DiRT Rally is back! Almost three years after 2016’s release impressed us with impeccable design (and a brief trip to DiRT 4), Codemasters has presented us with DiRT Rally 2.0. Is this sequel worthy of an investment, or does the original deserve to spend some more time in your console? Find out in our DiRT Rally 2.0 PS4 review.
While 2016’s DiRT Rally was a great-looking racer, DiRT Rally 2.0 ups the ante and is the best-looking rally game to date. It feels like an unfair comparison, especially when you consider that when the original launched, the PS4 Pro was not yet released. The difference is noticeable, as aliasing has all but been eliminated in the vehicles and tracks. HDR has finally been introduced into a DiRT game, and it is breathtaking. Forests, prairies, cliffs, and clouds all look fantastic, and the brightness of headlights in replays impresses. Some down-range environment details can occasionally show some fuzziness, but it hardly matters when you’re flying by in one of the game’s 50 cars, all of them wonderfully detailed and modeled.
The handling in DiRT Rally 2.0 is pitch perfect. Drivers are able to barrel down a tight crevice in the middle of a forest, come within inches of slamming into a boulder jutting out from the side of the inside corner, and come out the other side, covered in dirt. Rally racing is all about driving on the edge of control, and much like in the game that preceded it, DiRT Rally 2.0 allows those with the skills the chance to show them off.
Audio is also something that is useful in racing games. Rally racing requires constant listening not only to the car, but also to the co-driver. A co-driver is a passenger, who calls out the turns and features of a given course. An effective co-driver can make the difference between winning or losing a stage. As with the first DiRT Rally, the voice work on co-drivers is impeccable. It wouldn’t be surprising to learn that Codemasters reused the audio from the previous game, and then expand upon it for 2.0. When you have high-quality assets that you can squeeze some more life out of, you can hardly be faulted for doing so.
An example call out from a co-driver would be a six right, extra-long, into three right narrows don’t cut over crest. This means that there is an upcoming right-handed turn, though the higher the number the less severe the turn—a six is basically a straightaway that bends to either side. This slight turn is longer than usual turns, then is followed by a fairly sharp right turn, which narrows as it progresses, all on an uphill slope. A lot of information is conveyed in a very short amount of time. Meanwhile, if the terrain you’re driving over is particularly bumpy, the rocking of the car will be reflected in the driver’s voice, which is an awesome effect that really adds to the immersion factor of DiRT Rally 2.0.
Not that the series is too well-known for this, but DiRT Rally 2.0 is lacking in multiplayer modes at launch. Your only option for real-time racing is finding or setting up a custom championship for up to eight players. There are no clubs or any real sort of social gaming options in DiRT Rally 2.0. There are at least asynchronous challenges, whereby players compete for bragging rights on leaderboards. There are daily and weekly challenges, featuring anywhere from one to 10 stages each, and the asynchronous nature of rally racing fits right in with these challenges.
While a lack of game modes might turn some off, the single-player content is not lacking in DiRT Rally 2.0. All courses are based in the real world and span several to dozens of kilometers. They also often span across multiple stages. The in-game weather system has been improved, which is bad news for those who can barely hold a decent racing line in this simulation. Visibility decreases the worse the weather gets, while the surface of the road degrades as more racers track mud over it. Your spot in the race can determine how much extra grip your tires feel or lack.
DiRT Rally 2.0’s career mode is also pretty barebones. You’ve got a team of engineers who can help unlock a vehicle’s potential, which is accomplished by simply driving more in the car. There are a couple different championships to enter, each of which requires the proper car type. If one car is in the middle of an event, it cannot be used elsewhere. Tuning can be performed at the start of events, and before the start of each new location (but not in between stages). Factors such as performance have to be carefully weighed against durability. For shorter stages, more performance would be desired, as the durability trade off may be negligible. However, the next stage may be twice the length, a factor you didn’t consider when all you saw was increased power. It’s an interesting mechanic to learn to deal with, especially in the middle of a race.
Don’t Cut, or Get Dented
Damage modeling remains an impressive aspect of DiRT Rally 2.0. Rally racing is a tough sport, both physically on the driver, co-driver, and the vehicles themselves. Parts come flying off and are easily damaged in any race, as no corner is guaranteed. Bang up a car hard enough, and the hood will eventually fly off, making your engine much louder as its noise level competes with that of your co-driver. If the engine sounds funny, such as a severely damaged radiator making clicking noises, your co-driver will comment on it. But one of the most common causes of race slowdown, a popped tire, usually needs to be changed during the race. Simply coming to a stop and then pressing the proper button will instantly change the busted tire, at the expense of adding a penalty time to your finish. This penalty shortens as your team gets more experienced.
Rally racing is the star of the show again, though rallycross (circuit-based sprint racing featuring closed courses and a mixture of asphalt and gravel tracks) makes a return. There’s even a championship mode, which spans dozens of stages. It’s a marathon of a game mode and will likely require multiple playthroughs to come out on top, unless of course you are playing against very easy opponents and with hardcore damage modeling turned off. You might as well be playing an arcade racer, though, if you’re not looking for that kind of challenge.
DiRT Rally 2.0 features some positively exhilarating racing. While there aren’t a ton of different modes to choose from this time around, there are plenty of courses to make up for it. The lack of real-time multiplayer may dissuade some from purchasing it, as they can’t directly compete with friends, but the asynchronous challenge events provide plenty of real-world competition on a daily and weekly basis. As usual, Codemasters knows rally racing like no one else.