- Realism, realism!
- Length of routes;
- Fantastic pilot;
- Difficulty level of the campaign;
- Premier league of audio experience;
- Excellent optimization.
- The cars are a little too expensive;
- Too few locations;
- It could use a little better damage model.
The Brits from Codemasters had to face the risk of unemployment to open up to a possibility of revisiting the subject of car races which they had neglected completely. I’m talking about the real deal, and not the – still very pleasant but arcade through and through – games in the vein of almost all the installments in the DiRT series. I find it strange that a company with such traditions in the field of productions depicting motorsports took its time approaching the most critical section of simulation-related games. Sure, the market is governed by its own rules, and perhaps in the recent years this niche seemed little promising in financial terms, but there is no shortage of “orphans” left behind by the dearly missed Richard Burns Rally. As you can see, this article couldn't do without an honorable mention of this – still playable – title, but as it sometimes happens with old geezers, the game is well past its prime. Does DiRT Rally have a chance to be a worthy successor of this legend?
A few days ago, after several months spent in Steam’s Early Access, DiRT Rally was finally updated to version 1.0 and became a full-fledged game. It should therefore be evaluated on regular terms, as any other full production. The first thing that catches the eye when you start the program is that the creators finally got rid of all these unwelcome, exaggerated additions that characterized the previous titles in the series.
There are no more caravans, balloons, rather unimpressive speeches by Ken Block et al., and, most importantly, the unnecessary narrator who used to introduce newbies participating in their first rallies into the tricks of the trade. No more "glamour" menus. Everything is simple and elegant now, and perhaps even more austere than in the old Collin McRae games. It's a very good thing, because I was afraid that after leaving early access the game would overwhelm us with yet more unnecessary content that only wasted the creators’ time. But it's quite the contrary. The development team polished the options for controllers’ settings and improved the functions responsible for changing the car's settings before the race. True, still not everything’s perfect. In the service park we can tinker with different settings of the gearbox, differential, and suspension, but for reasons unknown it’s impossible to change the tires. Still, the most important is the fact that the changes we make have an actual impact on our driving model. Unlike its predecessors, DiRT Rally is trying to be a genuine simulator.
This doesn't mean that it is a simulator in the full sense of the word. Still, it's close to perfection. Codemasters has managed to write a physical model based on which DiRT Rally tries to recreate all the forces affecting a car speeding on a bumpy road very faithfully. When taking a turn, we can feel the weight distribution of the vehicle, the tires behave differently on different kinds of surfaces, and on top of everything, the game is deliciously difficult. Once you turn off all the assists, the fun turns into a real challenge. Driving requires the player to concentrate, listen carefully to what the pilot – probably the best in the history of racing games – has to say, apply minute precision, and laboriously learn from our own mistakes, in the aftermath of which we can't help but try again. And again. It's been a while since a car-themed game gave me such strong emotions. The creators were able to bring into play a brilliant atmosphere, including an option of employing mechanics who, as they gain experience in subsequent races, are able to repair our vehicle more efficiently or even improve it. We can only imagine how amazing Dirt Rally could be if it had a full FIA license for WRC competition.
Unfortunately, it is the volume of the game that is its biggest problem at the moment. We have an enormous number of over seventy tracks to complete, but in fact these are often repeated fragments or tracks or the same routes with reverse direction. There's a total of six locations where we can compete, such as very classic Wales, tarmac-lined Germany, humid Monte Carlo, dried up Grace, breakneck Finland, and snow-covered Sweden, added in the latest update. The routes are quite long, but they are not recreated with realistic accuracy. Instead of a dozen kilometers that take around seven or eight minutes to make they would have to be at least twenty or even forty kilometers long, and it would be probably more than most virtual drivers could handle. At least when it comes to such a demanding title, where one mistake usually ends the dream of arriving at the finish line first. Plus, as I stated above, the number of routes itself seems to be quite large, but if Codemasters intends to add new extensions in the future, then a few new locations are exactly what I'd like to see.
Rallying, however, is not everything we are offered. The game included two different kinds of challenges. There are three locations for Rally Cross, a competition where we race against several other competitors on a specially prepared track, and Hill Climb, where we take a winding road in Colorado to reach the top of Pikes Peak. In both cases we could use a little more content. It’s worth noting that these additional competitions have nothing in common with the atmosphere of previous Dirts and it's a good idea to finally treat them with total seriousness.