DIRT RALLY IMPRESSIONS
By Aaron Bishop on April 28, 2015
hough it may be a tad premature, I’m quite willing to slap the sticker of ‘Surprise of the Year’ on Codemasters DiRT Rally. Not because I was expecting a turd that turned out to be a great game, but in the age of DiRT Showdown and Michael Bay, I’m honestly surprised that it was made at all and released completely without warning.
For those too young to remember, Codemasters has a long history with rally games. Dating back all the way to 1998 when they released Colin McRae Rally, a game named after one of the greatest rally drivers of our time. They went on to make a handful of other rally games under the same title that were very well received but in smaller niche markets. In 2007 Codemasters released Colin McRae’s DiRT, expanding the old franchise in new directions in an attempt to expand the audience. New events included Dakar rallying and Trophy Trucks, plus Rallycross and my personal favorite, Crossover. While I regard the first DiRT game as one of my favorite car titles of its generation, it also marked the pinnacle for rallying games as a whole for many years to come.
Shortly after the game was released, Colin McRae tragically died in a helicopter crash that left many fans, Codemasters included, confused about the future of the series. DiRT 2 underwent even more changes to cater to the larger American audience the first game acquired, which of course meant more explosions and fireworks and tons more arcade inspired events. The core fans of the series were not happy. Along came DiRT 3 which tried desperately to rake in the money but to not continue the trend of spitting in the faces of long time dedicated fans, and while it did a reasonable job, was neither here nor there enough to rescue the franchise. It seems after that, Codemasters threw in the towel and made DiRT Showdown, an arcade party game filled with crashing, explosions, wacky vehicles and lots of lens flare. Like our hero Colin McRae, those beautiful games too were taken from us far too soon. Until now.
I’m not sure where the first thought came from, or who is responsible for conceiving even just a fragment of an idea, but somehow DiRT has returned in epic form, and in one fell swoop restored the tainted banner of Colin McRae Rally to its once golden sheen.
There’s not much negative to say about DiRT Rally despite it being an early access game. I have encountered a few bugs that, based on the polish of previous Codies games, will be fixed within the coming days or weeks, so I won’t dwell on them. Though I should probably clarify for potential buyers, none of them were game breaking.
DIRT RALLY IS BRUTALLY
UNFORGIVING AND I LOVE IT
There seems to be a little lack of stage variation, as it appears the game randomly picks a handful of stages for you to prove your worth on. That said, more stages become available the further you progress and as of writing this article, I’m not particularly far despite playing it for the better part of the day. It is brutally unforgiving and I love it, taking everything Codemasters made in the 2000’s and hurling it violently out the window as if to prove to themselves if they could still make hardcore games. The answer is very yes.
Don’t go in expecting DiRT 1 through 3. The handling model is very sim and is immediately felt through a controller or steering wheel. The way the car reacts to different surfaces is almost uncanny. The placement of drivetrain is also felt quite significantly, such as front wheel drive cars versus rear wheel. Steering wheel movement is entirely adjustment as well to make it more or less jarring for you, and the field of view is scalable so if you’re tired of the camera being cramped by right behind the steering wheel as most games do these days, you can pull it out and get a great view of the interior. If you’re super hardcore there’s even a camera that zooms in a little to crop out the steering wheel in place of your own if you so choose.
The visuals, as all Codemasters games, are outstanding. With no plans to release on consoles in the near future, they seemingly have scrapped any ideas of compromise and went the no holds barred approach giving the user dozens of graphical options, which maxed out, looks quite incredible. Though, you will need a beefy rig to get a solid 60 fps. My Titan Black was starting to choke in some places believe it or not.
CODEMASTERS HAVE TAKEN A MASSIVE
STEP TOWARDS PROPER BINAURAL AUDIO
By far though, one of my favorite aspects of the game is the sound mixing. The audio from each car is mind numbingly detailed in a way I have never experienced. Best you try a good set of headphones and adjust the settings accordingly. The sound shifts from ear to ear when necessary, even when turning your head left or right, you can hear rocks pinging from the front of the car, and rattle all the way under the car and out the back in a very three dimensional way. It feels like Codies have taken a massive step towards proper binaural audio, and it’s probably this games biggest achievement. Even the menu music plays from ear to ear and dances around inside your head, it’s really an experience all by itself.
From the eight or so hours I’ve played. I’m enjoying it like no other car game in a very long time. I had to force myself to stop playing it. Which is why I find it incredibly odd that Codemasters said zip about it until the day they released it. Perhaps they wanted a bombshell effect and watch as the internet exploded with joy. Or perhaps, a little more realistically, they didn’t want to overshadow their more popular, and soon to be releasing, F1 2015. I suppose it’s also possible they wanted to release ahead of Project Cars, if only in early access, which launches in early May. Who really knows.
The best part is it feels like a phoenix from the ashes, not a new kid on the block looking to forge old memories. I feel like I’ll wake up tomorrow and think all of this was a dream and wish I was still in it. It’s real though, and right now it’s only $35. I would say it already consists of more rally content than any of the DiRT games, but there’s still a lot more exciting content packs mapped out that I can't wait to get my hands on. I’ll update this with a full review once it has officially launched. For now, if you like cars and or sim games, go buy the damn thing already.
Images from Codemasters