Who knew dirt could look this pretty?
For more than 30 years now Codemasters has been creating some of the world’s best racing games. These include popular, long-standing franchises like Grid, Micro Machines, and my personal favourite, DiRT. Naturally, then, I was thrilled to recently get behind the wheel to take DiRT 4 out for a test drive.
DiRT 4, available on PS4 and Xbox One, is a follow-up to last year’s outstanding DiRT Rally. It builds upon its predecessor in virtually every way, adding new modes, new types of racing, and a whole lot more. Moreover, it redefines accessibility in a modern racing game with meticulous configuration options to suit gamers of all skill levels. If you prefer your racing to be muddy, gritty, and white-knuckled, it doesn’t get much better than DiRT 4.
Let’s take a look at what Codemaster’s latest racing game has to offer!
Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One
Welcome to Your Stage
By and large, the biggest game-changer in DiRT 4 is its all-new “Your Stage” customization mode. This innovative rally route creation tool lets you set a few parameters, then it auto-generates a customized course for you. The individual course sections blend so seamlessly with one another, you’d hardly believe they were designed by an algorithm. Plus, custom-created courses contain all the twists, turns, and grimy moments you’d expect from this type of racing.
Creating custom tracks is as simple as adjusting two sliders―one for complexity and one for length. You also have the option of five different locations: Australia, Spain, Michigan, Sweden or Wales. Each setting offers new terrain challenges, from Sweden’s slippery, snow-brushed countryside, to the Spain’s twisty, tarmac highways. To further tailor your course, there’s also the option to adjust the time-of-day, or the weather. That latter of which includes options for sun, rain, snow, or fog.
The near-infinite track configurations possible through the Your Stage editor is mind-boggling when you think about it. In a matter of a seconds you can create personalized courses possessing the look, feel, and authenticity of Championship races. What’s more, any created course can be shared with your friends, who can challenge your fastest recorded time. This adds a neat social component with practically unlimited replay value, given that no two courses are ever alike.
Perhaps even more exciting, custom courses appear in DiRT 4‘s career and multiplayer modes, exponentially increasing the game’s replay. What better way to keep the racing fresh and exhilarating than having new courses each and every time you log-on?
Start your career
Before heading out to your very first race, DiRT 4 gives you an option you rarely see in racing games: the choice between arcade or simulation controls. The arcade controls (called “Gamer”) are straight-forward and forgiving, letting you get the most out of these off-road machines. By contrast, the Simulation option gives you maximum control for an accurate true-to-life racing experience. Both control types offer unique advantages, but I found myself leaning towards the Gamer style since it’s so pick-up-and-play. To further customize the handling, there are also various driver assists features you can opt to turn on.
When beginning your career, the first thing you’ll do is create your driver, including their name, appearance, and such. From there, you’ll compete in off-road rallies, starting with local competitions and moving up to national, and international levels. What’s cool is that the Career mode relies on the same “Your Stage” course creator mentioned earlier. That means no two careers will ever be the same.
What’s more, DiRT 4‘s career feels like three games in one. On top of the rally races around the world, you’ll also take part in Landrush and Rallycross events. Both of these additional racing disciplines present new vehicle types and new challenges to overcome. Here’s a brief overview of each:
Landrush places you in Pro Buggies, Pro-2 and Pro-4 Trucks, and Crosskarts for circuits based in California, Nevada, and Mexico. The dirt tracks are extremely challenging, demanding expert use of throttling and oversteering. On the other hand, Rallycross is a sprint automobile racing sport where you drive door-to-door in fast, fierce competition. DiRT 4 has an official FIA World Rallycross Championship license, meaning you’ll be racing on real-world Rallycross circuits. These include Montalegre (Portugal), Lohéac Bretagne (France), Hell (Norway), Holjes (Sweden) and Lydden Hill (Great Britain).
As if that weren’t enough, DiRT 4 even includes a Historic Rally mode featuring classic rallying venues and antique cars. With all four racing disciplines offering unique challenges and different vehicles, the sheer variety in this game is astounding.
Build your team and garage
DiRT 4 expands upon the management system from DiRT Rally, giving you more control over your career. There’s a nice selection of personnel you can hire, each benefiting your team in some way. Your crew comes at a price though, specifically an agreed-upon percentage of credits you earn for completing racing.
Staff you can hire include a chief engineer, supporting engineers, a PR agent, Co-driver, and spotters. Engineers, for example, help your team develop better component parts for your vehicles, and optimize car tuning before racing. Just as important, your PR agent negotiates lucrative sponsor deals from companies like Thrustmaster, Reiger Suspension, and others. Most personnel contracts are for a limited term, so some micromanaging is required to keep your team in tiptop shape. Still, the benefits far outweigh the time needed to assemble a crew, so it’s well worth the effort.
In addition to team management, DiRT 4 also offers a robust garage area where you can buy and sell vehicles. There’s the option of purchasing new cars direct from dealers, or you might find better prices (at more risk) by shopping the classified ads. There are over 50 vehicles in all to buy, ranging from rally cars, supercars, trucks, buggies, and crosskarts.
The vehicle models are, as you’d expect from Codemasters, filled with the same extraordinary details found on their real-world counterparts. In a word, they look pristine. Once a vehicle is purchased, you then have the option of applying your team’s name, pattern, and colour. It’s a nice touch, though I wish there were more customization options (you can’t move your team’s logo, as example.)
DiRT 4 is certainly the best rally game on the market today, and among the best racing games period. It offers thrilling off-road racing and a powerful course creator for virtually unlimited replay value. Plus, it has four distinct racing styles (rally, landrush, rallycross, and historic rally) each presenting new challenges and vehicles. The real icing on the cake though is DiRT 4‘s accessibility―it contains control options for arcade-style racing and true-to-life simulation. All in all, it’s a fully fleshed out racing package, and easily Codemasters’ best yet.
+ Dirt, dust, and grime effects are excellent
+ Beautiful vehicle models
+ Gamer or Simulation control options
+ Robust track creator
+ Lengthy career mode
+ Expanded team management
– Some team micromanagement required
– More car customization options would be nice
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4.5/5