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Game preview 23 June 2020, 13:36

author: Darius Matusiak

A wannabe fighter pilot, racing driver, and a spec-op; an adventurer and a space marine – hence, a gamer. I’ve been playing games since Wing Commander, and writing since Destiny.

DiRT 5 Preview – Fast Cars, Lightnings and Auroras

DiRT 5 brings a lot of novelties that will actually make this series shine a little brighter. Too bad the game is only revolutionary within its own series, rather than the genre in broad terms.

This article was written prior to the game's release.

This text was based on the PC version.

DiRT 5 in a nutshell:
  1. dynamical day-night cycle;
  2. dynamically changing weather effects;
  3. 70 variations of routes in 10 different locations;
  4. photo mode;
  5. car paint editor;
  6. split screen for up to 4 people;
  7. cross gen available on PS4, PS5, XOne, Xbox SX, Windows PC and Google Stadia.

With the release of the second DiRT Rally in 2019, the series expectedly diverged into two directions: simulation, and arcade. The end result must have been somewhat confusing, and not as convincing as in the Forza series, since a special website was created, where the differences between DiRT and DiRT Rally are explained. So, in October we get DiRT 5, a much more accessible, more arcade racing game, that lets you relax with a pad on the couch.

DiRT 5 Preview – Fast Cars, Lightnings and Auroras - picture #1
Each race is intense, and very dirty.

With style and content, the game harks back to the beginning of the series, the second and third parts in particular. So, it will be crowded, colorful and spectacular, with competitions on fictional routes, albeit set in real-world scenery. The biggest novelty will be the system of dynamically changing weather and time of the day, which I have already saw in a short demo of the game. It is also very interesting to see the story mode of the campaign, which is to give context and meaning to each subsequent race. In the game, we will hear voices of Troy Baker, i.e. Joel from The Last of Us, and, perhaps less notably, Nolan North.

Sun, snow, and rain

DiRT 5 Preview – Fast Cars, Lightnings and Auroras - picture #2
Snowstorm, lightning, darkness – not the safest setting for racing, but it's certainly spectacular.

The biggest surprise for people familiar with DiRT will probably be the accelerated passage of time, quickly changing the time of the day. When I say "quickly," I mean it – you begin the race in the morning, with the Sun casting beautiful rays, and suddenly, in the next lap, it's dusk, and they only thing you can see are lights and reflectors. This brings a lot more dynamics to the race and forces you to pay more attention because the track suddenly ceases being familiar or predictable.

This is coupled with equally dynamic weather, which switches from light breeze to snowstorm or downpour like it had sever schizophrenia. The driving model isn't quite finished yet, so it's hard to assets how much of an impact the conditions will have on the driving model. The graphics, and special effects, however, are already very apparent. When driving in the rain, we literally tumble in the mud! The eponymous dirt shoots from under the thick rubber of the cars, getting them all absolutely... dirty.

Rally around the world

DiRT 5 Preview – Fast Cars, Lightnings and Auroras - picture #3
The game is maintained in an atmosphere of a chill, summer festival.

Convincing weather effects, of course, come as a courtesy of improved graphics. In addition to realistic lighting, rain or northern lights in Norway, we will also see environments extremely rich in detail. There are fans cheering along the routes, there's dense vegetation, local buildings characteristic of the location, and a lot of different assets such as waves splashing on the coast, some great lightning and even fireworks. Such attention to detail is maintained consistently with all the elements of the landscape, and it all makes for an impression of a living, breathing world.

DiRT 5 Preview – Fast Cars, Lightnings and Auroras - picture #4
There are some really bizarre cars, next to rather regular rides.

Oddly enough, the same can't be said about cars. These look correct at best, regardless whether you see them from inside, or outside. There are some eye-catching effects of raindrops on the bodywork, but even the most iconic cars don't look very thrilling. They're more like colorful tools to win a race. Maybe the problem is lack of interesting presentation, or too much paintjob? Maybe the photo mode, which will be featured in DIRT for the first time, will let us reveal some spirit in the cars.

Every vehicle is a DirtRunner

DiRT 5 Preview – Fast Cars, Lightnings and Auroras - picture #5
We'll be able to chose races quite freely.

The cars in the game are grouped into several classes, the most original of which appears to be Sprint with vehicles resembling oversized lawn mowers with 900-BHP engines. In addition, we will find classic rally cars from the 80s, and 90s, buggy vehicles or gravel-and-bumps-ready GT Rally exotics. The gameplay modes seem much less varied, as they generally involve finishing laps on various, muddy tracks.

DiRT 5 Preview – Fast Cars, Lightnings and Auroras - picture #6
Time flyes, and races that begin at dawn often may end at night.

At least, that's what happened in the demo, and I'm hoping that the announced feature campaign and reputation races with selected sponsors will bring a bit of variety. In addition to winning the events, you'll also be able to complete various challenges along the way. For the first time in DIRT we also get a paintjob editor with plenty of logos of real brands and companies. It's unfortunately impossible to import your own designs.

One DiRT for all!

DiRT 5 Preview – Fast Cars, Lightnings and Auroras - picture #7
Sponsor challenges will sure bring some diversion.

Among all the new innovations and graphic bells and whistles, the biggest advantage of DiRT 5 will probably be its accessibility. And it's not just about a simple driving model that actually allows playing on a gamepad. The devs want to bring back the good, old days with split-screen for up to four people. It will also be possible to share challenges – if one player is better at drift and the other at sprint, they'll be able to take turns, and complete the tournament with the best possible score. On top of that, it's also a cross-generation production released on PCs, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, as well as the next-gens: PS5 and Xbox Series X (as well as Google's cloud gaming platform, Stadia).

It is in this universality and accessibility that may bring success for DiRT 5 – otherwise, the new game from Codemasters is rather unremarkable. There are a few welcome novelties such as livery customization, day-night cycle, racing in turns, and changing seasons and weather, but all of these have been long part of other racing games. DiRT 5 is merely catching up with the competition; it seems poorer than Forza Horizon and is unlikely to bring new quality with the next generation of hardware. But as one of next-gen's starting titles, it just might cease the opportunity and make a little bit of noise, especially on PlayStation, which has been pretty short on racing games for a long time now. This could be the best DiRT in the series, but not necessarily the best racing game out there.

Darius Matusiak | Gamepressure.com

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