DiRT 4 Review

June 14, 2017

Sometimes I feel like my life synchronizes with video games. I guess you could say it’s happened more often in the past 12 months, particularly with racing games. When Forza Horizon 3 launched, I was busy cruising the roads of the Gold Coast and Byron Bay. When DiRT 4 launched, I was in some fairly dense Victorian bushland, where all the nearest roads are unsealed. Coincidence? Hopefully.

(Not actual in-game footage; is actually in-Australia bush)

DiRT 4 is the latest in a long line of rally games from Codemasters, and the fifth DiRT title. The previous game DiRT Rally dropped a lot of the extra modes that vocal fans voiced their concerns about, however DiRT 4 has brought some of the fun back, in an albeit watered down version. What this creates is a DiRT where everyone can find something to enjoy, including the procedural generated Your Stage mode to boot!

From the get-go you’re greeted with two different options on how you want to experience DiRT 4. Gamer mode gives you the option to have fun and enjoy the racing without having to pay too much attention to vehicle handling. Simulation on the other hand is the full rally racing experience. It’s not 100% realistic, but it’s pretty darn close. Unless you just want to mess around in DiRT 4, it’s thoroughly recommended that you choose the Simulation mode, as you can still change the difficulty sliders as necessary, making the AI more or less challenging as well as how smoothly your cars will handle i.e. traction control, stability management, etc.

There are no rewinds in DiRT 4, so those longer stages can be very tricky. One of the difficulty settings allows you to change how many times you can restart a stage however, which can be quite useful. The less amount of restart options you have however, the better your payout will be.

Sponsors love race vehicles. They’re like the perfect advertisement billboard. They fly past, you HAVE to look at them, and you WANT to check out the whole car. It’s hard to watch the F1 or the V8’s without being absolutely visually slaughtered with advertising, and rally is no different. In DiRT 4 you get to pick and choose which sponsors go on your vehicle – and whereabouts they appear on your vehicle too. The better you perform to their requirements, the more they will like you and the higher your payouts will be. Requirements include things like having a higher difficulty level, or of course winning races. The payouts from sponsors are optional and aren’t massive but they do accumulate nicely over time.

DiRT 4 has four different career modes; Rally, Landrush, Rallycross and Classic Rally. There is also the Dirtfish Race School which is the perfect open-world playground where you can take lessons and refine your skills before competing. Each career mode feels unique and challenging in its own respect, but we do kind of miss the restrictions of having to play certain styles as you progress through the career. The original DiRT games were great for getting you to experience the full package, whereas in DiRT 4 it seems you can pretty much stick to your Rallycross or Rally mode, and completely avoid the Landrush if you want to.

Distractions play a large role in the new Rally format of DiRT 4. Often at the beginning of a stage you will be made aware by the race marshals of any vehicles which may have come unstuck, and you’ll be greeted by a witches hat before seeing the vehicle that has met its end, however, the other distractions and obstacles are one key new feature that separates DiRT 4 from its predecessors. Going through bouts of heavy fog can cause you to slow down drastically or end up flying off the road, but the truly annoying distractions are the drones and helicopters. Drones can fly directly into your line of sight causing you to lose focus, while helicopters will hover above the track trying to get the best shot of you, causing a massive dust cloud underneath that you have to drive through. Little extra features like this combined with the day/night and weather system makes for a very realistic Rally experience.

Landrush and Rallycross both provide you with the opportunity to crash and bump with other vehicles in chaotic races. The FIA World Rallycross Championship mode has a unique feature called the Joker Lap, which is a slightly modified route. Each driver is required to take the Joker Lap at least once throughout the race, and most races are 4-6 laps in length. The Joker Lap is an actual real thing in the Global Rallycross in real life, and your position in the race can drastically change depending on what time you choose to take your Joker Lap.

Penalties apply throughout all of the racing modes in DiRT 4, with the harshest being if you detour away from the track completely you can face a 30 second penalty or simply be disqualified completely. Race marshals will investigate corner cutting, and if you require assistance to get back on to the track for whatever reason, expect your final time to have a few seconds added. Another new feature of DiRT 4 is that at the end of a stage you are required to drive safely to the marshal. This is about another 50 meters up the road, but what it means is you can’t go slamming through the finish line anymore; you have to safely finish each stage.

With all the customising and tuning in DiRT 4, sometimes you get too distracted from the actual racing. There’s a whole other side of the DiRT 4 career where you need to manage your team, employing engineers and maintaining their skills and happiness. DiRT 4’s realism really goes one step further here, and we’re excited to see what happens next in the series with features like this.

Finally, Your Stage is a new mode which you can spend a lot of time in. A procedural generated mode allows for a near infinite amount of tracks, spread out across the five unique environments in DiRT 4. Best of all, you can take Your Stage online and race in other people’s creations. Creating Your Stage is one of the easiest parts of the game with a slider for length and a slider for complexity. You can also pick the weather and time of day, and whether you want to reverse the direction of the stage but apart from that the rest is up to the generator. It’s hard to tell just how much the average player will take advantage of Your Stage, but nevertheless it’s a nice final touch to DiRT 4 and something hardcore fans will certainly appreciate for years to come.

The sights and sounds of DiRT 4 are another feature that takes the DiRT series to a whole new level. The environments that they have put into the game look amazing and feel real. Whether it be the friction-less muddy trails of Fitzroy, Australia or the grippy yet unforgiving asphalted bends of Tarragona, Spain, it all creates a sense of realism and you can tell Codemasters spent months mercilessly caressing every nook of each track. The vehicles all look stunning too, and the attention to detail is phenomenal. If pieces of your car fall off as you’re racing, you’ll notice just how realistic these cars are, with every part of the vehicle built from the ground up to ensure that no matter where your camera ends up, you’ll get a realistic view.

As soon as you begin your career in DiRT 4 your ears are immediately greeted with what can only be described as the most realistic racing sounds in video games thus far. The vehicles themselves with the popping of the exhausts and the engines revving sound so realistic that sometimes you’ll forget they’re in-game. Combine that with the rattling of the wear and tear throughout the stages, and it becomes clear that Codemasters has delivered the full package when it comes to the vehicular audio. The game’s ambiance and co-driver add to the realism, but the one thing taking away from the experience seems to be the music. It’s far too loud, especially if you turn the game up to hear the engine sounds properly. We found turning the music down to about 30% to be sufficient enough.

DiRT 4 is a solid rally racing game that attempts to appeal to all corners of the market. Whether you’re a casual, a newbie, if you’ve spent hundreds of hours in DiRT Rally, or anything in between, DiRT 4 has you covered. What it doesn’t do is provide a complete package of content. The career experience feels shortened, with a lack of variety in events and locations. It’s disappointing that the WRC licencing is still out of reach for Codies, and even more disappointing to learn that entire tracks can now be licensed to companies a la Pikes Peak. Codemasters is probably working on some unannounced DLC to add locations to the game, but it feels like we may have scored DiRT 4 even higher if it had of just had two more locations on top of its existing five.

We reviewed DiRT 4 on Windows PC using a Steam Controller and found that the buttons mapped well and the cars were very responsive.


- Incredibly immersive
- The racing, including all of the options and settings leading up to the race are a huge improvement over DiRT 3
- Your Stage is a great new idea giving the game endless hours of fun.


- Lacks enough original track content, really needed more locations
- Not too keen on the menu music, we turned it down real low very quickly
- The crowd still doesn’t react if you crash or go flying off the course past them.

Overall Score: