Dirt 4

Dirt Rally’s suc­cess has strongly in­flu­enced the game’s re­turn

PC GAMER (UK) - - Preview - Justin Tow­ell

thanks to pro­ce­dural gen­er­a­tion, ev­ery cor­ner is a new chal­lenge

Dirt 2 was so cool that some play­ers couldn’t ac­tu­ally stand it. They com­plained that ‘cool’ wasn’t ac­tu­ally cool any­more – and that it was too ar­cadey. Hav­ing hit the other end of the driv­ing game spec­trum with the ul­tra hard­core Dirt Rally, Code­mas­ters’ now presents its off-road rac­ing se­ries with­out fire­works. The ex­em­plary, hard­core han­dling model of DirtRally has been car­ried over to sim­u­late those close-com­pet­i­tive ‘Land Rush’ races in Dirt4, as if they were hap­pen­ing in the real world. That’s still cool, but only in essence, rather than ex­e­cu­tion. This new, se­ri­ous treat­ment is ev­ery­where you look, too. The ‘rewind’ but­ton – pre­vi­ously one of the se­ries’ most cel­e­brated fea­tures – is nowhere to be seen, which means ac­ci­dents are no longer triv­ial eye candy.

Amaz­ingly for fans of the se­ries, the rally mode (fea­tur­ing li­censed 2016 cars) of­fers an even more hard­core rally ex­pe­ri­ence than DirtRally, since ev­ery sin­gle one of its hun­dreds of ca­reer stages is unique. That’s thanks to pro­ce­dural gen­er­a­tion. In DirtRally, your mem­ory started to come into play af­ter even just a few re­peat runs, and that’s hardly true ral­ly­ing. In Dirt4, ev­ery cor­ner you come to is a new chal­lenge, forc­ing you to de­pend on your co-driver’s pace notes.

This track gen­er­a­tor is also avail­able for you to use when mak­ing your own events or rac­ing leagues with other play­ers. Dubbed ‘Your Stage’, it works on just two slider bars – one for com­plex­ity and one for length. So you spec­ify how tricky you want it, how long you think you can last with­out ter­mi­nally wrap­ping your car around a tree, and hit ‘gen­er­ate’.

You could tell a lay­man the re­sults were hand-built by a crack de­sign team, and they’d prob­a­bly nod at the com­mend­able job they’d done. Only the pre-race flyby hints that you’re rac­ing on a gen­er­ated rib­bon. On the road, you’re im­mersed in a beau­ti­fully nat­u­ral­is­tic and or­ganic en­vi­ron­ment, full of trees, spec­ta­tors and haz­ards to avoid. There are even RC drones hov­er­ing above, which are re­ally off-putting when it’s dark and they’ve got a lit­tle spot­light un­der­neath. Is that a UFO? Oh I’ve crashed. al­tered states There are five coun­tries for ral­ly­ing: USA (Michi­gan), Swe­den, Wales, Aus­tralia and Spain, and you can choose weather and time of day. You get some real world tracks, but they’re con­fined to the ex­panded Ral­ly­cross mode, which fea­tures RX Lites and Cross Karts to play with. The Land Rush tracks, how­ever, have been de­signed by Code­mas­ters, and made to look like real venues.

Even though the demo build is pre-al­pha, the game is al­ready play­ing beau­ti­fully. Un­like the stan­dard pads and force-feed­back wheels of the con­sole pods, the PC ver­sion was only playable with Code­mas­ters’ favourite toy, the ‘D-Box’: a be­he­moth hy­draulic set-up that tips and rum­bles the en­tire cock­pit (and you). The feel of the game is just gor­geous with a wheel and ped­als, even more so when you’re be­ing shaken like you’re driv­ing your wash­ing ma­chine dur­ing spin cy­cle. It’s per­fectly playable with a pad too, thanks to both sim­u­la­tion and sim­pli­fied han­dling op­tions, both of which use the same base physics en­gine.

Dirt4 is se­ri­ous enough to please the hard­core crowd, but will it please those old

Dirt fans who sim­ply want to have fun? If you’re long­ing for a new, bom­bas­tic Code­mas­ters rac­ing game with py­rotech­nics, ri­val­ries, in­sane jumps, erupt­ing tyre walls and ex­treme crash dam­age, this isn’t it. Dirt4 def­i­nitely has class on its side, though.

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