The Codemasters Dirt range has a long tradition going back to the very first Colin McRae Rally in 1998. For five years now, racing game experts from Great Britain have been pursuing a two-pronged strategy in developing new dirt games. For example, the two dirt rally offshoots delivered tough racing simulations for fans for whom realism is the most important down to the last screw. The main series, on the other hand, is aimed more at a broader target audience. In Dirt 4 you could even choose between arcade and simulation handling.
For the development of Dirt 5 (buy now for 69.99 €) the developers asked themselves what kind of dirt game they want to do. It became clear to them that they did not want to compete with Dirt Rally 2, which they consider to be the pinnacle of virtual rallying. Instead, Dirt 5 takes a different approach, which also differs from its direct predecessor. Dirt 2 and Dirt 3 were the main sources of inspiration, and their diversity, colorful art design and style corresponded more to what the developers had in mind for the new part. As part of a developer presentation including an example demo, we were able to get a first impression of the game.
Less rally, more races
Already in the announcement trailer, but also during the presentation by the developers of Codemasters and based on the content of the scoring demo, we immediately noticed that so far, race-to-hand competition has been the focus of the game's presentation. When we asked whether classic rally races from point A to point B against the clock will still be part of the game, we unfortunately received no meaningful answer. The developers want to introduce many features of the game in the coming months.
This time the team was primarily concerned with presenting details about the locations, cars and career mode. In the latter, you can expect over 130 events, which are divided into eight racing categories. Events such as Rally Raid, Stampede or Ultra Cross differ primarily in the type of vehicles available and the types of routes to be expected. The player should have a lot of freedom in the choice of events to drive. In any case, not all of them have to be completed to see the end of their career.
With every successfully completed event you earn money and so-called stamps. While the money flows into new cars and their visual adjustment, a certain number of stamps have to be collected in order to unlock the final races of the individual chapters of the career. During the campaign you get to deal with the so-called superstars. On the one hand, this is AJ, who takes you under his wing as a mentor to lead you to ultimate success. On the other hand, Bruno Durant plays a central role who, as another newcomer, will become your and AJ's rival. In addition, the action is promoted in a kind of podcast format. However, we have not yet been able to experience exactly how this works.
During your career, but also in other game modes, you travel through ten very different locations. These include New York City, China, the Lofoten Islands in Norway, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Cape Town in South Africa and a few more. At each of these locations there are different routes for the different race types and car classes. The seasons also influence the range of routes. In New York, for example, you can only drive on the frozen Hudson River in winter. In the other seasons, however, New York races take place on Roosevelt Island. However, the makers did not reveal how many different routes this would result in total.
Cars from twelve different racing classes are used on these routes. For fans of bygone days there are, for example, historic vehicles in the Classic Rally, 80s Rally and 90s Rally categories with iconic cars such as the Ford Mustang or the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI. Newer models are available in Modern Rally, Rally GT and RX Rally Cross. Specialized vehicles such as buggies, off-road trucks or the new sprint racers should not be missing. There should be several models to choose from in each vehicle class. Here, too, the developers did not give us a complete overview of the entire range of cars.
So far, we have only been able to play a fraction of all of this in our preview version. For example, nothing can be seen of the career in the demo. Instead, we had fun in three laps of four laps in Norway, China, Brazil and Arizona. We were able to use a handful of vehicles from the 90's Rally, X Cross Raid, Super Lite and Sprint classes. The start of the race is pretty unspectacular. After a short loading screen, we are right in the three-second countdown before the wild ride starts.
Dirt 5 also appears for the old console generation, so new graphical standards are not necessarily to be expected. But already on the first few meters we are pleased that the developers have bored the optics properly compared to Dirt 4. We play the PC version turned to maximum settings, which convinces with chic vehicle models, water and particle effects as well as detailed surroundings on the edge of the route.
The driving experience is clearly aimed at fans of the arcaded lawn and is very catchy from the hand. However, we have to note that the demo did not really have any setting options. Therefore, we cannot yet estimate to what extent driving behavior, aids and other options can be adapted to personal preferences. We play the demo with a controller, which allows the cars to be controlled precisely. The game is also said to offer extensive steering wheel support. However, the developers want to announce details later.
Fortunately, unlike in other arcade racing games, no rubber band AI seems to be used here. If we drive well, we will get a good head start and if we mess up, we will fall behind and may not be able to drive to the front. However, more precise statements about AI can only be made after long races in the finished game.
Incidentally, different racing situations are not only caused by different routes and cars. So it depends on the time of day and the weather, how a race develops. Conditions can change while we are on the slopes. On the Norwegian route, for example, we saw how it got darker in the middle of the day and how heavy the snow started to fall. The snowfall became so violent that we were blinded by our own headlights and could hardly see anything – at least in the cockpit view. With chase camera it was a bit better in these conditions.
Heavy rain set in again on the Chinese route, putting the dirt track more and more under water. In our opinion, this has at least a slight influence on driving behavior. However, we were traveling with a buggy, which is designed to graze through mud and dirt. Here, too, the game certainly does not come close to satisfying any simulation racing driver. The game doesn't want that at all. The focus is on racing fun. Therefore, there is only a very superficial damage model with a few dents and scratches.
If the game is released as planned in October, you can expect a varied overall package. In addition to the career, there will be an arcade mode in which you can put together events yourself. Cars can be designed extensively optically in the Livery Editor. These creations can then be artistically captured in photo mode. In addition to the usual online modes, multiplayer fans also have a split screen for up to four players – also in their careers. In addition, the makers probably have a secret and exciting feature up their sleeves that they won't talk about until August.
“A dirt without a rally is missing something. But the races are still fun. ”
I'm not quite sure if I like Dirt's new direction. When the developers mentioned orienting themselves to dirt 2 and dirt 3, I feared bad things, but at least they did not return the Gymkhana, which I really detested at the time. I really like the focus on arcade gameplay, because I can't do anything with tough simulations like Dirt Rally. However, I also want to drive real rallies, like Dirt 4 had so beautifully on offer. I already miss that with Dirt 5 somewhere. I think it would be a shame if a classic rally was only reserved for simulation fans. But what I've played so far is definitely fun, even if the races in the demo are quite short for my taste. I especially liked the changing weather conditions. The exaggeratedly colorful presentation of the entire game is a matter of taste. It's not my case.
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