I remember getting to review Dirt Rally a while back and loving the brutality of it. It was the rally game I had been waiting for. As an ardent motorsport fan, I struggle with any game that’s not really a sim at its core. Dirt Rally was that and more. It had the technical aspect perfectly balanced with pure, balls-out motor racing enjoyment! It was, up until a few days ago, my favourite rally game. Then I met Dirt 4.
The first option you are given is: Do you want to play Simulation or Gamer mode? That is like being asked; “Are you a real man or do you need Safe Spaces?”
That would have been one of my few criticisms of Dirt Rally. It was trying to be everything to everyone, and even though it did a good job, I think to get the full experience of either, they shouldn’t be mixed, and I believe Codemasters agree.
So there you have it, Real Man or Big Girls Blouse? I chose Real Man, obviously.
This experience is very similar to Dirt Rally. It’s like trying to cover my Boerboel with a blanket. You never feel like you are really in control and often ends by being bitten. The weighting of the steering is heavier, you need to plan corner entry and exit, you can’t just throw your car into a bend flat out and expect to get away with it.
Gamer mode is actually loads of fun as well, and I believe it’s there to make the game accessible to a wider audience. The assists in this mode mean you can have a more arcade experience, straight out the box, without having to commit hours to a single track to try capture every nuance and get the perfect lap.
This game has more modes than Picasso had paint, which is awesome! Replay value is sky high. Something that Rally did very poorly was a realistic Career Mode, and that has been properly fixed in Dirt 4.
You need to spend your prize money on facilities. The better your facilities, the easier it is to attract better crew, so you constantly need to be upgrading your facilities. That’s frikkin’ awesome! But wait, there’s more!
Sponsorship becomes your responsibility as well. You need to manage your sponsorship deals, and like in real life, they are going to want to get far more than they give. In order to make yourself more attractive to sponsors, you need to be doing well, preferably in more than one discipline, so that means building up a selection of competitive cars for different types of racing, and every style of racing requires different driving skills… So you can see, the challenges facing you if you want to do well are huge.
My garage is still a little sparse, but I have managed to make my “fleet” look the same. I’m building a brand around Team Chang! And the sponsors are coming a knockin’!
The biggest change in Dirt 4 is possibly the biggest change in car racing games since crash damage simulation, it’s the Your Stage mode. This, essentially, is an algorithm that creates random tracks from now till the end of time, and they don’t look like rehashes of previous tracks with similar sections, maybe just in reverse. Each track looks and feels like its own entity, actually designed by a person and not a piece of code. This in itself, makes Dirt 4 worth buying.
As of the first release, the Your Stage mode supports 5 major rally countries, USA, Australia, Wales, Sweden and Spain, but you can be sure that list will grow over time with a few DLC’s. Every country has different terrain demands, as in real life, and the differences are amazingly tactile. Driving on mainly tar tracks in Spain feels completely different to sliding around on the muddy dirt tracks in Sweden, each offering their own challenges and consequences.
The only downside, if I had to find one, is that you cannot alter them, what the computer gives you is what you get, but that really is a minor gripe. As for the selection of cars, all the ones you would expect are there. To be honest, I don’t know enough about the WRC to know if the mix available is a good one, or if they would even be competitive against each other in real life, but they look great and everything from the 80’s through to current day is there.
This is another big improvement on the previous titles in the franchise (which started with Colin McRae Rally in the late 90’s, so this should be the 12th release in the franchise?), the quality of the rendering.
The graphic rendering engine Codemasters has used up till now is the Ego engine, which is not the best at delivering smooth hard and soft body combinations, but that is not a problem any longer! The cars look good, but the environments are stunning. Some of the best dust and water effects I’ve seen in a racing sim. The way dust and leaves get kicked up as you go tearing around the countryside is fantastic, heat shimmers off backed tarmac, fresh mud looks darker than the old dried mud on your tires and fenders…
It’s a really visceral experience!
As I mentioned earlier, this game has plenty of mode options.
Land Rush is a bit like the Race of Champions events held at the end of every year in that they take place in a stadium, and this to me seemed like the perfect place to release my inner hooligan, but it’s not. Precision is the name of the game. Think of screaming around the streets of Monaco with someone shining a torch in your eyes. Lots of fun!
Rally Cross is where you get to unleash your inner Road Warrior! 12 cars in a space too small for 8 with 600+ horsepower all barreling toward the same corner at 100 miles an hour, on gravel. Somebody going to get a hurt real bad!
Multiplayer Mode, well, I’m not the guy to ask about that, I generally don’t play well with others, but the response online seems very positive. I personally don’t want to hear another person whining because I used him as a mobile chicane to get thru a corner at speed! Go learn to knit rather, Princess!
My verdict is that Dirt 4 does the Colin McCrae name proud! It feels like a bit of a course correction for a title that was in danger of losing itself. I think the definite Simulation/Gamer option has resolved any gripes any would have had about it pleasing no-one because it was trying to please everyone.
Your Stage is the quantum leap in racing games I think we all didn’t realise we were waiting for. This makes Dirt 4 a game you can play for eternity. There doesn’t seem to be a limit to how far you can take Career Mode. You can always build a bigger and better team, with more technology and more trucks and more cars and better sponsorship deals!
This has rescued not just the title, but rally games the same way F1 2016 saved that franchise and set the bar for all others. I say Codemasters has developed a winner! Buy it, I can’t think of another game currently that would be better value for your hard earned money.