Loud and Visceral Arcade Racing
Barrelling its way out of the quintessential English countryside is Dirt 5, the latest racer from Codemasters in its long-standing Colin McRae franchise. Like an obnoxious first-year undergraduate student, Dirt 5 is loud, brash, in your face, and up for a good time – which is the perfect panacea for the 2020-themed shitshow we find ourselves in.
Battle The Elements In an Impressive Roster of Locations
Dirt 5 boasts an impressive repertoire of locations to obnoxiously drive your rally car around. From the dusty deserts of Arizona, the snow-covered roads of Norway, and the rain-soaked roads of China, you’ll have to contend with over 70 circuits – all impacted by the game’s glorious dynamic weather system.
No doubt borrowed from titles such as Forza Horizon 4 and Project Cars 2, the weather system changes gameplay and forces you to change your approach on the fly. For instance, I was racing on a circuit in Norway, where little to no snow was on the ground at the start of the race.
By the time lap three came around, I was navigating a blizzard, in the dark, with nothing but a pitiful headlight to guide my way. Naturally, it slowed down my lap time and allowed the AI to catch up with me (humble brag), relentlessly nibbling at my heels as I powered towards the finish line.
But it isn’t just snow you’ll contend with. In arid environments, you’ll find yourself battling sandstorms; in the tropics, it’ll be torrential rain, and in the British ones, well, there are no British circuits actually, but if there were, it’d just be that bloody fine rain.
The Cars Look, Feel And Sound Great
The most important thing in any racing game is the cars, and in Dirt 5, I wasn’t disappointed. At launch, the game features a stable of over 60 vehicles, all with their unique characteristics.
The Subaru Impreza makes its return, and it’s exactly how you’ve always imagined it. It’s rapid, handles corners like a hot knife through butter, and sounds like it’s blended James Earl Jones’ voicebox with a bag of gravel. It’s glorious to drive, and yes, it’s the greatest rally car of all time.
When I wasn’t waxing lyrical about the Impreza, I did try some of the other cars. Sigh. The Mitsubishi Lancer is there, along with Citroen C3, the Ford F-150, the Aston Martin DBX, and many, many others.
What they all have in common is that they’re all rendered beautifully. At the start of the race, the bodywork gleams under the lighting, looking wonderful and pristine. Then, after three-five laps of absolute carnage, your bodywork will resemble your local electronics store after Black Friday. Bits of your vehicle will be missing, windows will be cracked and smashed, and you’ll have that same hollow feeling you’ll have post-Black Friday when you realise the bargain you got, wasn’t actually a bargain.
Finally, driving cars in Dirt 5 is a breeze. Unlike racing simulators such as Dirt Rally and Forza Motorsport, Dirt 5 continues in the vein of its predecessors, embracing accessible arcade driving which anybody can pick up.
Career and Playgrounds Steal The Headlines
Like many racing games, Dirt 5 has the usual arcade and time trial mode for players to jump into a race quickly. But it’s the career and playgrounds that demand the most of your attention.
The career mode is a story-driven experience, where you’re thrust into the world of Dirt as a protégé of AJ, a super-cool racing dude, who happens to be at the top of his rally game. Like every other racing career mode, ‘it’s a go from being nobody’ to ‘being the very best in the world’ kinda affair, which I find a bit of a tired video game trope.
I say this because the career mode offers you nothing that you haven’t already seen in a video game before. With a dazzling array of XP meters, coupled with generic currencies and points, you grind your way to the end-game cars, which allow you to compete at a higher level.
However, one nice touch is the podcast that plays throughout your career experience. The premise is that you’re listening to a show that’s run by two ‘fans’ of the Dirt race series, who comment on how your AI competitors are doing, as well as interviewing some of your rivals. They found time to include an interview with Jamie Chadwick, the current W Series champion.
I really enjoyed this, and I think it helped with the immersion of the game.
The Playgrounds mode is where this game will shine. You can create, share, and find tracks made by other players and the developers, giving you an infinite number of tracks to master. Similar to how it works in Trials Fusion, you can pop a track together and then share it online. A simple feedback system allows players to vote whether they like a track or not, ensuring the better tracks will be available.
The possibilities here are endless. You’ll be able to keep coming back here and try out new tracks, extending your time with the game.
Dumb Fun, Just Try Not To Think About It Too Much
Dirt 5 is that one friend you love to go out drinking with. It’s brash, bold, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s got a bunch of awesome tracks and a dynamic weather system that works really well, and then the playgrounds mode injects much-needed longevity into a game that might become stale after 20-30 hours or so.
However, if you’re looking for a racing experience where detail, precision, and tinkering is important then Dirt 5 isn’t for you. But if it’s fun you’re after, you’ll have a blast.
*Reviewers note* – Because the copy I played was a pre-release version, I haven’t managed to fully test the multiplayer portion of the game. For me, given I play most racing games solo, it didn’t really feel like a big deal, but I can appreciate that isn’t the case for others. I’ll update this review post-launch to report on what the Dirt 5 multiplayer experience is like.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); PlayStation 4; Playstation 5; Xbox Series X; Xbox One; Publisher: Koch Media; Developer: Codemasters; Players: 1-4; Released: November 6, 2020; MSRP: $59.99
Editor’s note: The publisher provided a review copy to Hey Poor Player.