It’s been 17 years since Codemasters have stepped up and bought us the fantastic Colin McRae rally, at the time this defined the rally racing genre. And even though there had been improvements over the years nothing could match up to this title, until now, as Dirt 4 brings back that same magic and playability that started it so many years ago with Colin McRae Rally.
As the game starts up you instantly feel how well presented Dirt 4 really is with a great soundtrack that works extremely well with bands such as the Chemical Brothers, the Amazons and Sigma to name a few providing a good balance of Rock music that complements the in game menus and the online track action.
In game sound is perfect a swell with exhaust sounds as they backfire when changing gear to the ambient sound of your car’s engine as you travel through buildings creates a muffled echo effect which just shows how much has gone into polishing the finer details of the game.
Where i think Dirt 4 excels is the quality of the games graphics, Codemasters have gone all out with stunning stages with each country with its own unique feel with the heavy gravel roads of Australia, to the forest landscapes of Wales that you pass through during night stages show of some excellent lighting effects from the beams of your car as it glares through the trees.
Even small touches such as mud and gravel kicked up as you powerslide around corners isn’t something new to rally games but how it is presented depends on what surface you are on which shows a realistic build up of dust and dirt whether on tarmac stage it is minimal to dusty stages in the wet where you get a heavy build up on your car and even when driving open cockpit vehicles you actually get a built up of dirt on your overalls and helmet, plus when light reflects of stones on loose gravel surfaces as you drive through night stages show off the attention that has went into all the small details that make Dirt 4 great.
Weather effects may not be the best I have seen but they are variable from light to heavy rainfall which do have an effect on not just the handling but the track itself which causes your car to oversteer or creates puddles on the track, this also applies to Fog which is the most realistic I have seen causing you to drive cautiously, this can be minimal to virtual not been able to see five feet in front of you makes stages more challenging. This also applies when racing on heavy gravel as the dust kicked makes it hard to see what is ahead which is great as this means instinctively have to anticipate upcoming corners unless you are in the lead where you shouldn’t have any such issues.
Dirt 4 provides some great car mechanics with a more fun arcade approach for beginners which i used most of the time throughout career with the gamer handling this makes the car more controllable and allows for easier powersliding around corners, or for the more experienced players the simulation style tightens up the car more with more twitchy steering which gives the car less grip and can cause the car to snap which could increase the chance of damaging your car if you crash of the track.
Damage is another element that i appreciate, as body damage shows realistic crumble zones, but it you car keeps hitting objects say on the front left of the car the damage can worsen and lead to punctures which will still allow you to drive on but over time the tyre will disintegrate causing the tire to explode and dramatically affect the handling of the car. This also slows down the car but if you are willing to sacrifice a bit of time you can stop and replace the wheel.
Also with any racing game you have the ability to tweak and customise your car through upgrades from Grade F to Grade A allowing you to maximise gear ratios, spring rate etc. You will have to work hard to get the better upgrades as these are only unlocked once you reach a certain level.
There is a great diversity of game modes over various disciplines from outright Rally to Rally Cross provides some great racing action with Career mode set over 4 disciplines from Rally, Land Rush, rally Cross and Historic Rally.
Throughout your Career you can build your team and increase your team’s profile through hiring staff, branding & Sponsors and team Facilities, this also allows you to earn more money while upgrading your garage so you can collect more cars which you acquire or by buying them from a manufacturer or via classifieds which are basically second hand versions which you may need to upgrade.
Team Management allows you to hire Chief mechanics and subsequently 4 more mechanics to help maintain your car throughout races the more you have the better performance you will get from your car, the only downside is this will be deducted from your winning credits so they can be paid. The better the engineers are the bigger cut will be required to keep them in the team.
Free play – allows you to custom build stages and championships from all the available countries set over any discipline by allowing you to generate stages on complexity and length which creates almost unlimited track variations as well as your own personal championships, for me this is where the longevity of Dirt 4 will surpass other modes.
Dirt Academy– this mode allows you to hone your skills with tutorials and hints to improve your driving technique from drifting to braking around the Dirstfish,USA Warehouse track.
Joyride – this mode is more fun allowing you to show of those fancy moves you have mastered by completing either time challenges or target based challenges by smashing into boards while avoiding obstacles with specific vehicles, provides something different away from multiplayer and career modes, these challenges are scored with a Gold. Silver or Bronze system depending how you do. As you progress through these challenges it does get increasingly more difficult.
Competitive – this mode puts your skills to the test as you go up against the online community to get the top spot within the world. You have community events which consist of weekly and monthly challenges, some of these have set vehicles to simulated handling to make it more difficult.
But it’s Multiplayer where Dirt 4 shines as I haven’t played a more fun Rally game since the likes of Colin McCrae Rally. It’s even better when you are online with at least 4 friends which may not be the best, as you can get up to 8 players in career in modes such as Land Rush, however most races are split into heats where the top cars go onto the next round, but still I get goosebumps when playing with friends or other online players as you sit on the edge of your seat from start to finish trying not to get caught up in chaotic crashes with some close wheel to wheel action.
Dirt 4 is a game that is fun to play with or without friends and you will find no other driving game that is more immersive and so well presented.
Dirt 4 surprised me on how much fun it was to play, with stunning visuals that blew me away right down to the small attention to detail on and off the track. The game felt very polished with no faults that i could pick up really puts Dirt 4 on one of the best racing games out there.
Even if you finish the Career mode there is so much replay value with the Multiplayer and community events not to mention the unlimited options in the Freeplay mode will keep you playing for months if not for years.