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