In a field of rally racing games, Codemasters’ Dirt Rally held the crown. Now, the UK-based developer has launched a sequel. Dirt Rally 2.0 is out now for Xbox One, PS4 and PC – here’s our look at the Xbox One version.
Born out of the Colin McRae Rally series, Dirt Rally 2.0 is the latest in a series of games which Codemasters has spent tuning, changing and perfecting over the course of the last 20 years. That’s a heck of a long time to spend on any game franchise, let alone one where the core mechanics don’t allow for much creativity. We’ve seen a bit of that in Dirt 3 and 4, but Dirt Rally’s focus was purely on the rally racing itself – and 2.0 is no different.
Dirt Rally 2.0’s focus on simulation is so strong that, while playing, you almost feel guilty you didn’t invest in that race seat, complete with manual gear shift and all the appropriate pedals – as well as a steering wheel of course. Unless you actually did invest in all that, which case Dirt Rally 2.0 is probably a dream come true for you (and you’re probably playing on a PC with a multi-monitor setup).
The handling in Dirt Rally 2.0 is so accurate that everything makes a difference, and all of that represents layer upon layer of challenges for you. Every change to the car makes a real difference, and every surface change does as well. So do you go for more control in the gravel-filled corners, at the risk of losing speed on a stretch of asphalt? Or do you go for a completely different setup, or one that balances out the needs that the track demands of you?
There is so much to tweak that Dirty Rally 2.0 has a lot of potential to overwhelm all but the most avid of rally racers. Not only does it help to have a decent understanding of how changes to your loadout can affect the behavior of your car, you’ll also find that controlling it is a challenge no matter how you prepare yourself. Expect a ton of crashes, slipping off-road, spinning into a tree and slowing down to a crawl before you manage to really glide through a corner after you master the art of the drift. It’s a steep learning curve indeed, but ultimately one of the most rewarding ones in racing – since it actually feels like putting in the work pays off at the end.
There’s a plethora of cars at your disposal, with over 50 rally racing cars to choose from. And yes, with six rally locations and eight rallycross tracks, Dirt Rally 2.0 felt somewhat short on content to me. Don’t get me wrong – mastering a single track will take you hours upon hours, but it’s a further testament to the fact that Dirt Rally 2.0 wasn’t designed with the casual racer in mind.
The game comes with a team management and career mode as well, but it feels slightly out of place as an “off the track” activity in a game that is so firmly rooted in its driving model – my main takeaway from the career mode was that it gave me a few “free” restarts, making it more forgiving than a regular rally. I thought the fusion of off-track and on-track was done well in GRID, but Dirt Rally gives me that “let’s get in the simulator” feel more than it feels like a campaign-driven game. And that’s not a bad thing – it just means it’s a game for a certain kind of audience.
Visually, the devil’s in the details. It’s not as instantly gorgeous as something like Forza Horizon 4, but Dirt Rally 2.0 offers some amazing vistas if you give yourself the time to check them out – or spend time watching the replays. There are little extra touches all around though, like the way that a surface changes as you’re driving on it – something that’s also reflected in the driving model at the same time.
Dirt Rally 2.0 is yet another stunning achievement from the racing maestros at Codemasters, but it’s far less accessible than Dirt 4 was – which is the more “fun” option if you’re the kind of racing game fanatic who takes their racing seriously but still prefers the comfort and ease of using a standard gamepad to control it. Want a little more intensity and realism from your experience? Then Dirt Rally 2.0 has you covered.