Over the years rally games have grown in depth and complexity as, with each new console generation, players have become more and more demanding and less forgiving of anything other than absolute perfection.
However Codemasters are one of the few developers that have not only managed to stay ahead of the curve but have consistently set new standards with each of their rally outings. By all accounts their last offering, DiRT Rally, was probably the toughest racing game we’d ever played. Beautiful, wonderfully captivating, totally unique and, consequently, tougher than a bear armed with a flick knife. After playing DiRT Rally we would spend countless hours in bed staring at the ceiling and playing over that last corner, that last skid, that disastrous crash time and time again. DiRT Rally wasn’t a game. It was an obsession. You can imagine then the collective shiver that ran down our spines when we heard that Codemasters had announced a new rally game called DiRT 4. On the outside we rubbed our hands and giggled like a randy uncle at a family wedding. And, yet, beneath the smiles, there was the palpable odour of naked fear. Would DiRT 4 be the Dark Souls of rally racing? Would this be the start of yet more sleepless nights? Could we afford yet more counselling sessions?
We’re pleased to report that, after nearly two weeks of test driving DiRT 4, we can safely say that this latest gem is by far one of the best rally games we’ve ever played. Bar none. Taking a leaf out of DiRT Rally’s book, Codemasters have ingeniously given players the choice of two driving styles; racer or simulation. With racer, you have a more arcade experience which caters for the boy racer in all of us. Simulation (which we strangely enough preferred) provides more realistic handling, driving conditions and vehicle damage. Whichever style you choose, you also have the option of being able to change your mind pretty much anywhere in the game. Brilliant. Once you boot up DiRT 4 you have the option to take part in a series of driving tutorials that will introduce you to various elements of the DiRT experience. These include how to handle different road surfaces, weather conditions and types of vehicles. You can of course skip this hand holding introduction, but you’ll do so at your own risk.
Once you get past the driving school, DiRT 4 offers a number of racing challenges including Free Play, Global Challenges, Multiplayer, Career and Joy Ride. Free Play is as it sounds. Here you can create your own tracks and challenges and test your driving skills to your hearts content. Similar to Free Play, Joy Ride is the wind down zone of DiRT 4. In this mode you take on challenges, knock down boards as quickly as you can and earn medals. If you’re not happy with your performance, you can start the challenge again for just one more go. We spent a good 8 hours in Joy Ride and only stopped when it was time for dinner. The career mode is the meat and potatoes of the game. With this mode you can choose to race for a particular team or , once you have the necessary cash, create your own team ( complete with your own PR department and HQ) and race for your self. The multiplayer mode of DiRT 4 is worthy of the asking price on its own. Stuffed to the brim with countless features and options, the multiplayer mode will be your first port of call if you’d rather test your mettle against real players rather than AI opponents.
Graphically DiRT 4 is a visual treat. Every car has been flawlessly recreated with the monster processing power of the Xbox One doing an amazing job with lighting, weather effects and gorgeous scenery. During one race in Sweden we were so captivated by the snow scenery that we wanted to stop the car to take a look around. By the way, this is not recommended on a busy race track with cars speeding towards you.
Over all, DiRT 4 is the most complete – and rewarding – rally game we’ve ever played. For anyone who loves rally racing, there simply is no other choice. For newbies to the genre, then there can’t be a better way of getting your first racing fix than DiRT 4. The king that was DiRT Rally is dead. Long live the new king. Go buy.
9 out of 10