Republished on Tuesday 24th March 2020: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the leak of April's PlayStation Plus lineup. The original text follows.
Codemasters' DiRT franchise, which has roots in its historic Colin McRae series, has gone through a few changes. It's swerved between flashy, casual-friendly racing and straight-laced, hardcore simulation a couple of times now, and with the release of DiRT Rally 2.0, we're back on the latter. The last game, DiRT 4, took the foundations of the brilliant rally sim that came before it and bolted on a host of features to lower the barrier to entry, but all that has been ripped out, leaving us once again with a no-frills, high intensity racer.
And man, intense is the word. Fans of the original DiRT Rally needn't worry -- the sequel recaptures the thrilling point-to-point action the first game established, and it's as excellent as ever. Careening along twisting dirt roads, always a hair's breadth away from catastrophe, will shred your nerves to ribbons. The knife-edge action the sim is known for is back in fine form here.
In fact, so hardcore is the game that tutorials are nowhere to be seen. This is one incredibly lean package; there are numerous modes of play, but there's no fluff whatsoever. Once you've created your profile, you're left to discover what the game has to offer, with little explanation. This is a game primarily aimed at fans of the previous DiRT Rally, so the lack of hand-holding makes some sense, but it could be off-putting for newcomers.
You get the sense that Codemasters isn't messing around; almost all assists are turned off by default, throwing you straight in at the deep end. Luckily, the handling is on point. Once you've got a feel for it, you'll never want to turn on any of the driving aids. They're there if you need them though, and enabling them does reduce the difficulty of throwing around your car of choice, but either way, DiRT Rally 2.0 is no pushover.
It puts equal emphasis on rally and Rallycross, which is officially licensed again for this outing. Both are well executed, but the A to B rallying is the star of the show. Racing through (mostly) off-road courses as fast as possible is nail-biting stuff, because one false move can ruin your entire run. You need to master your car's handling - they all feel unique - and listen to your co-driver's calls to stand a chance at getting on the podium -- or even just make it to the finish in one piece.
Between stages, you'll also need to think about the state of the vehicle and its tyres. You can make repairs within a limited amount of time, and swap your worn tyres for new ones, or opt for a different type to suit the conditions. It's a simple yet effective strategic wrinkle to proceedings that'll have you weighing up whether to mend your dodgy radiator or the off-kilter wheel calibration. You can tinker with your cars outside of events too, with simple upgrades to buy and in-depth fine tuning that allows you to fundamentally change a vehicle's behaviour.
Repairs and upgrades also apply to your Rallycross cars. This closed circuit take on rally has become a mainstay of the series, and it's a fun alternative to the twitchy point-to-point races. Though the handling can be just as unforgiving in Rallycross, you're still able to throw your weight around a bit more, making these cars a lot of fun to drive. In a sport that has you racing the same course over and over again to qualify, that certainly helps.
The two career modes are where you'll earn most of your credits, which you'll need to purchase new cars and upgrades as well as hire and train crew members. Upgrading your team can have knock on effects too, with benefits like reducing the time taken to make certain repairs, or lowering the time penalty when you have to reset after sliding off the track.
There are plenty of other ways to play outside of the careers, of course. Daily and weekly events are always on the go, paying out decent prize money if you do well. Then there's Freeplay, which houses a raft of other game modes. You can drive iconic rally vehicles in the Historic events, or choose a Rallycross driver and lead them to victory in the FIA World Rallycross Championship. You also have time trials, and the option to create your own events and play online. Sadly, DiRT 4's randomly generated stages are missing, but there are plenty of rally courses to master across six locations, and more on the way as Codies promises lots of post-launch content.
It's a comprehensive package, and as you'd expect, it's presented wonderfully to boot. Visually the game looks decent, with well-modelled cars and environments that look the part, even if they aren't always incredibly detailed. Still, it's hard to argue with the rock solid performance -- we didn't notice a single dropped frame, which is a great strength for such a fast, twitchy game. The sound is similarly impressive; engines are suitably aggressive, and clever audio cues can provide feedback on your car's condition and the surface beneath you.
Following on from its predecessor, DiRT Rally 2.0 is the pinnacle of rally on PlayStation 4. The simulation handling is brutal, but a lot of fun to learn and brilliantly satisfying to conquer. The raw driving experience is highly intense as you travel at insane speeds, always verging on disaster. While it's missing some of the more casual-friendly features of DiRT 4, the suite of modes and options will keep any rally fan going for a long time. Even if the sim label puts you off, we'd encourage you to take this for a test drive; it's easily one of the most thrilling racing games in recent years.
Great review, has anything new been added to the game though since 4?
I had Dirt 4 and it became so mundane one you had the controls down (around 12 hours into the game) I actually changed my Co driver to Spanish so I didn't understand what he was saying for more of a challenge.
The sim label puts me off. I miss Dirt 2 & 3 handling.
@themcnoisy Only really nerdy stuff like different tyre compounds, track degradation, that sort of thing. This is a sim, so it's tougher than DiRT 4, but I'm thoroughly enjoying the challenge.
There are various co-drivers to choose from, so you can continue with Spanish directions if you wish
Once/if they add VR support for this I'll get it straight away. That was the best bit of the original. Nailing a corner up Pikes Peak in the super slidey starter car had me feeling like Colin McRae every time (until inevitably messing up the next)
@licenced They've confirmed VR support is coming on PC, hopefully it'll make its way to PSVR as well!
I’ll be getting this but like Rally and Dirt 4 i’ll wait for a bit of a sale.
One thing you didn’t mention is the track degradation, apparently the conditions change depending how far down the running order you are. The video I watched by the devs made it sound like it would be an important addition but I wonder if it’s more of a novelty in reality.
Gonna be getting this for sure!
