Dirt-Rally-2.0-Review Dirt Rally 2.0 Review

   19/02/2019 at 17:38       Chris OToole       0 COMMENTS. - Score 4/5
 - Racing, Xbox One, PS4, PC

Review By Rich Boulton.

 

Rally fans have been waiting for a sequel to 2015’s back-to-basics reboot of the Dirt franchise for a few years now. What they received most recently was Dirt 4, which valiantly attempted to capitalise on the new goodwill and combine it with the more mainstream appeal of Dirt (no-Rally). Thanks to a muddled identity and an ambitious, but underwhelming, procedurally generated stage system, it unfortunately failed to appease fans anywhere on the spectrum. It’s no surprise then to see Codies heading back to the untarnished Dirt Rally name with this latest release, making references to the classic Colin McRae Rally 2.0 title for extra expectation-setting.

There’s a question where exactly it falls relative to the previous two games though. Dirt Rally was an early access title with a charmingly barebones approach that won over hardcore sim fans, but may not lend itself to reaching a wider audience. It isn’t shocking then to load up Dirt Rally 2.0 and see a far more refined approach to presentation. There are more aesthetic and design bells and whistles, which simultaneously make Dirt Rally 2.0 feel like a full product and also remove some of the lovable DIY feel of the original. 

It’s undeniably a smoother experience though, and there are a number of ways in which this additional thought has paid dividends. The overall structure is familiar: as a driver you complete events to earn cash, then use that cash to buy new cars, upgrade your cars, and hire and train staff for your team. The systems at play within this are more developed though, as there are more elements to upgrade on the car and staff. It is far more of a ‘video game’ than the original, again dragging the sim-focused title closer to the mainstream. Nothing here is obnoxious, and I found it to drive a little more engagement so that team contracts and upgrades felt like less of a trivial distraction, but true purists may be put off.

Visually the outcomes are mixed on a base Xbox One. There’s an improvement, but without a powerful PC behind it this is far from the best looking driving game in town. The lighting is leagues ahead of both previous Dirt games, and sunlight bleeding through the canopy in New Zealand is truly beautiful. Rain on the other hand looks insubstantial, not feeling at all like an actual element of the world outside your vehicle, At night it becomes distracting and ugly, making the game difficult to play at times, hopefully this will be addressed in the day one patch.

The environments themselves - the star of Dirt Rally and the butt of all the jokes in Dirt 4 - are a true return to form. They are lush, varied, narrow, and dense, and finally rise to the challenge represented by the recent official WRC games, which have been nailing the foliage for a couple of iterations now. The locations chosen are interesting, with a huge emphasis placed on dirt and gravel, with some asphalt thrown in for good measure. So no ice or snow, which is great for my survival though does feel like a significant gap for a rally game. However the locations that do exist all have their own character, they present their own challenges and react differently to conditions such as rain and the track deformation that is new for Dirt Rally 2.0

While the procedurally generated aspects of Dirt 4 just didn’t pan out in execution, its use was clear as a response to one of Dirt Rally’s issues. Though the tracks that were included were great, there simply wasn’t much distance to cover, with essentially two long stages that were cut up into different smaller ones. This unfortunately can also be said for Dirt Rally 2.0. Although it’s not to the same degree, you can still expect to drive along the same portions of road more than once within a single rally of more than a few stages. This might be helped by the impressive DLC rollout plan shared by Codies, through which we should be seeing all of the Dirt Rally locations remastered and returned, something that will also fill the gaps for snow and ice. The drip feed of new content is extremely welcome, but it isn’t free, and you may want to factor this into a purchase decision.

Handling is great as you would expect, and the arcade handling option of Dirt 4 is all gone. A constant criticism of Dirt Rally was the tarmac handling which felt extremely loose. This was improved for Dirt 4 but that game disappointed the fans who would have cared in so many other ways that it sadly didn’t count for much. That improvement has carried over and continued here though. You can feel the rubber bite the road satisfyingly, and cutting across loose surfaces is challenging in all the right ways. Cars feel weightier than they have before, and all around Dirt Rally 2.0 seems to have better handling than any other rally game of recent times. 

There are some small gripes to be had - the initial cars you have access to are bulky, slow, and very difficult to get to grips with in comparison with some more modern machines that might have been easier to drive. The menu option to recover your car sometimes takes an age to show up, leaving you perched on top of a rock (if you find yourself in that position as often as I do anyway) losing valuable seconds. Also some stages that are technically daytime (meaning your lights aren’t on) become so dark that it’s impossible to see - at one point I closed all of the curtains and turned the TV brightness up as far as it would go just to try to help myself out.

Still, there’s an equal amount of small positive observations to make too. The challenges are better integrated and there are more of them. Between rally, rallycross, career, historic rallies, and the challenges there is a lot to get stuck into, even without the distractions of other series that we saw in Dirt 4. Though I will say it’s a shame not to see the ranked multiplayer return, which needed work but had so much potential. Career structure makes more sense now as well - you are free to amend the difficulty level as you like, and progress is measured by the cars you are driving.

Dirt Rally garnered so much buzz when it arrived, partially on its own merits, but also partially based on the potential fans saw in where this could lead the franchise. Although Dirt 4 was a fantastic game, the approach worried so many of those fans, leaving them wondering if they would be catered to again. If you’re one of those people there’s only one thing you really need to know - Dirt Rally is back! If you’re not, then welcome - strap in and enjoy the ride.

Stars
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