Dirt 5 Hands-On: dirt isn’t just about rally racing anymore

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It must be hard to iterate over a set formula, especially in racing games. Across the spectrum of styles in the genre, from Need For Speed ​​Underground to Gran Turismo and Forza Horizon somewhere in between, I loved but also felt Burnout in a certain way. Rally racing is an area that I hadn’t experienced much until Dirt 4, but having known where the series came from, Dirt 5 takes a noticeably different direction.

I got to grips with a preview version of Dirt 5 on PC, which features four tracks for brief racetracks with a handful of cars to select from. One track mixes street and off-road racing, two are purely muddy off-road activities and one is a hectic drift loop with sprint cars. It’s a very small piece of the game, but it’s immediately clear that – based on the demo – the emphasis is no longer on carefully following a co-pilot’s course instructions during an attack on the watch. The game tries to tap into the excitement of competitive head-to-head racing with a little attitude.

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Now playing: Exclusive DIRT 5 career mode gameplay

The experience is reminiscent of Forza Horizon 4 in that it controls in a way that bridges the gap between arcade and simulation (by default, all driver aids like traction control have been set to low. ). But similarities are also found in the environmental styles of the courses. For example, the Ultracross event type on the Norway track is made up of equal parts of pavement and dirt and features dynamic weather conditions, which remind me of all the races and changing seasons of the Horizon 4. Over the course of the race, the sun started to set and eventually set, which caused the race to continue in a pleasant chaotic nighttime snowstorm. The rapid snowfall accentuated the feeling of speed and reinforced the fact that my sloppy driving and tendency to swap paint with other riders would not have dire consequences.

On the courses in Brazil and China – the Stampede and Land Rush event types, respectively – it’s all muddy terrain tossing around as your tires slip through every lap. Here’s where Dirt 5 gets into the wild aspects of off-roading. Brazil features gap jumps and China has widened lanes and rough terrain, throwing out any idea of ​​a button-down rally simulation out the window. In the demo, you choose between rugged off-road trucks or agile superlite cars that behave very differently, but induce the same feeling of flexibility in the gameplay.

I did however find that the Sprint event on the Arizona course was lacking. This is a small left turn loop with cars sprinting at a very powerful speed where you have to maintain your drift better than the others to get the course through effectively. While this is a fresh idea for the series, it might not be the best showcase for the new direction or type of event.

Presentation-wise, Dirt 5 also shows a change in style by leaning into a low-key irreverence for the professional layout of past games and a Rage 2-like use of a neon color scheme. The change in attitude seems to reverberate throughout the single player story. While not part of the demo, developer Codemasters has given plenty of details about their new take on career mode (see the video above). It stars two rivals: your mentor AJ (played by Troy Baker) and ascendant superstar Bruno Durand (played by Nolan North). There is also an in-game podcast network that is used to tell and drive the story, which also reminds me of the radio hosts pushing you through the Forza Horizon campaigns. Throughout the career mode, you will choose which events to complete (said to offer branching paths) and which sponsors to represent to earn a better reputation.

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As we move on to the next gen with another wave of racing games and Dirt 5 in the spotlight, we see it both moving away from lore while also getting closer to the established arcade-sim hybrid – changes that might appeal to an audience that probably doesn’t. I haven’t given much thought to rally racing. Dirt 4 featured a Land Rush mode for buggies and trucks, and Rallycross as an alternative to track racing, but Dirt 5 puts those racing styles front and center while clearly emphasizing the exhilaration.

Based on the time spent with the demo, I’m not sure if Dirt 5 will necessarily overcome my fatigue with the racing genre as it seems to draw inspiration from others in so many ways, but it’s definitely a new take on the series. main Dirt. With Dirt 5, the series is no longer limited to rally races; instead, it embraces the chaos of off-roading, and at least that stays true to its name.

Again, what I played was a brief preview version and there will be a lot more to unbox when the game releases on October 9 of this year for PS4, Xbox One, and PC, and on PS5 and Xbox Series X. when those new generation consoles launch.


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