Rally racing is arguably the most technical type of racing that has ever existed. Overpowered cars on various terrains competing in different weather and landscapes across the world. Not to mention, rally racing includes a co-driver who reads a map and gauges upcoming corners while the driver must focus on keeping the time down and maintaining traction on the course. Oh, there is also the threat of driving off a mountain or hitting a living being. Codemasters has managed to do an excellent job in replicating the sport with its DiRT series. The series has always been approachable, but difficult to master. The newest iteration, DiRT 4, brings different types of off-road racing together in its most approachable form while keeping hardcore fans of the series happy.
The developers of DiRT Rally admit it was too difficult. The game was geared more towards hardcore simulation fans and had a steep learning curve for casuals. It was the least approachable game of the series and rally racing isn’t something you just jump into, but it wasn’t a failure in the least. Fans of the game loved it and Codemasters wants to keep those fans happy with DiRT 4. To counter the difficulty, a few new aspects have been introduced. There are two new difficulties that are chosen from the beginning, either Gamer or Simulation. After some series of initial tests to judge the difficulty, players can choose what they want that experience to be. Assists such as stability and traction control can later be adjusted. The Gamer difficulty is for someone looking to just have fun with the game, but instills a desire to improve one’s driving ability.
A big addition for new fans is the DiRT Academy. Here, players learn driving techniques as they are shown the best course of action to take with different corners and situations. DiRT 4 features an open practice facility that feels like it is pulled straight from the television show Top Gear. This is also where the Joyride mode takes place. This is a mode more on the side of just having fun as time challenges and free roam are offered for players to do whatever they want. The area features jumps, an airplane hangar, tight areas and different terrains.
DiRT 4 offers more substance that it ever has. The game includes 50 off-road cars that include a mix of modern rally cars and even historic cars such as the Ford RS500 and the original Mini Cooper. Going even deeper, DiRT 4 is the official game of the FIA World Rallycross Championship. Players can race at Montalegre, Lohéac Bretagne, Hell, Holjes and Lydden Hill. The icing on the cake is the Land Rush mode which includes off-road racing from California and Nevada. There are short track RWD and 4WD trucks, buggies, and carts to choose from. All the vehicles in the game have different liveries to choose from.
While the Rallycross and Landrush modes offer specific courses and layouts, the traditional Rally and Historic Rally modes take place in different areas and terrains of the world. Players can choose from terrains in Michigan and Spain to Australia, Wales and Sweden. If you are unfamiliar, traditional rally racing consists of one car racing against time, whereas rallycross and the other types of off-road racing involve multiple cars completing laps. In rally, you will face not only the track, but the elements of each location. What DiRT 4 offers for this is a track generator.
For the first time in the series, players can quickly generate a track at these different locations based on length and complexity. Throw in the ability to have extreme weather on these courses and players can really challenge themselves. The generated tracks can also be shared and saved between friends. There are a few gripes with the track generator, mainly that it’s almost footnote. There’s so much more that could be done with this, but even the developer stated that the idea was a solid foundation to build upon. This only works for Rally and Historic Rally modes, so generating a rallycross track isn’t possible. It isn’t featured on the main menu and I was unable to locate where to download other people’s tracks. If it’s just for your friends’ list, that’s pretty limited. The results were quick, however, turning out well in execution.
The other big inclusion in DiRT 4 is a true Career Mode. Here, players can start their own team and win money to buy other cars. On top of this, players are responsible for hiring their team and engineers. R&D development along with upgrades and repairs are all part of progressing the team. Sponsors can be added for increased funding. Players can also create their own liveries for their team. There is surprisingly a good amount of depth to the Career Mode where players won’t be overburdened with what goes on off the track.
While the Gamer difficulty offers fun, the Simulation difficulty retains its learning curve. Driving a rally car is different as one should never go full throttle. Keeping the car at 80-90% while maintaining speed is important. The game still offers terminology that is unfamiliar to outsiders, but the jest can be picked up after a while. The weight of the cars truly transfers as there is a big difference between the different classes, and that certainly goes for the ridiculous historic cars. Players can now drive decently far off the track and are not confined to invisible walls. The snowy areas, however, can keep you trapped. While the weight and feel of the cars feels realistic (including the trucks and buggies), letting the vehicle brush a curb or a hill along the track can cause ridiculous flips. The simulation aspect is still up to point with DiRT 4, but there will most likely be a select few who still prefer DiRT Rally.
Running the game on a PS4 Pro, the visuals are astounding. The game flows well and offers enhancements over the regular versions. The tracks are detailed and even dust remains in the air during races. Little things such as the exhaust tip moving around with the bumps are amazing to see. The lighting is fantastic, however the game does lack night racing. The damage model is possibly the best in any racing game, ever. Hoods will flail and fly off over time while bumpers will hang and roll away. The detail involved with the visuals is absolutely fantastic. The game might not run at 60 FPS and the details of what resolution the Pro runs at is unknown, but it does look beautiful in execution.
While the visuals are that great, the sound maybe even better. The sounds of the different engines are crisp and blaring. Tires screeching, taking bumps, or even running into a tree at high speed all sound premiere. Radio chatter is clean and the game offers chatter in different languages depending on the co-driver that is hired. The only knock to the audio department is the soundtrack. Most of the music just doesn’t seem fitting as it features licensed artists.
The online racing is a solid experience while racing. As for the other aspects, DiRT 4 trails in terms other racing games. You select either Gamer or Simulation and join a lobby. There’s no spectating races while waiting for the next to start, though. There are custom championships, but no organized leagues. All the types of racing can be utilized as the traditional rally only features you on the course and not players releasing at different times. Overall, online could use some improvements, but most importantly the racing experience is functional.
Codemasters has provided enough meaningful upgrades for DiRT 4 while keeping the core simulation racing aspect intact. This should appease the hardcore fans while allowing people with interest in the series to take a drive. The game manages to have two distinctions in its makeup: fun competition and serious racing. The technical aspects of the game will make any car nut smile. The visuals and audio design are fantastic, and there are plenty of modes to enjoy. The Career Mode and Track Generator are great additions but ultimately leave players wanting more out of each. If you have missed out on DiRT games in the past, DiRT 4 is the definitive version to go with.