DiRT Rally Review – An Unforgiving Precision Racer

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DiRT Rally has been unleashed on the masses. Is it worthy of your time, or is it best left in the pits?

Read our review to find out.

Developer Codemasters has been working on the DiRT series for a long time, dating all the way back to 1998. From its original inception on the PC, and its successful migration to consoles, the series has always set the bar for real world simulated rally racing. Here we are almost twenty years later, and DiRT Rally is now on the scene and continues to create an extraordinary simulation of sight, sound and realistic physics.

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Let us begin by saying that if you are looking for a casual, easy to drive racer that is more arcade than sim, you are looking in the wrong place. DiRT Rally is a game that, without practice and an understanding of basic rally driving concepts, you will fail repeatedly, and by fail we mean you will crash, you will run off the course, and you will roll your car. Rally racing is inherently an unforgiving sport, and when you are driving 100+MPH down an old dirt road, you best pay attention to the your co-pilot and you best be prepared in advance by knowing your track and the terminology your co-pilot will be using. Don’t be discouraged by early failures, though, as practice will, as goes in real life, make you a better driver.

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Your career starts out with a choice from some slow moving cars, and that’s not a bad thing as their is a steep learning curve when it comes to driving. We went with the Renault Alpine A110 with a whopping 135HP. At first we were thinking this would be a slow cake walk, but once we started stage one in Monaco, we realized that wouldn’t be the case. After a 9th place finish in stage one, we slowly worked our way up the leaderboard, stage by stage, until we finished on the podium with 3rd place.

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Each car has it’s own feel to it, and the more you drive it the more that you can upgrade it. Hiring a team to assist you is also a key to success and more team members become available as you progress through your career. Having a good mechanic in the pits will help you get your car set-up properly for a stage covered in snow, or for a stage covered in rain and mud. For the most part, DiRT Rally doesn’t pit you against other drivers, it pits you against a given stage, the clock and the elements, and success doesn’t come easy. Each track seems like a narrow path with little room for error, so stay straight and true the best you can, and mind those cliffs on the right.

The audio for the game is incredibly accurate and realistic. We played with our HyperX headset and with the volume cranked up, the track sounded alive. You could hear rocks pinging against the undercarriage, the tires straining to hold the pavement, or the tires losing themselves on a dirt corner. The level of detail to the sounds of the game are only surpassed by the sights you’ll see if you use the bumper cam (our favorite and most successful view) as you fly along a given stage. The level of detail you’ll see from the bumper cam gives the game a realistic look that only a few games have achieved, regardless of the platform.

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DiRT Rally has 43 cars to race with, and while that may not seem like a lot, they covered a wide range of years, makes, and models. From the 60’s to today, you’ll probably find a car you like and will enjoy, once you get the hang of driving it. Interior views on the cars are all nicely detailed, and driving from the interior cockpit view gives the game a real world feel. Each car is its own animal, and just because you had a great run through a certain stage with one car, don’t expect to just jump into another one and duplicate that run right away. The handling of each car really is different and makes a difference.

Rally Racing is, and always will be a fast, dangerous, and unforgiving sport. It’s video game counterpart should be the same and DiRT Rally mirrors that world perfectly. From a screaming Subaru rocketing up Pike’s peak, to a bouncy jaunt through the rolling hills of Germany in a 135HP Renault, the game brings you the world of FIA from hill climbing, to rally cross to straight up stage smashing and it brings it with a realism you’ll appreciate.

Well done Codemasters.

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