DiRT Rally 2.0 Review – Falling Down the Mountain
DiRT Rally 2.026th February, 2019
End up kissing dirt. INXS had it completely right in their prescient song regarding my time with DiRT Rally 2.0. I said back in my preview of the game that I'd be using a controller when playing this. I have been. What I didn't say is that I'd have to turn on some of the assists just to let me complete some of the rally stages. RallyCross, I'm decent enough there, but actual rally? I'm sure what I'm driving thinks it's gone to car hell.
It certainly looks that way after I've done with it. But why exactly is this? Well my child, let the chosen one explain. DiRT Rally 2.0 is a game that values skill and punishes heathenish cretins, such as myself, for their inability to pop and kickflip the car while grinding around the corners. Those are rally terms, right? Also, I've scratched my car.
To be quite serious, it is genuinely a game that values skill and certainly rewards it. However, it doesn't completely punish you and make itself inaccessible to those, like myself, who aren't very good at the rallying, or simulation driving games in general. The fact that my skills as racing sims are lacking shouldn't be a surprise to anybody who has read other reviews of car sims I've covered. You won't find a 'gamer mode' as there was in DiRT 4, something I slated in my review of the game. What DiRT Rally 2.0 has is a high number of settings and assists to ease you along the way.
I've made liberal use of some of these assists, though only in actual rally races. Rallycross, the only assists I genuinely use are automatic windscreen wipers, automatic transmission and exterior cameras. The latter is my personal preference in any racing game with the former being quality of life options more than anything. You'll see very quickly in the footage I've captured from the game why, particularly with faster cars, I've needed to put assists on. For comedic effect, I've included a full rally stage in a Ford Escort Mk2 with assists off.
You still have to find the perfect balance of assists too, well, assist your lack of ability. In my case, I've got Clutch Override on as well as ABS, Stability Control and Traction Control to the max. I could possibly lower these a little to add a bit of spice and speed. My complaint during DiRT 4 about 'gamer mode' and Project Cars 2's assists essentially making the game "baby’s first racer" can apply here, particularly with off-throttle and time control braking turned on. Those on, however, will rarely - if ever - see you win a rally stage.
Find that perfect setting and you truly get to enjoy what DiRT Rally 2.0 has to offer. The game has a career mode, of sorts, in the form of 'Career Rally' and 'Career Rallycross'. The career mode is also expanded through daily and weekly challenges. Completing either rewards in-game currency which can be used to buy and upgrade cars as well as hire and upgrade your team (co-driver, chief engineer and up to five other engineers). Adding to the career mode are time trials and custom championships, which are rounded off by a wide selection of historic rallies and this year's World RallyCross championship. Personally, I took on the role of Sébastien Loeb and utterly demolished his car. As I did with every car with more than 'bugger all' power. I'll cover the cars in just a little bit.
Going back to the career. When you enter either of the career modes, you'll be matched up against AI racing cars of the same classification of the car you've picked. The real issue is that while the stages are picked at random from a pool, the pool is limited. The career, for what it is, is shallow, to say the least. You move through, do your best in either rallying, rallycross-ing(?) and the challenges to earn credits, use these credits to buy new cars. Rinse and repeat.
You'll have seen everything within a handful of careers. The rally tracks appear to be predetermined number from the six areas found within the game, these being Ribadelles, Spain; New England, USA; Łęczna County, Poland; Hawkes Bay, New Zealand; Monaro, Australia and Catamarca Province, Argentina. Rallycross tracks are simply tracks, these being Silverstone, Barcelona-Catalunya, Lohéac, Hell, Mettet, Trois-Rivières, Montalegre and Höljes. I will say that Codemasters have genuinely brought these places to life. Even better are random occurrences like crashed cars from earlier drives and other surprises to catch you out.
The limited tracks don't make for a bad experience. Far from it. The racing is second to none. Here's where I said I'd get back to you, and the true joy of the game. The advantage of having a focused roster of anything is that you can perfect it. Codemasters have got this completely right. Each and every car feels absolutely different, with you being forced to work with even the smallest of details. You can also, once unlocked for a minor amount of in-game credits, tune the cars to whatever specifications you actually want, within realistic limits of course. No NOS included. Unlike the previous DiRT Rally, you also have a choice on tyre compound (soft, medium & hard) which wear differently and more suited for different race lengths. Not that it matters when you have a puncture.
