DiRT Rally 2.0 Review
While never really being one for quotes none ever felt as appropriate as this one: “Pfft, it’s not racing unless you get a mouth full of dirt as the cars go past!” Which racing legend said that; McRae, Sainz, Rohrl, maybe Kimi Räikkönen after a few celebratory cold ones? Nope, it was my dear old mom. Unfortunately she wasn’t talking about Rally, but rather balking at the thought of seeing a race at a former dirt track that had been paved over. Regardless, it’s a sentiment I’m sure many Rally fans would agree with. So if you like your racing with a side dish of dirt (or gravel) in your mouth then DiRT Rally 2.0 is for you. The much anticipated sequel to the original nasty and brutish racing game that could end your day in short order has arrived.
Let’s clear up one important point before I dive into the game so there’s no confusion. The DiRT series and the DiRT Rally series are not exactly one and the same. Sure, the subject matter overlaps but the differences mainly lie in the difficulty. The regular DiRT games are geared more towards a larger general audience. The DiRT Rally series is for those who are looking for a more realistic approach and yes that equates to a much higher degree of difficulty. So, if you were wondering how DiRT Rally 2.0 could possibly come after DiRT 4 that is why; it’s more or less a spin-off series.
Being that DiRT Rally 2.0 does cater more to the ardent sim racing crowd there are some pretty major differences in one’s experience with the game based on the control method of their choosing. The vast majority of my time was spent using the Thrustmaster T300 RS wheel. Because I’m reviewing the PS4 version, I did spend some time with a regular controller as well. Using the DualShock controller was okay, it is doable to just play that way, but honestly, you’re really missing out. If there was ever a game that pushed you into buying a wheel it would be this one. If you do go all in, get one with force feedback, you won’t regret it, even if your wallet may for a little while.
Wheels and consoles do have some drawbacks though. For starters, consoles tend to be used with TVs near couches as opposed to Monitors on desks. So you’ll have to figure something out there. The other main drawback is getting a compatible device that does everything you want. That sidelines my homemade handbrake/former flight stick. Do you need a separate hand brake? No, but it sure is a lot more fun if you have one. Before moving on, let’s talk Force Feedback. I’ll keep it quick, everyone has their preferences and every wheel is different. That said, the base settings on the T300RS are probably a bit heavy, but nothing that can’t be adjusted.
Phew, lots of talk and almost none of it about cars or tracks so far, well that ends now. Dirt Rally 2.0 offers up 50 some odd cars between different eras of Rally and including Rallycross vehicles. Currently, there are 14 tracks, 6 for Rally and 8 for Rallycross. The races can also be completed in a variety of ways between either a career mode, regular historic championship series, and as part of daily and weekly events. That may not sound like much for the prospects of longevity, but there are at least 2 seasons of DLC planned already which will add a total of 6 more tracks and 10 more cars. We’ll see where that goes, but it is at least promising for some continued content.
So what makes this game different than the original? The most obvious change is interaction with the track surfaces. The ground is actually quite dynamic this time around. Not only do the surfaces feel more authentic, but conditions can and will change. Depending on where you are in the running order, certain stage ruts can form in the track and they will absolutely pull you in if you get too close. There are actual differences in weather conditions too which also seem to be quite improved in the impact that those have on driving. That leaves one last key to the puzzle and one that felt mostly absent from the first game and that is meaningful tire wear. Yeah, using the handbrake liberally on asphalt has a lot more consequences this time around.
Hand Me That Wrench
What that pile of variables all adds up to is this: driving these roads feels a heck of a lot more dangerous now. One should not feel quite so confident going flat out and throwing the nose into a 3 left; don’t cut without letting off the gas pedal. Throttle control plays a much bigger role now. With all respects to the late Colin McRae “When in doubt, flat out” is going to be much more a recipe for disaster now in the game than it was. Staying in control isn’t just a polite suggestion.
Turning the page it’s time to talk Rallycross. Admittedly I was never that big on Rallycross in the original. The main factor that had far less to do with the driving and more to do with the tuning. Leave a Rally car on its base tuning in the game and you can still be competitive, heck even pull out a stage win here or there. Like the previous game, however, try that in a Rallycross car and you can just forget about it. Base set-ups aren’t close to being as competitive as they are in their Rally car counterparts so if you aren’t willing to learn how to do it and do it properly Rallycross may not be part of your normal gameplay. When you do tune though it’s one hell of a time. All those changes to the driving dynamics of Rally apply here as well. It’s a shame that basic car settings are so uncompetitive here as Rallycross may be the more attractive of the two kinds of cars at first glance to the first time drivers of the game.
Along the same lines as tuning, there is the support team. This area is expanded this time around, it’s no longer just hire the best person for the job, rather hire and train. It’s a lot closer to DiRT 4 that way, which is good as it is one of the areas I liked there. Cars, of course, have upgrades and something like engine tuning now comes with trade-offs at higher levels. Maximum performance doesn’t equal maximum durability, so choose wisely.
When DiRT Rally came out it started turning the heads of some longtime hardcore racers. One question however always came up “But is it better than Richard Burns Rally?” Inevitably the same will be asked again of DiRT Rally 2.0. 15 years and many mods later, it’s hard to compare RBR to contemporaries without bias. Like the original IL-2 is to the flight sim genre, it will always hold a special place in folks hearts. So maybe it’s time to stop asking that question. It is possible to think both are really great in their own right. Make no mistake about though DiRT Rally 2.0 is an outstanding game that took everything that was good about the original and improved upon it. There are very few games I would classify as a must buy but DiRT Rally 2.0 absolutely is one of them.
*** PS4 code provided by the publisher ***
- Reworked surfaces
- More authentic feel
- Legitimate feeling of danger at high speeds
- Lots of tuning required in Rallycross