If history tells us anything, DiRT 4 was always likely to deliver a stellar rally experience. Harking back to 1998 and the days of Colin McRae Rally, Codemasters has consistently tightened its grip on the market and has continued to steadily deliver better, more refined rally experiences year on year, 2017 is no different.
Sure, DiRT 4 isn’t blessed with the jaw-dropping visuals seen in the Australian outback with Turn 10’s Forza Horizon 3, but it still looks fantastic and anyway, what the hell do looks that matter when you’re careering down a beaten, groggy road in rural Michigan at breakneck speed? Short answer, it doesn’t. In truth, the only thing that matters at that moment as the mud proceeds to splatter the front of your car is setting the best split time, to beat all opponents that threaten your spot at the top, everything else is quite simply put…irrelevant.
DiRT 4: PC, Xbox One [Reviewed], PS4
Release Date: 06 June 2017
Price: £54.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Developer/Publisher]
When you’re not setting fastest split times in a series of tough, competitive stages that will take you from the freezing cold temperatures of Sweden to the rural hills and picturesque valleys of Wales, DiRT 4 will have you throwing around whatever vehicle class you opt for in a variety of different modes. Be it Career Mode with its multiple disciplines to suit your every driving requirement, Competitive Mode with daily, weekly and monthly community events to test yourself against others, the world of Multiplayer or the sheer fun that derives from chasing down the clock or blasting through blocks in Joyride, DiRT 4 will meet your rally needs, serving up a feast of driving styles in the process.
DiRT 4‘s slogan “Be Fearless” typifies the game perfectly. To overcome and conquer its many forms you will need to be just that…fearless. It’s not enough to cruise around locations and tracks seated firmly in your comfort zone. The competitive nature of the DiRT series doesn’t allow drivers to rest up for a single second in a personal quest for victory. Despite dialling down the frantic but frankly joyful erratic driving of DiRT Rally you won’t be taking in the scenery throughout your experience in DiRT 4 but rather pushing yourself to the edge of your limit, executing tight winding corners that could promote you to hero status or see you wildly plant your vehicle on its roof in an drastic attempt to become one.
With so much content to delve into, DiRT 4 offers a truly exemplary experience of mixed racing. After selecting your driving preference Gamer or Simulation (a choice dependent on personal skill), the bulk of DiRT 4‘s main action lies behind Career Mode. Competing across the globe in an assortment of disciplines ranging from the trademark thrills of Rally to Landrush, Rally Cross and Historic Rally you really get a good feel for how the game plays out and what class of vehicle you prefer. As you complete each stage or race you’ll be rewarded based on your performance and receive cash to purchase better engineers, co-drivers, cars and a bigger garage to store your newly acquired vehicles. You’ll also receive skills points and a better standing with your chosen sponsors if you manage to meet certain event requirements such as avoiding collisions and meeting a select difficulty percentage.
Your driving skills might be the main focus of Career Mode but DiRT 4 is about more than just personal skill, it’s about the team around you. Improving not only on yourself but the team looking after you is fundamental to success. With more cash and experience gained from a succession of successful events, you can afford to live at the upper end of the spectrum. A larger garage can be purchased that will provide you with more space for your car collection not to mention extra engineers to help keep your car ticking over nicely. Ensuring you have the best team around is key and while you might begin with D or lower ranked operatives, the better you perform out on track the quicker you’ll be shifting through the ranks to achieve a far greater team of personnel to help ease your ascent to the top.
To cement your place in rally folklore you’ll need to work your way through each class, which are broken down into a selection of tournaments, requiring a select number of wins to unlock and move on to the next. The sheer diversity of courses and tracks available make up for the distinct lack of available cars and play a massive part in making DiRT 4 such a grand challenge of a motorsport experience. Adapting to DiRT 4‘s troubling conditions takes some work and can be potentially tricky to work through but difficulty varies depending on location and weather conditions.
Providing a thorough examination of player ability, mettle and nerve; navigating the often treacherous conditions of DiRT 4 is a physically demanding challenge. As your vehicle ticks over and the clock begins to count down a thick cloud of fog begins to set in on the dirt road ahead. Drastic weather conditions such as this and night stages are there to unsettle you by make visibility extremely low, however, it is equally as exciting to throw yourself in at the deep end to fully test yourself. Driving in these conditions you’ll need to pay close attention to your co-drivers every call which is essential in keeping you out of a tree or off a steep verge that will hinder your chances of progression or worse still, eliminate you from the stage entirely.
Seated directly next to you, your co-driver acts like your very own personal guardian angel, firing off directions like a madman possessed. To get safely from start to a slowdown meet with the stage marshall your co-driver will shout out every single direction you’ll ever need. All types of corner in DiRT 4 are numbered 1-6 depending on how difficult each particular corner is. For example, left 6 represents a wide corner that can be taken with more speed and feels adequately more comfortable to get around than say a left 1 which will have you praying to the gods as you slam on the brakes or make full use of the handbrake to veer yourself round the narrow bend.
Understanding the list of directions at hand can take a little adjustment but mastering each call relies on plenty of practice. Nailing a directional call can mean everything to a rally car driver. React even just a millisecond too late, mishear a turn or underestimate a corner and you’ll likely find yourself in a ditch or upside down. With practice, you’ll find yourself weaving from a tight right 1 into a wide left 6 before handbraking into a tight right hairpin in no time at all.
Once you’ve had your fill of Career mode, DiRT 4 offers players a mouthwatering level of replayability including multiplayer, free roam and Joyride but it’s the newly introduced ‘Your Stage’ creation tool that will draw the most attention. Accessible via Events > Freeplay, Your Stage allows each player to create their very own stage and then race it or share it online with the world. In spite of there only being 2 slider options to alter stage length and complexity, Your Stage will keep players coming back for more due to the sheer depth of possibilities.
When you’re done fiddling around with either slider to create your dream stage DiRT 4 will automatically generate that stage design for you. Better still, you can partner your newly designed stages with your blossoming career to continue to reap the rewards of your sponsorship deals. Your Stage provides an almost infinite wealth of stages and because of that, even long after you’re through with Career Mode, there will be plenty of offer to keep you coming back for more.
Visually, DiRT 4 is arguably Codemasters best-looking entry since 1998. From the blisteringly hot asphalt streets of Tarragona, Spain to the orange dusty roads and picket fences of Fitzroy, Australia, DiRT 4 is a truly gorgeous racing spectacle, but more than that, its environmental aspects are a joy to behold. You’ll notice the little details as you race through the game. In the Welsh valley. dirt kicks up onto your vehicle as you sprint through the spray of mud puddles in rain-soaked Powys. In Michigan, an assortment of beautiful red, yellow and orange coloured autumn leaves take flight as you hit corners in rural America, DiRT 4 may not be of the visual prowess of Forza Horizon 3 but it’s a mighty fine leap for Codemasters and very pleasing on the eye.
DiRT 4 is a triumph for Codemasters. An absorbing blend of challenge and content, DiRT 4 takes in an assortment of beautiful locales as players race, sprint and compete to be the greatest rally driver on the planet. The addition of Your Stage adds a level of creativity that will have you creating stages for hours on end, couple that with a wonderfully deep Career Mode and a mixture of additional modes to get stuck into and you’ve got an exemplary motorsport title with endless hours of replayability that looks stunning and plays like a dream.