Dirt Rally deviated from the rest of the Dirt series and ventured off down a simulation track. As good as the game was, this didn’t appeal to everyone so for Dirt 4 Codemasters has tried to offer us the best of both worlds.
You are asked at the start of Dirt 4 if you wish to play in gamer mode or simulation mode. In other words, do you want another Dirt Rally experience or the traditional Dirt experience? I thought very highly of Dirt Rally but clearly I am a wimp and didn’t hesitate to choose the gamer mode option. Of course I can change the setting at any point. But I probably won’t even though I should.
The game will put you to the test to suggest a setup for you within your chosen mode. You are free to overrule this at any point and it really is something I should do as I do seem to be able to win without too much trouble. I can roll my car and still trundle across the finish line in first place but refer to previous ‘wimp’ comment to see why I’ve not changed anything.
All of the content in Dirt 4 will be relatively familiar to anyone who has played the Dirt games. The first main difference is that you are now in charge of your rally team. You’ll need to come up with a name which is usually the sort of task that has me stumped for an hour or so as I try to come up with something clever or witty and then give up. Some staff also comes in helpful and there are a few CVs for you to look at. All will want a payment of some sort and some negotiation might be necessary but most of the staff I’ve dealt with don’t seem to be money grabbers. A few sponsors will come in handy for income too. And you might want at least a car or two.
As your progress through the game and increase your rank and income then you can hire better staff and improve the facilities. There are all manner of facilities to upgrade all of which has some sort of benefit whether it be cheaper repair bills, space for more cars, the ability to attract better sponsors or simply just to keep your staff happy. You will need a lot of money and need to increase your rank considerably to get the best of everything.
For acquiring vehicles you can either buy brand new, which comes at a higher cost, or look in the classified ads for a 2nd hand bargain. If you don’t have a suitable car for an event then you can get a loan but that will come at a cost of your prize money. There are plenty of cars from old rally classics to the current suite of rally cars but you will need to upgrade your garage if you don’t want to be restricted by storage space.
Managing your team is a nice touch but it doesn’t really add much to the overall experience. I do find I sometimes forget about it and actually found I had staff whose contract had finished and I was completely unaware. Perhaps it would be nice if there was a reminder but I guess I’m the boss so I should know. The sponsors do have requirements related to their contribution and meeting these requirements will improve relationships and lead to more income. Again, not something I would miss if it wasn’t there and I don’t tend to pay much attention to it.
The career mode has 4 main events – normal rally, retro rally, land rush and rally cross. Normal rally and the retro rally are the same thing but the retro has the old classic cars. Land rush is either 4X4 trucks or buggies on a dirt track circuit. The buggies I found to be incredibly sensitive in their handling and take some taming. There are a couple of bends where I simply just could not master and it felt that the buggy just wanted to spin out regardless. The trucks are much easier to control but overall I found these events rather dull and certainly not as interesting as they have been in previous Dirt games. Rally Cross is another one I’m not fond of. For those unaware, this is circuit racing in rally cars where you have to take an extension (called the joker) at least once during the race. As with land rush, I did find these events became a bit of a chore.
The rally events are where the Dirt games have always been at their best and this one is no different. The co-driver, Nicky Grist, is a bit more chatty than the fella in Dirt Rally. He gives a bit of an update at the start whether it be to tell me my car is “battered” but mechanically okay or to offer pearls of wisdom about prize money. He might also be a ventriloquist as I’m not sure I can see his mouth moving when he is waffling on at the start. You can amend the settings of the pace notes and I do find the default setting can be too late at times; I can be flying down a straight and be right on a right 2 bend before I’ve been told about it. That is fine if you can see the bend coming but that is not always the case. It doesn’t happen all the time but often enough that I’ve felt the need to tinker whereas there was no need for this in Dirt Rally.
There are certainly no shortage of events across each of the categories and the number of stages and length of events increases as you progress. The career structure is better than it was in Dirt 3 but it would be nice to switch disciplines. If you start an event in on discipline then you must reach the end before swapping to another. I would have liked to have been able to swap between disciplines to vary things a little.
For newcomers and those that just wish to improve then you can get a bit of schooling to turn you into a rally professional. Dirt Rally had tutorial videos but Dirt 4 introduces an exam. Of sorts. You get to watch and listen and then practice the technique. It all makes sense when you watch but trying to put it into practice can be a different proposition. Fortunately the game is generous and lets you pass the lesson with ease regardless of how you have done.
The Joyride mode is where those that like to have fun can spend some time. You can be whizzing round the route trying to destroy as many boxes as possible within the time limit or doing a time trial with green icons to reduce your time of red icons to increase your time. These are a nice distraction and nice to see they aren’t part of the career mode as they were in Dirt 3.
I’ve not dabble online much but there are similar options to Dirt Rally. There are the daily, weekly and monthly events where you get to post a time and see how you compare to others once the event duration has expired. The monthly event adds a lot more stages and if you wreck your car then you have to retire. There is another event type with a progression of sorts. You start at the bottom tier and are awarded point son your performance which will accumulate towards promotion. In this event you are racing against other people although you only see how they are doing on the progress bar to the left. I’ve tried this twice and in both cases I have won the first stage and then been hit with a disconnection in the 2nd stage. This is the only mode I’ve had a disconnection issue and I’m not sure if it is related to others quitting as my connection seemed fine. There is also the more traditional multiplayer modes but I’ve not dabble in those yet. The online events do pair you with those using the same mode as you so if you chose gamer like me then you won’t be up against anyone playing on simulation.
Your Stage allows you to create your own events and stages. It isn’t quite down to the level of building the track but tweak a few settings and you are generated a suitable event that you can share with the community.
The locations and surfaces are similar to Dirt Rally but they don’t seem as interesting this time. Dirt Rally had lots more features like cars parked at the side or logs but Dirt 4 seems to have much less of this and as a result the tracks have much less character and sometimes seem a little bland.
The Dirt series is still my favourite rally game and Dirt 4 continues this trend. It offers the best of the Dirt series with simulation and gamer mode option and there is plenty of content to cater for all tastes. Dirt 4 is a lot more accessible than Dirt Rally but also offers that challenge for those that are ready. It probably doesn’t offer up enough that is new or different from before however but it is still a fine rally game.