D IRT 4
Codies’ latest mud-and-thunder rally packs in all of the tracks
It probably doesn’t seem like it, but we’ve been waiting for a new numbered entry in Codemasters’ long-running rallycross series for six years. To put that into context, five Forza games have hit Xbox since Dirt 3 (power) slid into shops all those years ago. After such a wait, you’d hope Codies would have at least one new petrolhead party trick stored up its oil-slathered sleeve. Rest easy: it does. Actually, it’s got millions of ‘em.
The newest feature, Your Stage, is a new custom track generator that can create countless unique courses at the press of a button. “We’ve been working on it since Dirt 3,” says lead game designer, Darren Hayward. “It’s been a long and difficult road to get it into the game in the state that it’s in.” Hayward is clearly relieved Your Stage has finally made it into a finished title after years of background tinkering, and, impressively, its implementation actually feels seamless.
During our hands-on session we put the new mode through its paces, and the courses that were cooked up varied wildly in both layout and name. Never, Never Gulley; Winegrove Farm; Ramornie Forest; Wards Mistake Farm; Moonpar Way (man, these names are great, aren’t they?); and Scotchman Creek. All these uniquely shaped routes are generated instantly when you hit the B button. It’s seriously impressive, and addictive.
And that’s just the Fitzroy area of the Australian stage. The final game has five locations, spanning Tarragona, Spain; Värmland, Sweden; Michigan, United States; and Powys, Wales. That’s a whole lot of playergenerated road to carve up. At least your co-driver will earn their crust.
The sheer numbers involved in this clever algorithm-driven generator are mind-boggling. “It’s really difficult for us to even give an estimate,” Hayward says. “We stopped counting at ten to the power of 15.” By our semi-suspect maths, that number looks a little something like this: 1,000,000,000,000,000. So a quadrillion, basically. “You can leave the settings the same and generate, generate, generate and you’ll get completely different stages every time,” Hayward continues. “It changes so many different things under the hood. It’s almost infinite.”
The dirt locker
The tracks are one thing but what of the actual racing? Well, it’s not as intimidating as Dirt Rally, which should come as a relief to any sausagefingered racers who found 2015’s nails-hard offshoot too taxing (that’s all of Team OXM then). There’s still a simulation-handling model, but there’s also a normal one, and Codies is happy for both to coexist across four disciplines – Rally, Classic Rally, Rallycross and Landrush.
We play the first and the third of these over an hour with Dirt 4, which includes trying to tame taxing hairpin turns around the baking forests of Fitzroy, then fighting to keep our lunch down during a frenzied, and horribly hilly, buggy race in the deserts of Arizona. Regardless of the discipline, Codies’ class-leading steering is immediately apparent.
In bringing together different flavours of race and vehicles – buggies, cross karts and trucks all feature – Codemasters seems determined to create a game that can appeal to both hardcore rally fans and more casual drivers. So break out those wellies, folks: things are about to get seriously dirty again.