It’s called DiRT But it’s Really Gold
For as simple as the concept may be, it seems that these days racing games struggle to approach the genre properly. Too often, as was in the case for my Ride 2 review, developers go for realism and forget to make their game fun. With exceedingly high bars of entry for some of these titles, they run the risk of ostracizing newcomers to their series without even realizing they’re shooting themselves in the proverbial foot.
I’m happy to say that DiRT 4 does not make the same mistake.
DiRT 4 is the latest installment in Codemasters’ rally racing video game series coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and the PC. I’d like to say they’ve outdone themselves here, but this is honestly the first DiRT game I’ve ever played. However, I feel confident in saying I’m officially a fan of the series and intend to go back and play previous installments when time and finances allow.
Some Hurt in the DiRT
DiRT 4 starts the way most any game does, and that’s by showing you the ropes. There’s a few mandatory tutorial sessions to go through before you’re allowed to run free, but it’s highly beneficial that you give them at least one go to make sure you get your bearings.
In the beginning you’ll go through the basic handling of your vehicle. This will become your bread and butter throughout gameplay. Learn these tips. They don’t feel like they’ll be essential, but believe me, you won’t be winning races without this know-how.
It should go without say that your basic mechanics for driving are braking and turning. In this case, two types of brakes are covered: straight line braking (braking on a straightaway) and the handbrake (a secondary brake that’s just as essential to gameplay). Once these are covered it’s best to master weight transfer, which is a way of braking and accelerating in such a manner that weight is shifted between the front and back of a car so as to ensure a quick recovery. I think.
Lastly, in terms of basic training there’s a short video that shows you what to do in case you puncture a tire while driving. It’s more or less the same as what you would want to do in real life, but it’s good to know that this is an actual game mechanic before you get confused.
From there you can continue on with advanced training or move straight into the action. The lessons don’t take long generally, but you can practice as long as you like until you feel you’ve got a hang on everything.
Bump and Run
What’s nice about DiRT 4 is that the game is genuine, never taking itself too seriously or forgetting that it’s a game. This may sound strange, but hear me out. When you start the tutorial mode you can choose between two types of handling: gamer and simulation. Maybe I’m attributing too much to this, but seeing these options made me very happy. The reason is this: for “Gamer” the handling is simplified. The core mechanics are necessary to win a race, but nothing fancy is required outside of that. For the rallying aficionados however, there exists “Simulation” which is a more challenging version of the game which incorporates the realism that many racing game fans crave. I tested and enjoyed both versions, but kept most of my gaming within the “Gamer” spectrum for completion’s sake.
In both versions the handling of all of the vehicles was very smooth. I never felt as though I were fighting the car or the physics in order to regain control of the vehicle I was piloting at any given time.
Overall, the mechanics of DiRT 4 are smooth and easy to learn. Newcomers and fans alike should be very pleased with this latest iteration in the series.
It’s a Dirty Job…
DiRT 4 has different modes suited to all types of racing fans. Each item on the menu opens up a long list of possibilities so that the player is promised to never be bored.
The core game starts and ends in the Events tab. From here you have the options of choosing Career, Competitive, Multiplayer, Freeplay, DiRT Academy, and Joyride. If this sounds like a lot, believe me, it is. Career is where you’ll find a large bulk of the game. It’s here where DiRT 4 players are going to get their real start in things. When beginning, players will see four options, three of which are locked. Those options are Rally, Land Rush, Rally Cross, and Historic Rally, the latter three being those that are locked. Playing Rally will unlock these modes however, meaning that the player is forced to start here. This really isn’t that big of a deal though, given that this is the bread and butter of the game it makes sense to start players off with the core elements.
Winning races earns you credits, which is a way to buy cars and hire team members. More on this later. It also allows you to open up those three other partitions of the game as you achieve licenses. Never fear however, because DiRT 4 doesn’t require you to grind to get these achievements. All in all, opening up these aspects of the game can probably be done in a sitting or two depending on how difficult you prefer your gameplay.
Obviously, your win criteria is reliant on the difficulty settings, so tweak those accordingly to ensure you get the best experience. As you move forward and open Land Rush and Rally Cross, players will see actual races taking place. These can be dirt truck rallies, dune buggy, or straight up circuit style racing. Historic Rally adds a means by which to play older models of cars with increased complexity on handling.
Rally To Me!
If you’re itching to test your skills amongst humans, you’re in luck. There’s Competitive and Multiplayer to whet your whistle. Competitive has two modes within it, Pro Tour and Community Events. The Pro Tour and Community Events are roughly the same thing. The only difference being that Pro Tour are essentially DiRT 4’s equivalent of ranked mode. Meanwhile, the Community Events are just that: events that have been created by DiRT 4’s community. These are also only available for certain amounts of time, so if you want to get on those leaderboards it’s best to snatch them up as often as you can.
It need be mentioned also that these events are all rally events and therefore there will be no racing here.
If you’re looking for more variety however you’ll want to head over to Multiplayer. Here you can join already created sessions or build your own based on how you see fit and let people join. This includes all of the disciplines that the player can find in the career section of the menu slot. Tweak them however you see fit to get the best, or most challenging experience DiRT 4 can offer.
Freeplay is an extension of this for the solo gamer where you can make your own events and challenges for you to run. Make them as long or as short as you like and see if you can beat your best times! Freeplay, like the other modes, will be made up of what is in the career mode so you can go crazy with your favorite aspects of DiRT 4!
And the Cherry On Top
Lastly, for those who want to goof off, or hone their skills you have one of two choices: DiRT Academy, or Joyride. DiRT Academy is exactly what it sounds like. Learn all the tips and tricks to become a DiRT 4 master with every car available to the player in game. Coincidentally this is where you start your tutorial as well so the area ought to look familiar.
However, if you want something silly or just different, Joyride will offer the player various challenges that will be both amusing but will still test the skills of even the most seasoned DiRT veterans.
There’s No “I” In Team
Don’t forget along the way to build your team, develop your brand and take on sponsors in the Team tab either.
The first two mainly just provide flair for the game. You can mix and match paint jobs in this area as well. Customize everything from your rally car to your trucks in this mode. You can also name your team here as well.
Moving to the vehicles section, this is probably where you’re going to want to spend a good portion of your time. Here you can purchase cars for all of the rally races you’ll be participating over the course of the game. Thankfully, nothing gets too heavy handed in the mechanical or technical aspect so you don’t have to be a grease monkey to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your digital buck.
With all of these features one may think it’s pretty easy to get overwhelmed with the gameplay in DiRT 4. Rest assured, nothing could be further from the truth. The more of DiRT 4 players see, the more things will start to fall into place. Those who aren’t familiar with rally racing culture may be forced to look up a term or two, but all in all the game offers a wide range of entertainment and gaming versatility. The driving styles, the varied stages, the mechanics and even the smaller design elements and soundtrack come together to create a near seamless racing experience.
I enjoyed every moment of DiRT 4 that I played, and up until I started up the game I didn’t know jack about rally racing. Truth be told, I still don’t, but that doesn’t make the game any less fun. I’ll be happy to keep plugging away at the game long after I wrap all of the racing stages. Until then, happy driving and vroom vroom!
Final Verdict: 4.5 / 5
Available on: Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 4 (reviewed) Publisher: Codemasters ; Developer: Codemasters; Players: 1 ; Released: June 9th, 2017 ; T for Teen ; MSRP: $59.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a PS4 review copy of DiRT 4 given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.