A Car Crunching Beast Of A Sequel
Growing up I was a massive fan of arcade racers. I loved going to the Arcade and playing Daytona USA, pulling out my Dreamcast at home and playing San Francisco Rush 2049 and later, switching on my PS2 to play the likes of Burnout and Need For Speed: Most Wanted/Carbon.
Sure, I’d played titles such as Toca, Gran Turismo and one of the many iterations of the official Formula 1 series, but they just weren’t my cup of tea. I didn’t see the appeal and still don’t; but this is where things get interesting.
My first experience with Dirt was with Dirt 3 back on the PS3. Unlike most racing sims, this one actually caught my attention and it didn’t take long for me to jump in with them to see who could get the fastest lap time on one of the many courses the game had to offer. I later purchased it for myself and instantly fell in love.
There’s something special about being able to put your foot down in a game like this, pedal to the metal, and just bombing it around a course like an absolute maniac. Unlike Burnout where you almost never need to brake, in Dirt you really do, but it’s all part of the fun and with how much drifting is required; believe me, my driving habits forced me to get good fast… and I did.
Before I get started on the events however, the further you progress through Dirt 5’s campaign, the more decals, sponsors, paint jobs and designs you’ll unlock. Vehicle customization is cosmetic only, but every car comes with a plain base design, plus 3 more unique options to work from, though you’ll have to unlock these by leveling up.
The same can be said for sponsors – each sponsor provides a number of benefits, ranging from better base pay, better overall pay, custom decals and some really fun looking liveries. Reaching max level for any given sponsor (level 15) will grant you all there is to offer and you can freely change sponsors at any time. Just note that doing so at certain points of the campaign can negatively impact your reputation.
That said, nothing’s stopping you from sticking with the same sponsor for the entirety of the campaign either, so if you just care about currency based unlocks, this is going to be a solid option for you.
All sponsors are officially licensed, so expect to see Goodyear, Hoosier, Michelin and Sparco (to name but a few) and while you can slap up to 4 sponsor decals onto each vehicle you’ve decked out in the colours, paint finishes and patterns of your choice, you’ll likely be wanting to spend more time on the track than in the garage.
Even so, you’ll almost certainly stick to just a few select vehicles over the course of the campaign, solely focusing on them when it comes to the quick and easy customization to look as flash as possible in the races to come.
Dirt 5 locks your choice of vehicle to those that are most suited to each event. While this means you won’t be able to race as your favourite vehicle 24/7, it’ll force you out of your comfort zone and encourage you to improve your skills with multiple vehicles.
The good thing about this is with so many vehicles on offer, you’ll quickly find yourself a favourite in each racing category. Also worth mentioning is the fact each vehicle has its own unique feel, with handling and performance expertly tweaked to each individual car.
Speaking of which, one of my favourite cars of all time is the old school Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 (think Eleanor/Unicorn in the film Gone in 60 Seconds) and while you’ll find this car within the game, it has a B rating across the board for performance and handling, placing it as an average car at best.
While it didn’t dissuade me from giving it a go (I still placed 1st), you could really feel the difference in handling – it was heavy, sluggish and very hard to stay ahead of the pack. This meant going forward I almost exclusively used cars with at least an S in performance or handling, meaning the Mustang was never used again.
That aside, I quickly formed two favourites that stood out above the rest and performed beautifully – the Peugeot 205 and the Lancia Stratos. Both of these vehicles were top tier and I had a ton of fun throwing them about and just utterly abusing them throughout the campaign. Really though, it all just comes down to personal preference.
When you first begin, you’ll find the game defaults to medium difficulty and automatic transmission, so if you’re looking for more of a challenge and love the idea of grinding gears to get ahead of the pack, you’ll want to adjust this in the settings menu.
Personally, I stuck with the default settings and for the most-part everything felt balanced, though there were still times where I felt events could have been a little easier and even harder at times.
Now, a feature we don’t often see anymore is the option to play 4 player split-screen with our friends and this is something Dirt 5 very much supports. It’s just a shame that in our current climate this will be heavily underused.
With online being our only option right now it’s imperative to have a good connection yet I had some issues with connectivity and it took a reboot of the game (not the console) to reconnect every time it went down. I found this somewhat annoying as I really like to monitor the leaderboards while I play.
This issue wasn’t on the list of known issues I was sent and it’s hard to tell for sure if this was on my end or the games servers, but with network errors codenamed ‘Apricot’ and ‘Cherry’, it really didn’t tell me anything. I find it odd the game wouldn’t just automatically reconnect whenever it picked the connection back up.
That said, gameplay is a ton of fun and while it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, I’d go so far as to say almost every event was exciting and entertaining enough to keep me hooked. The only events I really didn’t like were the circuit races with the winged Sprint Cars.
These cars are really good at turning left, but when you need to straighten up for the next corner, it’s incredibly easy to spin out and doing this just once often costs you the race. I sadly found this to be more a detriment than a challenge to conquer.
Needless to say, I hoped for as few of these events to pop up as possible and it’s a shame but these were the only race events I had a real problem with.
Next up we have the Pathfinder events – these are your extreme hill climbs in open Roll Caged Monster Truck sized vehicles. They take some skill to control, but where they lack in their ability to turn, my god do they make up for it in power.
