It’s been twelve years since I reviewed the first DiRT game and it is extremely rare for me to drop character for a review and speak in first person, but there are some things I need to say. Firstly, if you told me in April 2015 when I purchased DiRT Rally in early access on Steam that four years later I would not just be reviewing games again but that I’d have the opportunity of reviewing DiRT Rally 2.0 in 4K HDR with a Thrustmaster TX wheel, I would have said you’re living in a fantasy world. Secondly, never have I ever felt so immersed in a racing game. I’ve used wheels on many games in the past, and DiRT 4 was a lot of fun, but DiRT Rally 2.0 (possibly due to the graphical brilliance) somehow manages to immerse me more than any other racing game I’ve played. Lastly, I hate DiRT Rally 2.0.
If you think you’re going to have a fun time in DiRT Rally 2.0, you are but also you aren’t. DiRT Rally 2.0 is a hardcore rally racing simulator meant only for those that seek a challenge. It’s the Dark Souls of racing games. It’s any game on legendary/extreme/hardcore mode, and that’s where it begins. Several modes offer extreme rally racing both off-road and on, including an extensive career, Historic, FIA World Rallycross Championship, Custom and Time Trial modes, all of which will challenge you to the core but also remind you that gaming shouldn’t be an insipid walk in the park, but rather a chaotic dash through a battlefield.
Booting up DiRT Rally 2.0, you’re greeted with the My Team page where you will find challenges and events for you to pursue in your career. There’s also the options here to mix up your support team, hiring and firing engineers and the like, as well as the garage where you can buy new and used cars, and sell off the ones you aren’t using. Cash is hard to come by in the early days of your DiRT Rally 2.0 career, particularly because the only way you can earn it is by completing events in the My Team mode. It would have been nice to get money for completing stages in other places such as the Historic mode, especially when some of the vehicles cost upwards of 1,000,000. Upgrades also play an integral part of the DiRT Rally 2.0 career, with purchasable upgrades available for your team, while vehicle upgrades are unlocked the more you use them and not immediately available to those with full pockets.
If you’re lucky enough to pick up a day one edition of DiRT Rally 2.0, or the Deluxe Edition then you’ll have plenty of vehicles to start your career with. Those that put some solid effort in to the original game should go right ahead with the more powerful vehicles, but newcomers to the franchise may want to start with something a little slower. There’s no rewind here, no leeway for hitting rocks and trees, it’s an all-out assault on your vehicle, and often you’ll be considering yourself lucky to just finish an event. We had one instance where a stage was started in the middle of the night with no option to repair the vehicle from the previous race, and guess what? No headlights. The stage was impossible, triggering immediate retirement (not the only thing that was triggered). This is what you’re up against in DiRT Rally 2.0, and even the best drivers may end up coming last.
DiRT Rally 2.0 is a game that demands your time and attention. You will get better with practice, and as you get better, you can perhaps start to raise the difficulty level in the game settings. Options like clutch override, off-throttle braking, stability control and traction control can all be switched on or off to offer more control over your vehicle, and some options even offer fine tuning from 1 to 5, i.e. you can set stability control to 2 to offer some minor computerised stability assistance. In fact, there’s so much customisation in DiRT Rally 2.0 that you can even do things like switch off automatic windscreen wipers, change how shaky the camera is, and speed up or slow down the calls from your co driver. The game also offers the ability to switch on or off hardcore damage, though if you stay on track then you’ll only notice serious vehicle damage after a few long stages, even with hardcore damage switched on.
Historic mode is a great place to start for newcomers to the franchise. Here you can start with rally greats from the 1970’s, and gradually work your way up to the more powerful newer cars. FIA World Rallycross Championship mode plays like a completely different game, offering circuit racing with up to six cars on the track at the same time. We found the World RX mode to be a lot of fun and a great break from the heartrate-rising rally stages that await in the other modes. These modes also offers a 1-100 difficulty slider that affects A.I. times, allowing you to progress much faster through the events.
