Rally games have seen a resurgence in popularity recently, with the latest Vrally, WRC and Dakar all bringing something new to the table, but the Dirt games have always been the benchmark and Dirt Rally 2.0 is no exception.
Codemasters’ series has a long history and 2.0 evokes memories of the classic Colin McRae era, even going so far as to have a version with a special commemorative cover available, but the latest game carves a muddy path of its own with some of the best rally driving ever to hit a console.
This also means that the realism hits home more in every stage with each car handling differently but also logically according to physics. It’s hard work trying to counter-steer around the perilous Argentinian mountains or keep the car on the right path in the rough Australian track full of bumps and trees that feel like they’ve been placed in exactly the place where you’re destined to land, but that’s the point of rally driving, it’s a harsh battle against the elements.
Thankfully, Codemasters realise that not everyone is an instant champion and this year’s game has lowered the AI to a point where it’s a little more forgiving on the standard setting. If you start finding it too easy, though, you can ramp up the difficulty and instantly find a challenge on your hands where one mistake could mean missing out on a win.
In Career Mode, just like in the last game, you get to progress through the ranks and the game does a good job of guiding you through, especially now the AI is easier to beat, but it does seem a bit grindy after a while. Thankfully, they’ve seen fit to also add some management aspects to the game this time around, fleshing it out with team building and buying the right vehicles, though money is hard to come by without a lot of effort. Rallycross is another option with its own career mode and is somewhat more forgiving than standard rallying. Both have online leaderboards with links to the top scores for the week though, strangely, it’s an option that seems to be required even if playing solo. Just don’t expect an F1 style story, though, it’s all straight faced game progression here.
The WRC license is put to good use with both cars and tracks ramped up from the previous game and it also means you get to mix and match cars with different types of track that they would normally avoid in real life but make driving a lot more interesting here.
Aside from the excellent handling, this latest Dirt game really looks the part and has some neat dynamic effects such as surface wear and weather that make a huge difference to the feel of a longer track. Some of the courses look stunning, assuming you actually get long enough to take in the sights before hitting the next tight right hander, while others are deliberately more barren but still feel more realistic than ever before, you can almost feel the clay and stones sticking to your wheels as you navigate the harsh environments. Sound is also fantastic, the hum of the engines (ok, it’s more of an unrelenting whine the way I drive) and the crunch of the road surface are so satisfying.
While every rally fan has their favourite rally game series, Dirt 2.0 stands as the pinnacle of rally sims with its licencing, tracks and added management aspects really bulking up this year’s experience. While it could do with more cars (some are arriving in DLC form) it’s a pretty well rounded package.