DiRT 5 preview (PC)

DiRT isn’t coming out until mid-October, but we got a sneak peak at its Playgrounds mode recently. Time for a preview.

What we know

The DiRT series may be tied in name to the DiRT Rally games, but they’re miles apart in terms of gameplay styles and the intended audience. Where DiRT Rally caters to the enthusiast audience, DiRT is geared towards a different kind of adrenaline, blending MotorStorm with DiRT in an explosive mix of arcade-style racing across a variety of different surfaces.

With a story-driven campaign that spans the globe with locations from Brazil to the arctic circle, there is plenty of diversity here, and the series also brings back some its more frivolous modes with the return of Gymkhana and Playgrounds.

One of the most exciting new features, however, is four player split screen racing – perfect for a more arcade-oriented racing game and a pleasant surprise for a game as visually demanding as this one. Normally, with the exception of the excellent GRIP, split screen racing seems like it’s reserved for kart games these days.

dirt 5

What we saw

During trade show season we’d normally try and meet with Codemasters to get a hands on preview for the game, but thankfully the developers made a previous version available that we were able to test through Steam. As with last year’s GRiD, a Windows 10 setup is required and the system requirements are similar.

This particular build didn’t focus on the story campaign or any of the other ‘core’ gameplay modes, but did let us play around with the brand new Playgrounds mode, the equivalent of creating a huge skating rink for your rally racing car. There’s also a big social element to this, with the ability to share your creations with others and download playgrounds that were crafted by others if you don’t feel particularly creative yourself. In addition, online leaderboards are included, which should make people come back to previously played creations as well.

dirt 5b

What we thought

Even in this pre-release phase, I was surprised how much user generated content is available already. What was also good to see is how diverse that content is already, which speaks to the ability of the included editor to let players really engage with their creativity. I’m assuming some of these creations came from people on the development team at Codemasters, but if they can engage the community post-launch then this will certainly add a lot of lasting appeal to the game. If that happens then I think the game could also use some more search options in addition to the ranking system that’s there now, but that’s really just nutpicking because we’re talking about a scenario where the game becomes so popular that wading through content becomes a challenge.

The ability to share and download creations is also great for those who don’t have the knack or ability to spend a few hours crafting an exciting new level. While the editor is intuitive and I was able to put a few elements in place and create something that I personally enjoyed, others had created far more sophisticated levels. Luckily, DiRT 5’s performance is great, with the editor running smoothly and diving into a level only taking a few seconds. Although it’s challenging to create something even close to what the developers make, smooth performance make the experience frustration-free from a technical point of view.

If you move past the creative portion, then just playing around with Playgrounds is a lot of fun as well. Before long, depending on the track, you’ll be doing crazy jumps and experiencing insane crashes – many of those intentional because Playgrounds encourages you to experiment. In that sense, my own level was way too conservative, but I’m looking forward to building a few outrageous ramps come release time. DiRT 5 releases October 16th.

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