Handling in DiRT Rally 2.0 is nothing short of exceptional. Each vehicle in the game requires unique mastering, and even diving into the depths of the Group B class, drivers will find major difference between the power and performance of different cars on different tracks. While the off-road racing is amazing, tarmac handling still needs some work. A lot of the faster vehicles feel like they hover over tarmac and slide around like crazy making for some interesting moments as you learn how to handle them. Codemasters has acknowledged that tarmac handling is an issue, though they have stated that making changes to it would affect A.I. times and making tarmac accurate is not something they can currently achieve.
We reviewed DiRT Rally 2.0 with a Thrustmaster TX Ferrari 458 Italia Edition wheel as well as an Xbox One controller. Hardcore fans will stick to their wheels no matter what, but we found the controller to be more fun in World RX mode due to it being slightly more of an arcade experience. With that said though, the main rally racing was significantly easier with a wheel, and if you haven’t played a racing game with a wheel yet, DiRT Rally 2.0 is a perfect opportunity to experience it at its best.
As each new racing game comes out this generation, our jaws continue to go further through the ground. DiRT Rally 2.0 exceeds expectations on the Xbox One X. With locations ranging from the rainforests inland from Hawkes Bay to the rocky terrains in Argentina, DiRT Rally 2.0 is astoundingly beautiful. We didn’t like the Michigan location in the original DiRT Rally, it looked muddy and we even said Codemasters could learn a thing or two from Forza Horizon 4’s Autumn season on how to do trees with red leaves, and it seems they have worked hard as this time around the trees are not only beautiful, they now form canopies that are simply breathtaking when the god rays shine through.
You don’t need a reviewer to tell you that the vehicles look stunning. There’s plenty of gameplay videos around that let the cars speak for themselves. Codemasters continues to do amazing work bringing racecars to life, and the cars fit perfectly with their surrounds. Our one gripe is the damage modeling isn’t anywhere near as brutal as we would have hoped. You can’t wrap your car around a tree, in fact, the damage physics is minor at best. What is good though is the way dirt and mud attaches to your vehicle throughout a stage, and the attention to detail on details like exhaust fumes (though other cars don’t have exhaust fumes in World RX mode), smoke from your engine masking your vision, and other scratches and marks you get along the way. Unfortunately, the rear-view mirrors are still nothing to write home about, and at this point we’re wondering if they’ll ever render in full detail.
Sometimes in a review you can bundle graphics and audio into the same paragraph, but it would be downright offensive to do that to DiRT Rally 2.0. The throttle sound pumping through the rally vehicles and out the exhaust is simply incredible. It feels like you’re there. It sounds like you’re there. Pumping up the sound and switching to the cockpit, you’ll soon find yourself in rally-lovers heaven as you accelerate down those dirty tracks. The Group B, Modern Rally, and newly added Supercar classes all offer superior vehicles with engines that will make you drool. Though the engine sounds are great, your co driver’s audio can be a bit off occasionally, with various volume levels and strangely timed excitement and frustration.
It’s hard to find faults in the initial package of DiRT Rally 2.0. It requires an always-online connection which makes it hard for some people with remote setups or dodgy internet to enjoy, but we didn’t experience any connection issues. The tarmac traction needs work, but the developers have acknowledged it already. Our biggest disappointment with DiRT Rally 2.0 is the road map ahead, and how much content is expected in the next few months. Although there’s plenty to offer in the day one package, it still feels like there aren’t enough rally locations, particularly when we know there are more just around the corner. Finally, although hardcore fans hate the idea, DiRT Rally 2.0 needs a casual mode to welcome newcomers to the game. DiRT 4 had casual and simulation handling and it worked well, so it would be nice for DiRT Rally 2.0 to include it at a later date, or at least a compromise in that A.I. have much easier times to beat, as the current game’s setup means that newcomers are going to be faced with an extremely tough experience.
DiRT Rally 2.0 Day One Edition was reviewed on an Xbox One X console in 4K HDR with a Thrustmaster TX Ferrari Italia 458 Edition wheel.
-Extremely immersive -Graphical brilliance - This is the reason we race. The reason to buy a wheel.
-We didn’t experience Racenet issues but the always-online still seems extensively unwarranted -Tarmac physics are not realistic.