DIRT 5 REVIEW FOR PS4.
Codemasters has been the go-to developer for racing games for years, beginning with Colin McRae Rally in 1998. The Colin McRae Rally series eventually became the Dirt series, and Dirt 5 is the latest installment in the long-running racing sim but still manages to carve out its own track.
While the Dirt Rally games are about as serious as racing sims come, Dirt 5 is a breath of colorful, arcade-y fresh air. This is a vibrant arcade racing game that lets the player decide which of its multiple racing disciplines they prefer, with Nolan North and Troy Baker affording it a level of unexpected video game voice acting royalty to boot. Throw in its deep Playgrounds Mode and Dirt 5 is a game that can keep on giving, as long as its community continues to support it.
Braking’s for wimps
Dirt 5 is at its best when you’re drifting around muddy corners and skidding over icy bends. Each race is thrilling with tough AI opponents on the higher difficulties that punish your mistakes and a welcome level of accessibility in its standard difficulty settings.
Instead of getting bogged down in the details of aerodynamics, throttle, and any other technical car mumbo-jumbo, Dirt 5 prioritizes two things: speed and drifting. Dirt 5 is a pure, fast, and fun arcade rally game with enough depth to stay interesting throughout your playthrough. All of this can also be captured in a fun photo mode, which allows you to pause the action to grab screenshots of your car hurtling through the mud.
For better and for worse, though, the lack of detail in the car mechanics means that there isn’t too much difference car-to-car. Stats are broken down into two key categories: speed and handling. There are plenty of officially licensed rally cars from times gone by and in recent days, but there isn’t much point in trying them all out when you could just pick the fastest one. If you’re after realism, the Dirt Rally games will be more your pace.
Getting dirty with Troy Baker and Nolan North
Dirt 5’s main offering is its Career Mode. Throughout, the in-game podcast and its overly-loud presenters tell a story about an old rivalry between AJ (Troy Baker) and Bruno Durand (Nolan North). You’re the rookie driving their way up the leaderboards, skidding your way to the top of the rally world by picking and choosing your races in a variety of race disciplines.
These races take place across ten distinct and visually stunning locations. In total, there are over 70 routes to drift and race through, though you will see these same locations and routes over and over again. Even the impressive dynamic weather, which can transport you through all four seasons during the course of one in-game day, becomes old hat. Some more race tracks and locations would not have gone amiss.
The several race-types also do little to shake things up. Gymkhana, which tasks you with getting a high score in an arena with fidgety controls, and PathFinder, where you locate the quickest route in a superfast car, represent the most unique offerings in the game. While these modes are unique, they aren’t much fun. Fortunately, you can choose which races to compete in, so you won’t be left playing through modes you don’t enjoy.
A playground of mud, dirt, and all things rally
Outside of its Career Mode, Dirt 5 introduces Playgrounds. This track creator mode is lifted right out of Trackmania, and that’s no bad thing. Playgrounds lets you create, share, and play tracks made by the Dirt 5 community. Three Playgrounds tracks can be made: Gate Crasher, Gymkhana, and Smash Attack. For each style, there’s an in-depth creator tool, which can lead to some impressive and inventive races and challenges. Throughout my time with Playgrounds, I jumped over buses, careened through a variant of Rainbow Road, and more.
If racing is the main meal of Dirt 5, Playgrounds Mode is its dessert — it’s not the main course, but it’s what you’ll stay behind for. Playgrounds Mode can potentially add tons of replayability to the game, but it achieving this is dependant on how inventive and creative its community remains in the weeks and months to come. This is bolstered by a standard online multiplayer and a split-screen offering, which allows you to race rival rally drivers in traditional and party modes. These party modes include Vampires, which is essentially tag but with cars, and King, where players must grab a crown and then hold onto it while being hunted down.
Next-gen is drifting into view
Playing Dirt 5 on the PS4, long loading screens and visual hiccups are unfortunately present, which are issues that will hopefully be ironed out for the PS5 and Xbox Series X versions. A 40-second loading screen before each race becomes tedious to sit through, and the game seems to struggle to keep up with itself on current-gen machines, as lighting pop-in and visual inconsistencies dampen an otherwise incredible visual experience. Fortunately, Codemasters is promising a free upgrade to the next-gen version of Dirt 5 for all current-gen players.
Dirt 5 Review | The Final Verdict
Dirt 5 is not a serious racing sim, but it doesn’t have to be. This is a game that understands the thrills of watching a rally car drifting across uneven ground and puts you right in the driver’s seat. No further detail is needed. Just strap in, put your foot to the floor and drive. When you’re not skidding across the ice or jumping over sand dunes, Playgrounds Mode lets you create your own track for others to play online. It’s a fantastic addition to the series and one that could add hours more fun to the game if the community sticks with it.
Ultimately, this is a game that is more content with throwing you around muddy corners than it is bogging you down in the details. Codemasters has treated us to a thrilling, bright, and fun arcade rally experience that should be a thrill for racing game fans. While there are some visual issues and duds in the various different race disciplines, it’s easy to overlook them due to how much Dirt 5 does right.