Dakar 18 Review, Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should
- Developer: Bigmoon Entertainment
- Publisher: Deep Silver
- Genre: Driving Sim
- Release Date: 25/9/18
- Platforms: PS4, Xbox1, Windows
- Reviewed on:Xbox One X on 4K TV
- Game Supplied by: Publisher
I really really, wanted to get into this game, as for once there was something new to the rally/racing genre. It’s been done recently with the very good, Isle of Man TT, ie something new to the table so it was exciting to see and hear about the ambitious designs of Dakar 18 and what it could bring.
To most petrol heads, the words Dakar 18, means grueling long distance over scrub wasteland and desserts for, where mechanical reliability and excellent navigation skills result in a winning combination. So why is it then, that within the first 500 yards of the very first thing you do in the prologue, your co driver (more on him later) is screaming at you to get out the car; not that the game even tells to how, why or where to! Your meant to help retrieve a stranded competitor, but doesn’t explain that you need to stop in front of them, to use the winch at the back. The irony is, your very shouty co driver who just screamed at you to stop and help him, when you do, then bemoans that you need to keep going. Make your mind up !
Not that you would want to get out of your car anyway as the landscape and graphics of the game are terrible. I had to pinch myself that i wasn’t playing a PS2 game, let alone a PS3 or current gen one. Even great driving sims on the PS2 looks better than this on the same tv. Dakar 18 has very limited rendering, detail, and interest. Even in the real world there is not much to look at so that translates to a boring looking game, which isn’t done very well anyway. This is probably because the developers have made one of the biggest open world games to date, with no loading times to help you travel in it.
To be fair, they have succeeded in their ambition here of a wide open, easy to get lost into gaming area, which is exactly how the real Dakar 18 is. There is also great realism in the awfully over complicated, but realistic navigation system. Much like the real world there are no way points marked magically in the air for you to follow. Here, like the real event, are GPS coordinates you need to drive to in the middle of nowhere, with no visual reference, to trigger a “note passed” screen that the checkpoint has been hit, and on to the next. As real as this is, it’s I found I spent more time looking at the compass and driving notes as i’m driving as I was outside the windscreen.
While doing this I soon noticed the discrepancies between the driver notes, compass, and my co driver. For example, the notes said take a sharp right, then sharp left, my co driver is shouting at me to take the track on the right now, when there was no actual track to the right on the screen, yet I was looking at a track straight ahead with a middle, with only a slight veer to the left and slight veer to the right tracks off it. The point being, at times, none of the notes matched.
The problem with this is, you can carry on thinking your going the right way, miss a whole heap of checkpoints with no clue that you are missing checkpoints until you finish and are then told you have failed. So you have to rinse repeat all over again, sometimes guessing despite the notes and co driver, until you figure it out.
So very soon I became frustrated with the game as it was doing it’s best not to help me, even on the easiest setting. Add to this sense of frustration of not really knowing where to go half the time despite understanding the driver notes, compass headings and co drivers rants, I found the handling deplorable. Vehicles have a distinct tendency to want to initiate a tank slapper at the slightest whiff of turning at speed. It could be argued that this is down to using a controller (much like Project Cars 1) but then as Dakar 18 currently has no wheel support, it’s all you can use right now anyway. Controls and the feel felt over reacting and the suspension too spongy. Every car/vehicle, felt very top heavy, and for want of another word, wobbly, to handle.
Then added to that, as the visuals are so archaic, I couldn’t even define what was quicksand to normal sand and quite easily got bogged down in it. Driving into rocks, (the big black things) resulted in damage to the car which you then had to repair at the click of a button but used up time in doing so.
The sound design of the game was acceptable, with the highlights being the engine noises vary for the vehicle you use quite well, and sound authentic, however, what with Mr Shout and complain a lot Co driver, nagging you to the finish, and average sound effects whilst going over various types of ground, the audio did what it should do just not very well.
I then ventured into the multiplayer lobbies, but couldn’t find a lobby to join to comment on how these played. Frankly that says it all to me about this game.
Despite my whingings above, there is the nuts and bolts of a decent game here. I can forgive the game for it’s average graphics, bad handling, and confusing navigation system, as if you are hardcore and a dedicated fan, spend a lot of time getting used to it all, you can get over these and play the game perfectly well. However there is one major flaw, and that simply is, none of it is fun. Why would you make a game of real world event that can only be described as a long boring drive?
It’s just driving drudgery, and Dakar 18, despite its flaws, re-creates that feel perfectly, so the question begs, why bother?