The idea is to get yourself lined up before and after every jump/obstacle to create the perfect path to reach the finishing line in the fastest time possible. While I didn’t love these events, there’s certainly some fun to be had here. The only downside is the vehicle physics can go pretty mental if you land wrong/overturn (which will happen a lot).
Next in line is Stampede – these events have you racing around the tracks in beefy trucks that are weighed down by multiple tyres. They’re great for building momentum, but like many of the other events Dirt 5 has to offer, will take a great degree of skill to master. While I had some fun with these events, I always favour the quick and nimble, so this one wasn’t for me, but I’m sure there are many of you who’ll absolutely love the weight behind these vehicles.
Now for the Rally Raid – these point to point races are a ton of fun. Instead of circuits, Rally Raid puts you on one long route across varying degrees of terrain. To master this event you’ll need to know your vehicle inside and out, because whether you’re on rocky dirt, smooth tarmac, sloshy mud or even snow, knowing how your vehicle handles will be the difference between making first and last place.
Saving my favourite event for last, we have the Ice Breaker events. These are arguably the most fun you can have in drift racing. There are two Ice Breaker courses, one of which is a simple oval (think Nascar, but on a flat track made of ice), while the other is a lengthy track with all kinds of twists and turns.
To mix things up, these courses are often reversed and additional weather effects are also thrown into the mix. It’s easy to spin out and slide into walls, but once you master each and every bend with the right speed and control, you’ll be zipping around these icy courses in no time at all.
This is another area where the Peugeot 205 really excelled, but the Subaru Impreza works almost as well, the only thing letting it down is its size and weight in comparison to the tiny little Pug.
That said, I don’t want to spoil all of the surprises, so I’ll leave the rest for your own discovery. Just know that Gymkhana is back, along with the Playground creator (we all wanted to create our own horrifically challenging Gymkhana events, right?) and a series of fun Showdown events against other top racers to gain rep and unlock some truly special liveries.
It should be known that Dirt 5 is visually outstanding. The graphics are really up there, but not only that, it’s a super smooth experience with almost no lag.
Races are quick to fire up and the constantly shifting weather conditions will keep you on the edge of your seat with every race. The weather effects are stunning and it really feels as though you’re battling against nature itself when the heavy rain hits.
With day and night time racing as well as snow, you’d better get used to looking at your mini-map because visibility isn’t always great. I think my screenshots speak for themselves, all of which I captured with the dedicated in-game Photo Mode.
Additionally, top voice performances from Nolan North and Troy Baker really help bring the game to life as they engage you with the constant, believable feuds that are always happening between each race.
Plus, with song artists such as The Prodigy (Rip Keith), The Bloody Beetroots (these guys were fantastic live) and even The Killers, Dirt 5’s soundtrack always sets the mood for fast, aggressive and in your face racing action!
I spent a good amount of time with Dirt 5 – long enough to complete the entire campaign, scoring a gold medal in almost every single event. To give you a rough estimate of completion time, I did this over four days and clocked in about 30 hours, but once you’re done with the campaign, you can always go back and redo any previously completed event or just simply enjoy online play with long-time friends and newfound rivals.
Dirt 5 is an easy game to platinum (if a little time consuming), with the only real challenging trophy requiring you to score over 30k points in one Gymkhana event. When I achieved this I got almost 40k and though it took a little while to accomplish, it took far less time than I thought it would.
Unfortunately, you’ll want to back up your saves as when I fired the game back up today I discovered the latest update had completely wiped all of my progress. This meant that while my times are still on the online leaderboards, my complete profile, all of my earnings, all of my cars, all of the unlocked liveries and paints I’d bought, used and customized were all gone.
Dirt 5 is a fantastic game, but this is an awful thing to happen to anyone and it’s the developers’ responsibility to make sure this never happens. I was one trophy away from the platinum as well, so I was absolutely gutted and couldn’t not add this to my review.
The one trophy I had remaining was driving 10k miles and I’m honestly surprised I didn’t get this over the course of the campaign. Still, this was a huge and disappointing blow to an otherwise perfect racing game.
Problems aside, I would go so far as to say Dirt isn’t a racing sim at all, more its own unique special blend of racer. It takes the best elements of both arcade and simulation racing, throws them into a blender and whizzes them around until they’ve become something else entirely.
This is Dirt 5 to a tee, and where many racers that came before have tried to appeal to racing fans as a whole, Dirt 5 succeeds at this, blowing almost every other racer out of the water as it delivers one of the most accessible, engaging and adrenaline-filled experiences to date.
While I won’t be going back to Dirt 5 anytime soon (I’m not replaying the entire game again), I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it and when you consider the talent involved (staff from the likes of Motorstorm and Driveclub), it should come as no surprise that this is one of the most polished, exhilarating and responsive racers out there.
A ton of love has gone into the development of this game and if you love racing, miss the glory days of drifting in NFS: Underground, or just want a fairly lengthy game with a plethora of online and offline game modes to sink your teeth into, with wheel support and free next gen upgrades, Dirt 5 is the game for you.
This review first appeared on Weknowgamers – a dedicated gaming site we’re currently affiliated with. You can read the original post HERE
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