DiRT Rally was a real breath of fresh air when it released on the PlayStation 4 last year. It was celebrated for its razor sharp focus on the sport, as well as its challenging and fulfilling gameplay. Codemasters stripped away the excess and released a lean, mean, and unashamedly hardcore rally game – and it was great. With DiRT 4, it’s built on the groundwork laid down by its predecessor by adding in some extra modes that lower the barrier to entry.
First thing’s first: rally is still the bread and butter here, with any doubt abated by an impassioned intro movie. DiRT 4 has inherited much of the spirit of its forebear, in addition to its much loved hardcore, sim-style handling. However, your first clue that this is a game gunning for a wider audience is that the simulation is joined by 'Gamer' handling, an oddly named alternative that offers more casual players a friendlier feel. Initially you’re forced to pick one or the other, but you can later switch over – or customise it yourself, toggling assists on or off as you see fit.
Thankfully, both of the default settings feel great: if you’re used to DiRT Rally’s more realistic approach then you’ll be right at home, while the more arcadey handling is expertly tweaked to give players a little more wiggle room yet still provide a decent challenge. The leaderboards have cleverly been split between the two handling models, so you’ll only be competing with other players on the same level.
The career mode starts you off competing in rally events as a driver for hire, but quickly your options open up. Once you earn enough money, you can buy your own car and start a racing team in much the same way as in the last game, recruiting staff, improving your facilities, and slowly making your way to the front of the pack. The difference in DiRT 4, though, is that the rally and officially licensed Rallycross events are joined by Landrush, a chaotic mode of closed circuit racing on dusty tracks. You’ll need to tackle each mode in your climb to the top, but the variety is welcome and you’re in charge of which championship you tackle next.
Sadly, Landrush is probably the weakest mode. The short circuits play host to races that can devolve into a free-for-all with bustling trucks and buggies controlled by aggressive AI. Rallycross fares better because of its unique ruleset and multi-surface courses that make for more tactical and interesting racing.
Rally is the highlight, though. There is a real edge-of-your-seat thrill to thrashing a powerful car around a narrow course that you’ve never driven before, with hazards potentially around every corner. When everything clicks and you’re flying along, perfectly in sync with your co-driver’s directions, it’s magnificent – especially in the knowledge that it can all go so very wrong extremely quickly. Whether you’re playing with the sim handling or not, DiRT 4 delivers a similarly frenetic rallying experience as its forebear.
Another mode that sits outside of the career is Joyride, a place to unwind if you grow weary of managing your team and the intense, multi-event championships. This is where you’ll find time trials, block-smashing challenges, a sandbox area to zoom around in, and most importantly the stage creator. Dubbed 'Your Stage', you can set some vague parameters like length and complexity, then the game will generate a rally stage for you. Once you’re happy with the course, you can lay down a time and challenge your friends to do better. It’s an impressive tool: there are seemingly endless iterations of stages to race through, and when you’re behind the wheel, it feels like a purpose-built route rather than something randomly generated.
It should mean that there’s never a shortage of things to do in DiRT 4, as you can always set up or take part in online multiplayer events that are totally unique. Additionally, you have a handful of daily, weekly, and monthly challenges to interact with, which offer some lucrative rewards should you do well. Earning credits is as satisfying as ever, and it all feeds back into the career mode, where you’ll need big bucks to purchase new cars, a bigger garage, and more.
All this makes for an entry in the series that’s less straight faced than DiRT Rally, but retains its best components. So while you can throw cars around a bit more with the Gamer handling, you still need to keep on top of damage, upgrades, and fine tuning in order to succeed. Fortunately, everything is easy to manage thanks to Codemasters’ trademark slick presentation, and new elements are introduced well. For more casual players, features such as repairs between stages could’ve been a turn off, but it’s very well executed here. There’s even a mode called DiRT Academy where you can test drive vehicles, learn racing techniques, and generally hone your skills.
It achieves this at an almost locked 60 frames-per-second; replays are at 30fps, and we did notice some occasional slow down during busy Landrush races. Graphically, the game is no pushover, but we couldn’t help but notice some poor textures here and there. The sound, meanwhile, is very good: audible cues tell you when you have a flat tire or when the surface beneath you changes, and engines pop and roar with real energy.
