I’ve never quite understood the appeal of racing sims or any racing game that doesn’t involve purposefully crashing into your competition and blowing shit up along the way. Surely all the precision turns, perfectly-timed throttling, not using guard rails as your primary means of slowing down, and all this just to beat the clock couldn’t possibly be much fun. Except it is, and it’s even more so the DiRTier you get.
I don’t normally do driving games, but I had to review something and (unfortunately for Wesley) DiRT 4 was just sitting in the NAG office begging me to take the wheel. Now, as someone who’s only played one game in the DiRT franchise before, and never anywhere near completion, I wasn’t really expecting to be blown away. And I wasn’t. Not initially anyway. Here was yet another sim that would surely require far more time and dedication to “fully” appreciate than I’d like, and will probably be forgotten as soon as the next Need for Burnout or whatever comes out.
Well, it can totally be like that if you want it to be, but thanks to the “Racer” difficulty setting that simplifies a lot of the game’s more time-consuming aspects, it can also be a damned fun rally game you can pick up and play (pretty well) within just a few minutes. The difficulty you choose to go with almost entirely changes the game, and there’s one for every kind of player. Just want to mess around and kick some mud into the windshields of your foes? Go for “Racer”. Looking for one of the most realistic rally experiences out there? You’ll find it in one of the higher settings that hardly ever holds your hand, and lets you tweak everything you can possibly imagine to shave off that last stubborn millisecond from your time. While we’re on the topic of different ways to play, DiRT 4 sure has a lot of them.
The game’s career mode is packed with stuff to keep you busy for days on end and lets you manage your own team like a real rally boss. You can buy vehicles (new and used), upgrade parts, tune everything, choose the design and colours of your team, put together a damned fine crew, and participate in all of the events the game has to offer. My personal favourites were the Rally Cross stages because they really put your skills to the test on both smooth asphalt and dusty gravel, and the straight-up Rally sections. It should hardly come as a surprise as rallying is what this rally game is known for, but I had no idea it could be nearly as good as it is. Each of the various stages requires complete focus, lightning-fast reflexes, and demands that you know your vehicle inside and out. It’s one of the most intense, satisfying, and exhilarating racing experiences I’ve ever had. Oh, and there’s also something called “Historic Rally,” which basically lets you do all of that stuff in sexy, classic rally beasts.
But if none of that sounds like your kind of thing (in which case you should probably go back to Mario Kart, scrub), there’s also Land Rush, which sees you blasting through dirt tracks driving all sorts of cars, trucks, carts, and buggies. I wasn’t a massive fan of the buggies and carts because I couldn’t stop crashing into everything, but the trucks were monstrously badass.
DiRT 4 is a massive game with tons of stuff to do, but it wouldn’t be nearly as cool without its diverse locations and game-changing weather effects. Feeling up for a sprint through the blistering dirt roads of Australia? Have at it. Snow storm in Sweden? Strap on your tyre chains and tear that powder up, son. How about a nice, serene drive through the tight street corners of Spain during a rainstorm? Yip, that’s a thing too. There are also more than a few night stages, and they’re exactly as intimidating as you’d imagine. Paying close attention and adjusting to the surfaces and conditions of each track you’ll be racing on is paramount to whether you’ll glide through with the win or smash into everything in sight.
The game also has a fairly comprehensive free play mode, where you’re able to participate in special events, community created events, and even build your own courses and create custom events which you can share with others.
All of that said, the game isn’t without its issues. One of my biggest gripes is the feeling that Codemasters could’ve made it look SO much better. Not counting a few notable exceptions like the gorgeous snow stages, cars, and weather effects, a lot of the game’s locations are disappointingly bland. And look, I get it, graphics aren’t everything, and I should probably focus more on the road than the scenery, but it just doesn’t look like the developer took full advantage of the breathtaking locations it got to work with.
Another major issue for me was the lack of any real “story” in the campaign mode. Yes, this is a racing game and the more time spent actually racing the better, but there’s not much holding it all together. The whole experience essentially boils down to racing until you win all the things. Other than a few videos showcasing your performance, and shots of you on the winner’s stage, the game doesn’t do a great job of making you feel like the “rally god” you’re aiming to become. I can’t help but think the game’s campaign could’ve benefited from something akin to FIFA‘s The Journey story mode.
I know I haven’t spoken much about the game’s multiplayer, but that’s largely because I’ve only been able to find about three matches during my many hours spent with it. Sure, those three events were pretty fun, but the long wait to get into them definitely wasn’t. But I prefer the solo experience anyway, so I’m not terribly bothered, to be honest.
But hey, even with its various imperfections, DiRT 4 is still one hell of a ride.
84Whether you’re a series veteran looking for a challenge, someone who’s just starting to dip their toes in the racing sim world, or a noob looking for some slightly more organised racing fun, DiRT 4 has you more than covered. While it has its fair share of issues, none really detract from the experience enough to make it anything less than a worthy successor.