@kyleforrester87 To be honest it's not really something that made much of a difference for me. It's cool that it's in there but I didn't find it impacted how I played really.
If you're really into it, you might notice a difference, but it didn't strike me as a huge gameplay change.
Sounds fantastic, but not for me. Would love a more arcade-style rally game though.
@Quintumply Not surprising I guess since you reviewed it with a pad.
... as soon as PSVR upgrade is announced, count me in!
Racing Games are one of my favourite genre of games. I have to admit though I do sometimes miss the simplicity of when all you had to decide was whether you wanted to race as the Red car or the Blue car.
As great as the new games look I do sometimes find having too many choices to make and too many settings to tweek can sometimes put me off and takes a lot of the fun out of the game
I played DiRT Rally a lot but had to delete it recently for harddrive space and I felt like it'll take 2 billion hours to ever be a master in this game especially with a Dualshock. It's sad that games like GT Sport, Driveclub etc with the more realistic graphics never do as well as DiRT with the reviews. On average, I could say some cars in GTAV either in mint condition or damaged, look better than some DiRT cars in those states.
I bought PSVR for cockpit based games such as sims. Despite purchasing most things, within this genre, DiRT Rally was the only decent thing that was on offer.
I hope that this new DiRT does make it's way onto PSVR, as I now have no interest in playing flat screen cockpit sims.
Surely, by now, there are SO many Rally games on the market that they all merge into one? I mean, there's only so many things you can change on a driving sim isn't there?
@tomassi what’s the last rally game you purchased?
I've not bought any as I'm not really into cars (I have Driveclub just in case I want to play a racing game). I do have PS Now though and have tried the Dirt games on there (Dirt 4 and Dirt Rally from memory) and also Sebastien Loeb Rally and, to me, they are generally all the same. Sorry, does that offend you for some reason?
This looks great and I look forward to getting it a 6-12 months from now. Quick question: I just got WRC7 after debating it against Dirt 4, but the sale is still on. If I have WRC7 and Dirt Rally, do I gain anything with Dirt 4 except the loss of 40 more hours. Cheers!
@tomassi offend me? Lol. Okay. No, I am just trying to work out if you’re speaking from a position of experience or not.
@kyleforrester87 I, admittedly, do absolutely suck at them so maybe I'm biased. It just seems as though more than one Rally game comes out every year for what is essentially something you can't really do anything different with? But then I know nothing about Rally so I guess that's the same as someone else trying to understand why people like myself buy FIFA or PES every year just for new kits etc!
To me, the racing genre peaked with Outrun in the arcade and then Super Skidmarks on the Amiga.
Driving aids aside, can you change the difficulty level in this?
@Nightcrawler71 No, I don't recall seeing any options for difficulty as such.
@SegaBlueSky So true, Im yet to find an arcade rally game as fun to play as SEGA Rally on the Saturn... and Ive tried quite a few over the years.
Ok thanks. I have it pre-ordered anyway. Roll on next week!
WOW!, nice... augh - but work just blew up and barely have time for what I have now.
@Ristar24 I reinstalled SEGA Rally the other week. It looks great running in 4k.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nHX5SMHDnw (*Mods: This is a no ad video/site, but please feel free to remove the link, if it contradicts any current policies).
love driving games but hate were they have drifting stages hope this as none
@brubeck It’s rally.. there gunna be some drifting.
Sounds fantastic. Preorder it last week and really looking forward to it. Always enjoy Dirt games!
Great review. In the absence of Dirt 4's track generator, how do you feel replay value will be with Dirt Rally 2.0?
@kyleforrester87 no i dont mean rally drifting some games have american cars set up were you have to get so many points by just drifting in certain distance or time thats my dislike
@Wilkens Well, the number of tracks should keep people going for a little while, and Codemasters says there will be at least two seasons of extra content coming. Replay value should be decent enough
@Hengist Good lord that's beautiful.
@tomassi same as buying F1 every year or NASCAR. Some people like the small differences between titles
@SegaBlueSky Thanks for the reply. Unfortunately, I didn't set the video capture to 4K, but it still looks nice in the vid', playing back in normal HD/Youtube settings. Obviously, in-game/on my 4K telly, it looks even better.
Here's a Citroen on the same track... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQ8SneTnFD8
Bought it today (on PC). It's really good so far. In my first impression I feel like it has a very good balance: it's challenging yet rewards you enough to make progress in a decent way, as long as you drive cleanly enough. It plays really well with a controller too, there's a pleasant weight to the physics and the triggers. It has good selection of content, however I do miss some Sweden, Monaco and Germany stuff (future DLCs).
Overall it feels like a more thought-out product than the first Dirt Rally game, and so far it's up there with F1 2018 as one of CM's best games. For me this will be an excellent year for rally racing, with this and [the less hardcore] WRC 8 (September).
@Quintumply There is no god damn way this game came out over an entire YEAR ago. I am just not having it.
@kyleforrester87 I don't know what to tell you, Kyle
Still my favourite racing game of this generation!
I love this game so much. I've the 4 seasons DLC and yesterday we got the Colin McRae flat out pack free.
Last generation Gran turismo made all other racers on PS3 look inferior. This generation it didn't. Dirt rally 2.0 is the best racing game I have ever played.
After playing Colin McRae on PS2 for years (and enjoying it ) I have now purchased a PS4 and Dirt 2.0. I am struggling with the dual shock controller as the steering toggle is slow to centre after turning and the car "snakes" up the road. How much difference would a Logitech steering wheel make to playing the game.
@Badheelman Bought the gold version yesterday for $15; when this was free via PS+ I tried it but was quickly put off that half the game was locked away. The full game with everything open at $15 is about right, and after downloading the 50ish extras, my life and family are happy to have the grinding time back. Otherwise, fun game!
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