Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
DiRT 4 is the latest in Codemasters’ long-running and highly successful rally series of the same name. It wasn’t all that long ago that the DiRT series got an entry, but considering how well it was received, it’s not all that surprising to see DiRT 4 get out the door as quickly as it has. What is surprising is how well the game has been thought out regarding what it brings that its predecessor didn’t and how smooth the ride is in (almost) all phases of the game.
It should be noted that DiRT 4 is not targeted for casual audiences, but rather sticks firmly to its roots towards rally purists. Despite that, it does make a few notable attempts to expand those horizons. DiRT 4 packs plenty of features as well, from a single player Career Mode to Competitive Online multiplayer, and a Course building mode, so there’s plenty of content packed in.
Here’s what you need to know about DiRT 4.
DiRT 4 makes an effort to open up its audience.
Coming off of 2015’s DiRT Rally, the developers appear to have made an attempt to strike a balance between accessibility and hardcore difficulty. When you first boot up the game, you are met with a screen that asks you if you prefer “Gamer” or “Simulation” mode, and you can probably tell what kind of experiences follow each path. While “Gamer” mode is certainly the less intense of the two, it is not without difficulty and does require a degree of learning the systems that are unique to the DiRT series.
The progression of its career mode also appears targeted towards more casual audiences as well. The game starts you off in a single car rally mode where you carefully navigate peaks, valleys, and turns while trying not to run your car off the road and hit the best time. It is only after completing a round of these races that the game catapults you into the realm of racing, which offers up their own unique set of challenges. Races are more about navigating the courses than they are blazing through them as crashes can simultaneously devastate your chances of victory and the integrity of your car. And to succeed, you can’t attain the former without ensuring the latter.
The core of the DiRT 4 experience is its Career Mode.
The main attraction with DiRT 4 is its Career Mode which lets you pick a character and then design your own racing team, from its name to the colors as well as hiring staff to help you along the way. Things start relatively simple as you partake in a single car rally race, trying to get the fastest time while trying not to skid off the road, and serves as a fertile learning ground for mastering breaking, weight shifting, and acceleration techniques.
As you progress through the Career Mode, you will earn in game currency and unlock new tiers of more advanced vehicles and staff. Your progress is tied to an overall level, which can be supplemented with added experience by partaking in online multiplayer races. That said, if you’re new to rally racers, your best chance to advance levels quickly is by sticking to the single player races until you are competent enough to hold your own against what is undoubtedly a more refined online racer community.
DiRT 4’s humongous collection of vehicles will constantly throw different ways to race at you.
One of the biggest reasons why DiRT 4 manages to stay fresh is the fact that it has so many different vehicle types, each corresponding to different events, that it feels like you’re almost always unlocking new ways to race. As you progress through Career Mode, you will unlock a multitude of different cars from trucks to dune buggies.
Each car type you unlock handles so differently from the one before it, that it can be hard to get your feet under you if you aren’t a racing fanatic. Dune buggies, for example, have a much more sensitive turning motion around corners and it can be easy to get yourself turned around.
That said, like most things, a little practice can go a long way, and learning the eccentricities of each car adds another layer to the game’s already deep offerings.
If you’ve never played a Rally Sim before and have always wanted to check one out, DiRT 4 is as good a place as any to start. Online races are easy to jump into, and there are more than enough ways packed into the game for you to learn everything you need to. It’ll take a little patience and an alternate way of thinking about racing games if you want to succeed, but if you’re willing and open to hunker down and play by its rules, there’s a ton of fun to be had with DiRT 4.