I’ve been playing games from the DiRT series of rally games (in turn, a successor of the Colin McRae Rally series) for quite some time. More specifically, I enjoyed playing both DiRT 2 and DiRT 3, at least for what they were: action games in which you steer something resembling a car over a road with a surface that is not tarmac most of the time.
Both of those had one thing in common: they were highly entertaining arcade games where you steered various cars around some tracks with a bumpy surface, most of the time in direct competition with other drivers in various sorts of events.
For DiRT Rally, game studio Codemasters had decided on a slightly different approach, namely more into the simulation direction.
Gone are all of the different event types: there’s still rallycross, but apart from that, it’s standard rally driving, meaning one car at a time on a start-to-end track.
There’s a convincing damage model, and there’s convincing car physics, most notable with relation to adjusting the car settings: here, setting your suspension one way or the other can make the difference between an enjoyable ride to one of the first positions, or a nightmare of a drive, ending you somewhere near the end of the rankings.
Apropos rankings: some other players in forums have already commented on the difficulty level in this game, so here’s a quick recommendation on that: first, playing this without a wheel and pedals is not recommended. Second, if you have a hard time finishing first in every stage even on starting difficulty, consider this normal, unless you’re a rally driver in your day job. And finally, you no longer get the flashback feature, and your car takes damage. You can repair after every two stages, but only for thirty minutes, so you need a good crew to get the most out of that.
There’s an acceptable co-driver for you (sadly, no configuration options except for how early or late you get your calls, different from DiRT 3), and you will need to learn to work with him, to understand how to map his calls to your driving style. And, as mentioned before, adjust your car’s settings for every rally, maybe also between stages.
Regarding the cars, the choices focus more on successful rally cars from different epoques (starting from the early Mini and moving through your choice of Quattros, Deltas, Imprezas, up to the contemporary Volkswagen Polo), rather than fancy cars.
So how do I like it?
It’s hugely, challenging, and hugely enjoyable! I really have to think back when I had last enjoyed a car game as much as I’m enjoying this one now. Especially gratifying is the fact that, as mentioned before, this is really more with a simulator approach, meaning that changing settings on your car or changing to a different car does actually affect the handling, not just the visuals (same goes for damage to your car).
So before you consider this, you need to ask yourself if you’re really looking for something with a simulation character, or rather for some enjoyable car driving with bumps and jumps. If it’s the latter, then there are a lot of better choices for you, and with better graphics at that; this game’s graphics, while convincing while you concentrate on driving, look somewhat dated in comparison to current competitors.
If you’re, however, looking for the rally experience, and are willing to invest some time into getting your thing down, then there’s really no better alternative on the market right now.