Review: Codemasters Dirt Rally on Xbox One

The hit rally game arrives on consoles

Subi

When I first seen clips from Dirt Rally I immediately checked the Xbox Store to go buy it. Unfortunately it was launched exclusively on PC and console owners had to wait. Thankfully that wait is now over and the popular rally game has arrived on Xbox One and PS4.

Graphics

When a PC game comes to a console, there’s a certain expectation that the developers have to make compromises. In Dirt Rally, the developers really have accomplished something quite amazing. The graphical detail is fantastic and doesn’t at all look compromised by the hardware.

The game runs at a stellar 60fps and for a racing game that smooth motion is critical for hitting turn in points and braking marks at speed. Speed of display and speed of input also ultra critical aspects when you’re in the heat of battle around a Rallycross track, or up the amazingly challenging Pikes Peak mountain.

The environments feature realistic effects like rain on the windshield or snow puffs exploding as you take a corner a little sharper than you should. The game looks fantastic, made better with the occasional lens flare from the sun.

I did however experience the occasional slow down in the most complex of environments, but a couple of times from over a dozen hours of driving, I can easily live with that for how great the game looks and feels.

When reviewing this game I used my racing sim setup, a GT Ultimate V2 and Logitech G920 and there’s some awesome options you should know about. In terms of preferences, you get the ability to turn off the steering wheel when using in-car view, so you never see 2 steering wheels in front of you. You also get to move the location of the cockpit camera so you can affect the field of view and how much of the dash, side windows etc you get to see. There’s also the ability to switch off the entire UI and get to more a realistic simulation experience.

I wish all driving games had this level of customisation.

Gameplay

There’s 3 real game modes in Dirt Rally Championships, Rally, Rallycross and Hillclimb.

Rally

The general rally mode in Dirt Rally takes you through scenic vistas on tracks that wind through forests and mountain sides. As with most games, you start with the low-powered car and work your way up to the more expensive ones. This presents a real challenge.

Normally in games I can grind through the credit system and with relative ease but Dirt Rally was different. Races are tough, at times really tough and if you have to pay for repairs, it’ll take even longer to earn the hundreds of thousands for a rear wheel and eventually all-wheel drive car.

Every car handles differently and there’s a pretty limited selection of liveries to choose from. In reviewing this game, I jumped between race types often to experience them all, but a better way to play would be to stick with these same game type with the same car as you adjust to the handling characteristics of each.

Levels are disgustingly gorgeous and achievements like rollover and continue are fun, but in this game, get ready to crash a lot and restart often when you’re learning.

Rallycross

Easily my personal favourite of the 3 race modes, Rallycross is fast, action-packed racing in often tight courses where you compete lap after lap with a small grid of AI. These cars hard and cheeky and will often cut you off or spin you out which is frustrating as hell, but also super rewarding if you drift past them with an over under passing move.

You really have to balance the perfect amount of traction vs slide and made sure you hit your shift points and braking markers on point. It really is some of the best fun I’ve had racing, I just wish I had some adjustment over the AI difficulty and aggression.

At first I kept getting killed off the start line, giving away valuable seconds. Then I found the option to manually release the handbrake and launches became much more competitive. This also introduces an extra degree of difficulty because if you launch early, you’ll likely get hit with an extra tour through the Joker.

The Joker is the alternate route, a section of the track that takes slightly longer to take than regular corners. This has to be taken at least once by all cars and helps to spice up the racing with your opponents often on different strategies.

Hill climb

The world famous Pikes Peak. What a challenging s.o.b. but the best tracks in the world are. It takes outright commitment, connection with your car and sheer pace to perform well on different stages of the mountain climb. There’s a perfect belnd of fast sweepers where the car wants to slide sideways and tight hairpins where you’ll be at full lock or grab the handbrake.

Flying on this track takes absolute commitment, probably more than that, but if you get things wrong, you’ll either bin it and have to start over, or cop a penalty for taking out a pedestrian.

Controls

Codemasters have done a brilliant job with supporting steering wheel and pedals input, with the presets working great and calibration a quick and simple process. Personally I used the Logitech G920 exclusively as a control interface to drive in this game.

This is one of the best implementations and support I’ve raced to date. At a time where we have other titles like WRC5, Need for Speed and plenty more, either not support wheels at all or support portions of functionality, Dirt Rally supports every combination of setups you can imagine.

You can select full auto, maual with sequential box, manual with H-pattern, or with a clutch or even use the clutch as a kicker to engage the slide and send you sideways. This really is full support of steering wheel and pedals and Codemasters should be applauded.

Price & Availability

Dirt Rally is available on Xbox One and PS4 from today (5/4/16 in the US and 08/04/16 in Australia. It costs A$79 which makes it great value for money as some titles easily push through the $100 price point.

Grab Dirt Rally from JB HiFI.

Rally

Overall

With early access I wasn’t able to test the multiplayer sections of the game ahead of release, but the single player alone is a enough to make this a solid title. The game does an excellent job at reflecting the real rally experience, even if Codemaster’s sided with realism over fun and enjoyment, that decision was the right one.

While Rally Dirt gets a lot right, its not perfect, The limited number of tracks are split into multiple routes and hillclimbs into stages, but ultimately the game is light on tracks and even cars. The cars you want to race (AWD) are way too expensive which means you’ll need to grind hard in races you don’t care about to earn the funds to buy one. That is of course, unless you create custom races.

If you do cheat the system and jump behind the wheel of a great car, going back to career and to your povo box is worse than going from the NBN back to dial-up. Do yourself a favour, stick to the progression the game wants you to, even if it will take plenty of hours of hold-your-breath driving.

The support for steering wheels and pedals in the game is outstanding and the force feedback connects you with the vehicle and allows you to feel the differences in road surfaces. If you’re working on a driving game of any description, you’d do well to spend time with Dirt Rally to see how its done.

Overall the game is a massive success on the Xbox One and despite very occasionally experiencing a slow down in frame rate, for the most part, it was fast, smooth, gorgeous action. If you’re a fan of Rally, buy this game, if you’re a fan of motorsport in general, buy this game and I rarely say this, but even if you’ve never played a racing title, you should give this game a shot. In Dirt Rally, you need to drive like you would in real life, with a car you own and want to look after. The consequences are severe if you bin it and that makes the experience better when you succeed.

9
Dirt Rally on Xbox One
The Good
  • Graphics
  • Wheel support
  • Realism
The Bad
  • Number of tracks and cars limited
  • Cars too expensive
  • No difficulty config
  • Graphics
    9.5
  • Gameplay
    8.5
  • Features
    8.5
  • Value for money
    9.5
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Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis.