Republished on Wednesday 29th December, 2021: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the announcement of January 2022's PS Plus lineup. The original text follows.
We've already delivered our main verdict on DIRT 5 with the PlayStation 4 release, which you can read about through the link. However, Codemasters has graced us with a PS5 version as well, and as you might expect, it's the optimal way to play this arcadey off-road racer.
Everything we liked about this game is either the same or better on Sony's fancy new console. Primarily, that means the racing itself, which remains super fun. Slipping and sliding through the mud, over ice, or along gravel roads is seriously entertaining thanks to forgiving handling that lets you really throw cars around. Some races have noticeable difficulty spikes, but you'll be enjoying yourself too much to really care.
On PS5, the DualSense's adaptive triggers are put to good use; the accelerator and brake pedals are represented nicely, becoming easier or harder to press depending on race conditions. Sadly, haptic feedback takes a back seat in this case. For a game that allows you to drive on so many different surfaces, there's no nuance to the force feedback at all. Your controller will simply buzz away, regardless of what's happening on the track. After the success of games like Astro's Playroom and, more aptly, WRC 9, it's disappointing.
Having said that, it's not a deal-breaker, and you can forgive this oversight for the game's visual improvements. While not as pronounced as other cross-gen enhancements, DIRT 5 certainly looks best on PS5, and after balancing out the HDR settings, its colourful presentation looks great on a 4K display. There are still some odd graphical issues here and there, with occasional light sources flickering on and off, but it's fairly minor, and sure to be patched out. The game runs buttery smooth, too — we haven't noticed any screen-tearing, so that seems to be resolved.
One issue we had with the PS4 game was constant load screens between events and even some of the menus. As expected, on PS5 these loads are either eliminated or greatly reduced, which is ideal for a bright and breezy game like this. While we're on the technical side of things, there's actually a decent use of PS5's 3D audio tech in play here. Wearing headphones, the game uses positional audio to make music play from in-game speakers located around the sides of each track. It's a simple example, but implemented well; you'll hear a song grow louder on your left as you approach, and then fade back down behind you as you race forward. It's quite effective.
At the end of the day, though, this is mainly a success because of the inherently fun gameplay. It's always nice to have an arcade racer to kick off a new generation of hardware, and DIRT 5 certainly fits that bill. It has a simple structure and a pseudo-narrative you can largely ignore, but it's just darn fun to play. That's the bottom line.
If you've just got yourself a PS5, don't sleep on DIRT 5. It brings bombastic, arcadey racing to the console's launch lineup, giving you something totally different to play alongside the heavy hitters. Although the haptic feedback implementation is basic and one or two visual bugs remain, the core experience is seriously fun, and well worth checking out if you like driving sideways.