Dirt Rally gets a VR upgrade for Playstation VR and becomes the top virtual reality racer on Playstation 4 at the moment. Here are our thoughts…
When Playstation VR came out, one of its flagship titles was Driveclub VR – merging one of the PS4’s best looking racers with the chance to experience it from the driver’s seat. There was just one problem: the transition to VR caused Driveclub’s visuals to take a significant hit, taking away much of the appeal. If you didn’t jump on the VR bandwagon until after you got a Playstation 4 Pro then this wasn’t that big of a problem due to the optimizations for Sony’s upgraded console – but the damage was already done.
Although the timing helps, Codemasters is taking a better approach with Dirt Rally. Its base game has been out for a while, but the VR-upgrade comes with Playstation 4 Pro support included – which is what we used for our test. Having played the base game at length – even though most of that was on an Xbox One – I was very pleasantly surprised with how good the game still looks in VR. Sure, the visual quality takes a bit of a hit, but it never feels like the game suffers for it.
That being said, Dirt Rally was never the audiovisual powerhouse that Driveclub was intended to be – the focus of Dirt Rally is on excellent gameplay, and the rally setting lends itself well to keeping the visuals relatively simple in terms of not having to render a lot of sprawling vistas and animated backdrops. In other words: it’s the perfect race experience for VR in its current (early-ish) state.
What’s important to note is that Dirt Rally in VR is ‘content complete’. There was a VR update for Trackmania, but it only gave you limited access to VR – Codemasters is delivering the entire game to you in virtual reality if that’s how you choose to experience it. And experience it, you should – the immersion is great and even though I’m an experienced Dirt Rally player I never had my heart racing as much as it did when I was approaching some of those all-too-familiar tricky turns in virtual reality. I’m actually a little sad to return to my Xbox One again after having playtested the VR version now.
Exclusive to the PSVR version of Dirt Rally is a two-player co-op mode, though I’m sure it’s nothing like what you would expect. In co-op, the player not wearing the headset acts as your navigator – which in theory is a great thing. The way it’s implemented made me say “I’ll stick to driving” though – navigating is reduced to a series of quick time events somewhat resembling the gameplay of your average rhythm-based music game like Rock Band or Guitar Hero.
In a game that is mind-blowingly good at the simulation aspect of rally racing – right down to stellar audio which really comes to life when hearing headphones over your VR headset – co-op felt a little out of place. Then again, it’s a way to involve the non-purists for whom Dirt Rally is too overwhelming, I suppose. It would have been nice to ‘sim’ the navigation part as well though – but reading off a list of audio cues probably wouldn’t be too much fun either. Instead, ‘deciphering’ a map while under time pressure could possibly be fun – and definitely an adrenaline rush.
Don’t let that stop you from grabbing the VR update for Dirt Rally though – it’s an essential purchase if you already own a headset and the base game. If you don’t then there’s a Dirt Rally bundle available now that includes the update as well as some DLC, and if you don’t have a VR headset but are thinking about getting one: this is the racer to get, hands down.