Game Review: Dirt 4 – Codies hits pay dirt

2015’s Dirt Rally was a screeching hairpin turn away from the accessibility of its predecessor, Dirt 3. Motorway-width tracks were swapped with serpentine goat trails girt by car-shredding obstacles. If you went into any Dirt Rally corner cocky, your Dirt 3 ass got cartwheeled into a tree.

That was great news for dedicated simmers, but it proved impenetrable for anybody who wasn’t Colin McCrae incarnate. Thankfully, Codemasters has decided to expertly slalom between these two extremes in Dirt 4.

You’re asked from the very onset how you roll: expert track shredder (Simulation) or casual Sunday driver (Gamer), and from there you can tweak a multitude of sliders to dial in your perfect Dirt difficulty. Simulation was our bag, and we’re happy to report that any sadists out there can buy into Dirt 4 with confidence, because the franchise has lost none of its brutality.

Alternatively, if you’re after a forgiving experience that doesn’t demand perfect entry speeds and masterful weight-to-tyre transference, Gamer is like a more realistic redux of Dirt 3. There’s challenge to be had, even with all the assists on. Codies never does a Sega Rally on you.

The Dirt series has never been this accessible before, it’s also never looked this good nor been as endlessly replayable. The somewhat utilitarian visuals of the franchise have some extra colour thrown into them, thanks to improved lighting and fog systems. There are also a number of cool trackside flourishes that breathe some extra life into things from time to time — idiot spectators who insist on using the track as a launch pad for their drones, for example.

It’s easy to mistake these as cool scripted events when you see them crop up in the greatly expanded career mode, but it’s especially magical to see them dynamically unfold in one of the tracks you’ve “built” in the amazing new Your Stage function.

Though it’s not the piece-by-piece LEGO block track builder you probably have in your mind right now, Your Stage is every bit a game changer. Using sliders, you will set a landscape type (typically tied to a continent), the length of the course, and then its complexity. Smack the “generate” button and you’re handed a variation in a second.

Mash it until you see something that looks palatable to your tastes and give it a test run. We did this countless times and were extremely impressed with the results. Not once could we spot an obvious seam in the track that revealed the algorithm at work. Not once could we identify a particular chunk of scenery or road that belonged to an obvious template. Your Stage will offer you hours upon hours of unique gameplay.

And that’s not even before you’ve dropped a whole lot of time into multi, the Dirtfish rally school, or the specific thrills offered by the three side-disciplines in Dirt 4 (historic rally, landrush and rallycross). Career-wise, you’ll also find yourself agonising over the off-track, day to day of micro-managing resources, facilities, and team members to keep your motorsport dream alive and running.

The career mode, like all facets of Dirt 4, represents a big step up from the staid offerings of Dirt Rally. Much like an actual rally car, once you strap yourself into the rollcaged bucket seat of Dirt 4 it’ll be extremely tough to extricate yourself from it anytime soon. Like, jaws-of-life after wrapping around a tree, difficult.

Score: 9/10

Posted in Blog, Games