourismo, Forza and the list goes on. My personal favourite though is the Colin Mcrae Rally/Dirt series. I can’t really answer why those games specifically because it’s not like I was better at those than any other type of car racer. In fact, I’m actually no good at racing games, at all… that’s a fact testified to by the number of fatal crashes I had on my RTR 450 Rally bike.
Let’s not even bring those numbers up! All that to say that racing games are not my forte. I’m quite terrible at them to tell the truth. With that out of the way, let’s get to the review of Saber Interactive‘s Dakar Desert Rally.
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Dakar Desert Rally is a very aesthetically pleasing game. The vehicle designs, scenery/landscapes are accurate and stunning to look at.
As you set out you have only two gameplay options, Career Mode and Online Free Mode. I’m pretty sure you’ll have guessed by now that I spent most of my time in the Career Mode as the Online Mode is no place for a novice like myself.
You have different options of vehicles to choose from for your career in Dakar Desert Rally and get to unlock more vehicles and vehicle types as you progress. You can choose to race cars, bikes, trucks, quads or SXS vehicles. I went with the bikes as that was less difficult for me to manage/control, but still difficult nonetheless.
As I am a novice, my aim was never to win any of the events but rather to finish each race in one piece, a feat I managed on precious few occasions.
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The actual gameplay in Dakar Desert Rally is a very different experience to your regular racing game. The controls may be the same or similar but the interactive environment is complete with traps and broken-down opponents for you to crash into as you come around a corner and, not to mention, how a change of racing line may mean crashing into an overtaking opponent you never knew was there to begin with.
All of this, combined with the ultra-sensitive controls, were enough to do my mind in, sending me into rocks and other terrain hazards that sent my character ragdolling into oblivion.
One of the key differences between asphalt and dirt/rally racing is that when it comes to dirt/rally races, whether real or in the video game, one has to be ultra attentive to any form of guidance doled out by your co-racer/navigator and pay close attention to your race book — although, I freely admit I had no idea of how to read and make sense of the guide in Dakar Desert Rally.
That said, ignoring either of those could lead to costly miscalculations that send you on a sightseeing adventure that is not in the least bit beneficial to your race outcome. The moral of the story is pay attention and stay on course when playing Dakar Desert Rally.
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As mentioned earlier, Dakar Desert Rally is a beautifully designed game. The vehicles are realistically and beautifully designed. The scenery is almost the main character as the developers have done an incredible job in building beautiful and true to reality landscapes for your enjoyment.
In fact, I’ll dare to say it’s one of the best-looking racers out there currently. So it definitely gets full marks when it comes to visuals.
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Dakar Desert Rally is great in that it offers a variety of different vehicles and therefore events for different vehicle types, although some may be a little limited by vehicle type. The gameplay is fun but somewhat repetitive as all that changes is the specific terrain and weather provided by each stage.
The visuals are stunning and draw you in but, unfortunately, it is not possible currently to fully explore and get lost in the beautiful landscapes, something that perhaps a free roam mode would make possible.
Career Mode is fun and engaging but does tend to lose its pull after a few stages of just racing to unlock more vehicles if you choose to only race one vehicle, but could be great if you are inclined to get in there and explore all vehicle types and complete all stages for all your different vehicles.
Taking on human opponents in Dakar Desert Rally’s online mode is either a race to top spot or a one way ticket to the scrap yard. It’s very tough to compete as a newbie to the game and quite humbling on my low skill level to not be as concerned with finishing in the top places but more focused on not crashing and trying my utmost to keep the vehicle in one piece.
Dakar Desert Rally