Attention to detail carries on from the cars and onto the tracks themselves. Codemasters have placed a painstaking level of attention to the actual surface of the tracks, paths or cliff edges that you'll find yourself tumbling down. Throughout rallycross races, you'll see your tyres cutting grooves into the more malleable surfaces (dirt), which directly influence the lines you'll take on later laps. The same applies to rally courses themselves, particularly if you're further down the pack. Weather also has a huge impact, though I will sadly say that I've been spoiled by other racing titles that have a dynamic weather system because DiRT Rally 2.0 is all predetermined. It looks fantastic, impacts the car how it should, but it's just a shame that there are no real weather-related surprises.
If there's anything I have to complain about when it comes to DiRT Rally 2.0, it's that the game has a tendency to bug out on occasion. One such thing is always following a collision where something like a tree stump definitely decided to move and block me off. The camera would then start to shake uncontrollably. A few too many times I've found myself playing with shaky-cam reminiscent of Cloverfield. Another less noticeable bug is my seeming ability to find pockets of the environment where physics need not apply. I've hit a small stone or a slight ramp, to find my car deciding that it is not actually a car, but a plane!
The only pressing question I have looming over my head, and I'm genuinely shocked that it's bothering me, but where in the hell is photo mode? One of the best things about car racing games is the ability to pause and take a screenshot of an awesome pass, some tight bunching and, of course, the scenery in the background as the light bounces off of the bonnet and roof of the car. Sure, you can replay the race and look at shots that way, but... photo mode!
Minor concerns in reality. The gameplay issues in particular since they've been random and sporadic at worst. DiRT Rally 2.0 is a game that acts, plays and looks exactly how you would want and expect it to. Yes, as mentioned before, I play with a few of the settings made easier. If I didn't, I'd likely never finish any of the longer races. I'm still more irritated than I have any right to be about the lack of photo mode.
Particularly so because DiRT Rally 2.0 looks great. The limited roster of cars, due to it being a pure rally game, has enabled Codemasters to work on every little detail, perfecting them. While there are still minor niggles to be seen in cosmetic damage, everything else is so crisp and is just great to look at. Particularly so with the tracks, with their varying environments, weather conditions, foliage and hazards. Worth mentioning is the audio quality which is absolutely top-notch and best when listening from in the car.
All things considered, I can say without a shadow of a doubt, DiRT Rally 2.0 is the best rally sim on the market by a country mile. The racing is fantastic, it looks and sounds great and there is a decent amount of varied game modes, though it's let down by a shallow career mode and a limited roster of tracks. Still, if you want to do the rallying, there simply is no better game to play. Just remember, the more you crash, the better you are - that's why I'm the best!
PC version reviewed. Copy provided by the publisher.
Played on an ultrawide monitor running at 2560x1080 resolution from a PC with an Intel i7-6700 3.4GHz x4 CPU, an Asus Radeon RX480 GPU and 32GB of DDR4 2400MHz RAM. On max settings, averaged around 39FPS, dropping to a low of 32 during the busier moments.
On a personal note: I'm generally happy with 30+ FPS, others may not be as sinful as me.
DiRT Rally 2.0 far surpasses other rally titles and other games that feature, though don't specialise in rallying. With an extensively detailed roster of cars, where each of them feels, handles and reacts differently, on tracks that actively degrade through constant use, changing the lines you'll have to take, this is a game that will keep you thinking. Best of all, unlike its prequel (to an extent) and other racing sims, it's accessible thanks to a bevy of assists that you can change to suit your needs. A game that only features a few downsides, the primary one being a shallow career mode and some minor bugs here and there. All things considered, DiRT Rally 2.0 is the premier rally experience you could hope to have.
- Excellent rally driving, where each and every car reacts differently
- Extensively detailed cars and tracks make for a great experience to look at and play
- Challenging while not being made inaccessible thanks to flexibility with assists
- Good variety of modes, including historical events and the current World Rallycross season
- Career mode is shallow with no story or purpose, other than buying new cars, behind it
- A smaller roster of tracks can lead to a feeling of repetition
- No photo-mode
- A few bugs here and there, with one with the camera being quite irritating