After the success of the realistic but difficult original DiRT Rally, Codemasters then tried to compromise by making their next release – DiRT 4 – still realistic but easily accessible at the same time, and ended up with something that didn’t quite meet the expectations of the waiting public.
However with the newly released DIRT 5, the company hope to finally show what they can do when it comes to more arcade based racing games…
Unrealistic but in a good way
Why brake heavily before corners when it’s possible to slide around them at high speed? Why should a car be badly damaged after a collision against a rock at 200kph? Why spend hours setting up a car when all the focus can be spent on the track or stage instead? Why drive calmly and hesitantly when it’s more fun to really get your elbows out on your way to taking first place?
It’s easy to understand why arcade racing games are often seen as a black sheep by some racing fans, but with this game, this certainly isn’t the case.
DIRT 5 is a full blooded arcade racing game and features controls that are reasonably forgiving and the racing is easy to get into without it being overly simple.
The variety between the races is great and most race types are fun to tackle. Ice racing – a concpet based on the more widely known Rallycross genre – is one of my particular favorites.
The new rock climbing mode is also really fun and great to tackle when you want to do something different, while rally raids through jungles and deserts mix everything up too.
These are joined by American style sprint car races that are hard to master on your first attempt and of course the more regular rally style races that the DIRT series has become so associated with in recent years.
Many of the tracks are also greeted by a stunning dynamic weather system where for example you can start on a really nice and sunny day and end up with snow that can really change the surface and the feel of the circuit overall.
Each lap you complete can change rapidly – on one lap for example you can have a really clean run, while on the next you are fighting hard to avoid collisions with the walls and barriers that litter the side of each course.
No thrills, for better or worse
With plenty to do and lots of modes to choose from, there is not much to complain about in DIRT 5 from the outside but the career mode is not as exciting as it could be in my opinion.
It doesn’t consist of anything more than race after race and car shopping which gets very tiresome after a while.
Tuning of cars is simply non existent and while modifying cam be done, this is nothing more than decorating your car with different patterns, colours and a couple of real-life brand logos.
Then there is the arcade mode where it is possible to run individual races, but again this creativity idea appears to be lacking slightly.
Track, car type and weather can be chosen, but the options available aren’t much more than that and this again appears to be something that Codemasters could have added to had they developed the game further.
This theme of ‘nearly, but not quite’ continues with the online multiplayer, and at the time of writing the number of users on the PlayStation version is surprisingly low considering the build up to the game’s release.
The only thing that stands out in the main menu is the Playground mode. There is a relatively easy to use tool for putting together your own courses using the arena in the games as a base, with a nice added touch being that you’re able to play courses that other people have built online in a Trackmania-esk way.
Whether you want to race around obstacle courses with jumps, ramps and burning rings or drive around a castle built using containers, there’s sure to be a track layout for you. The fact that the game’s physics seem to suit the giant courses and long jumps only makes it even more fun.
Graphics are complicated…
DIRT 5 is a launch title for the new XBOX Series X/S and PlayStation 5 and judging by the screenshots online, the game looks stunning if you have access to the next generation of consoles.
Generally, higher image framerates suit racing game as this should lead to easier to drive cars. Unfortunately here however, the game’s attempts at trying to look as nice as possible often fail slightly with obvious notches in parts of the image noticeable when racing on the PS4 version I tested.
This could be a platform problem however, especially with the vast performance differences between the current and next-gen consoles.
Fortunately, the game does run surprisingly well, but its only at 30 frames per second on my PS4. If you want to boost that to 60 frames per second or even 120 if your monitor supports it, you will for sure need to buy a next-gen console.
To be fair to the developers here, they do offer a free upgrade to the new version once you buy the new console.
Is it worth to buy?
Regardless of the format and control method you opt to choose, the idea of the game is to simply have fun in the mud. It’s sad that the package is so stripped down but with cool weather effects, fun courses and a great variety of race types, the joy of playing soon often makes up for some of the weaker aspects of the game.
If you want a more realistic rally game, you already have two great options – DiRT Rally 2.0 and WRC 9 – but if you just want to slide around in a silly and completely arcade way, DiRT 5 has to be considered a buy.
The only advice I’d say is perhaps wait for it to come down in price a little. Maybe a upcoming Black Friday deal could be the perfect time to pick up this game that’s full of potential for sure, but not quite the finished project.