The DIRT series is now almost 5 years old, so you could say that this is an annual franchise with a new one releasing every year. Typically this is common with sports games and the changes are minor. However, DIRT might be the only games that makes drastic changes. Have they done it again?
Somehow, they have and it is better across the board in almost every way. There are a few nit-picks, but they might not bother you too much.
One of the first things the game asks you is if you want to prioritise framerate or the visuals. There is a drawback to each one. Select framerate and the visual fidelity is reduced. The crowd models have no detail to the faces, the shadows are simplified and so do the reflections. You may experience some pop-in textures too. Choose the visuals then the game tries to look its best, but expect some choppy framerate every now and then and it is maxed out at 30 frames per second.
The presentation of the game is stellar however, the crisp art style for the menu screens and even in game feature a bright colour palette and are very bold. Even the music is high energy with some indie / rock type music. It plays throughout the menus and when transitioning into a race it fades out into an echo and only gets louder during certain race moments. I really liked this effect. Obviously the music can be turned off in the settings if you are not a fan.
I loved the Dirt Podcast by Donut media. It is used to great effect and throughout the whole game to either introduce new game modes or progress the story forward. The two hosts are brilliant and have great chemistry.
You are an unnamed racer who is making a name for themselves and kindly guided by the race legend “AJ” played by Troy Baker. You only ever hear his voice, be it from phone calls or the podcast where he may be interviewed. As with every racer, he has a rival “Bruno Durand” played by Nolan North. Who to put it frankly is a bit rude, but it is funny. All of these interactions are played out after a race whilst you are in the menu screen for the career mode. My only criticism and request would be to allow these to be played during a race, these interviews can last 2 minutes, which is a long time when you just want to race!
Voice acting performances are good, but feel unscripted and off the cuff. This does add a natural feel to the conversations, but sometimes it feels a bit rushed and unplanned, the actors are ad-libbing things that seem out of place. You can even tell when they are smiling at a miss-spoken comment, just from the audio alone.
The career mode is expansive and simply superb for a multitude of reasons. The difficulty is variable for those who need it. I played on the standard intermediate and it was a tad easy, but challenging enough. You have the option to select your own path to the career. Each race event unlocks usually two others that branch off from it. The branching expands the further you get in the game, meaning you can skip certain races completely. In total there are 125 events, but you only have to play a fraction of these, unless you are a completionist.
Within these events you will race over 76 variations of tracks that span over 10 countries. Each one is stunning and expertly designed. I can’t tell you how fun this game feels particularly on some stages. The ones in China for myself were mind-blowing. You feel completely at one with the car and the controls feel as tight as a drum. Moving from changing surfaces you can really appreciate this. I cannot wait to play this game on the PS5 with a DualSense controller. So much so, I will leave some of the career branches incomplete specifically for this. There isn’t a rewind feature in the game, but restarting a race after a mistake is instantaneous, who needs and SSD?
After each race you are rewarded with XP, Rep, Money and livery unlocks. You use money to purchase more vehicles. They have all the stats you look for, but as simplified grading system shows how good the performance and handling are with an “A to D” grade, but they throw in a “S” for good measure.
There are multiple race modes / events including Ultra Cross circuits, point-to-point Rally Raids, boulder-traversing Path Finder, Gymkhana and more.
You will easily find your preferred modes, but each one is great and races last around 5 minutes, so you can pick up and play whenever. Most races have a maximum of 11 other competitors apart from the invite-only “Throwdown” events which can be 1-on-1 races or variations of Gymkhana stages etc.
If that wasn’t enough for you, this game has even more. “Playgrounds” not only lets you create your own track, but download ones from the community. a grid based system allows you to drop in pieces into a sandbox for you to play. It is addictive and I easily spent an hour and barely scratched the surface of the maximum items allowed. This could be a huge feature and add a tonne of longevity to the game.
Still want more content? There is a fully fledged multiplayer mode as well as 4 player splitscreen.
Yes there are minor niggles and the odd glitches, one of which I experienced a few time was an audio glitch upon retrying a race. But these will easily be patched out in future update. The visual ones will likely improve with next gen and further enhance the immersion with the DualSense. Not only did I love every minute with this game, I can’t wait to play more on the PS5, thankfully the upgrade is free. You don’t need Ridge Racer, play DIRT 5 instead, it is miles better.
- Replay Value