DiRT 4 is an impressive package that takes the strong foundation of DiRT Rally and sprinkles on a few friendly updates, such as DiRT Academy and the return of Landrush. The handling, whichever way you lean, is robust and extremely gratifying with cars that are a lot of fun to drive. The career mode gives you plenty to do, and Your Stage means you’ll never be short of new rally challenges to take on. Some very slight graphical gripes aside, this is another success story for a developer that seems to be firing on all cylinders.
Sounds great, how did the online stack up?
@themcnoisy I made countless attempts to get into online games, but I wasn't able to find any. I set up a session or two to see if anyone else joined, but that didn't happen either. I think it was more to do with the small player base prior to launch rather than the online not working, so I doubt there's anything to worry about.
I did partake in the asynchronous daily/weekly challenges etc., and they were working just fine
I'll be keeping an eye on the comments today, so any questions, let me hear 'em.
No brainer for me .
I'll be picking it up later.
Cant resist after reading this review,Tekken 7 is going to have to wait for a little bit..
Dirt Rally was an intriguing title, but with limited gaming time and the hardcore nature of the game I never dipped my toe. But Dirt 4 looks like the rally game that will consume some of my gaming budget.
Good review too.
Dirt was awesome but I realised I needed a wheel to do it justice so stopped playing. I won't be getting either this or GT6 unless I can get a wheel solution sorted. Racing sims are just too good these days to bother playing with a pad IMO.
When are we going to get grid 2.....I love dirt because I love rally racing but I thought Grid was just as equally as fun
I feel like this is launching to very little fanfare but it does sound good. I do love me some DiRT. One to check out after E3, I think.
The WRX headlights are inaccurate. Those C lights only turn on (without the low beam) when the parking brake is on and the parking lights are on.
@NathanUC Wha? that dosent sound good,can any anybody please add to or expand upon this issue? has Codemasters Addressed it? i am stressed out now..
Nice, I'd be tempted by this!
Didn't see it in the review, but is VR being added to this? Dirt was/is awesome in VR, but would be great to have an update
@bman2112 There's been no talk of VR support for DiRT 4, as far as I'm aware. Although it's possible, considering they did it for DiRT Rally.
@NathanUC Well,after my kneejerk reaction there,i read up a little on wrx headlights..It seems its a specific issue with the Suburu Impreza that is the issue here? Although,i also read WRX stands for FIA World Rally Cross Championship :/ So is there an issue with the headlights in general in Dirt 4 or just the Impreza? Please forgive my motorcar illiteracy,i would really appreciate a bit of info on this ..I guess i sound like an idiot,old habits die hard
@special_donky I consider it an issue with the WRX, but sadly, it's by design Just boring gross halogens with the day time running lights. Maybe the 2018 refresh changed though. If we are being technical too, that's not an Impreza WRX, just a WRX. Subi split the line in 2015 I believe that is the rough origin of the name "WRX" as well.
Back on topic! I wish it were full VR like Dirt Rally
@NathanUC Thanks man,its a bit of a downer i guess..Still,its good to know that its not a so much of a D4 deal breaking design fault by Codemasters themselves..I am off to pull the plug then and get on some Wipeout Omega! Thanks again buddy
Phew, I'm glad we cleared that up. Thought we had a game breaking issue there for a while. I have now installed my copy.
@special_donky Just to be sure, I wanted to point out I was joking. Yes, the headlights are incorrect, but that makes 0 difference on the game haha. Even Forza gets the headlights wrong on this car (I'm sure GT Sport will too). Since they are probably modeling the cars while they are parked, it makes sense.
@NathanUC Thanks again for the explanation,not sure if there was crossed wires from anyone else to begin..@JohnnyBastosor or i am just getting poked fun at?
Its all good though.All clear now..As if Codemasters would mess up like that badly anyways..Probably VR will be coming i reckon,haven't got a headset yet myself though..Pro Support coming too probably.DIRT 4 looks damn good,excited..
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