Dirt Rally 2.0 reviewby Samarth Kanal on 17th May 2019
Dirt Rally 2.0 is the finest rally sim ever
Throttle and brakes feathered by my feet, trees lining the narrowest, darkest roads of Argentina and the co-driver's calls are coming thick and fast: Codemasters’ Dirt Rally 2.0 has brought rallying to consoles and computers and in the process of delivering a – wholly incredible, by the way – rally simulator. It’s also made one of the most terrifying games ever.
Yes, Dirt Rally 2.0 is scary. Forget Slenderman or Silent Hill, the sense of danger here eclipses those horror staples. The first thing you’ll realise is that damage actually means something in this racing game. My first foray off-road in a Renault Alpine A110 was going oh-so-well until a brief, and I mean really brief, brush with a bit of brush as I skidded off the gravel – and the Alpine punctured a tyre.
Motor sport is dangerous, we all know that, but racing titles seldom show just how dangerous they can be. Codemasters has some history in bringing those bits of racing to life, going back to the TOCA series that culminated in the impressive, visceral Race Driver: Grid (2008) and its somewhat disappointing sequels. But the damage was beautiful to behold, and Dirt Rally 2.0 carries on that tradition.
The learning curve is punishing here, make no mistake. But you will make mistakes, and learn, and get good enough until you’re at least competent on the various surfaces that the game offers. There's gravel in various degrees of thickness, dirt (of course) and tarmac, and those surfaces are vastly different to each other.
The developer has clearly done its homework when it comes to the stages. Choose your tyres – wet, soft, medium or hard – carefully. No game has ever harnessed such an in-depth knowledge of terrain, probably, and it shows just how passionate the people at Codies are when it comes to motor sport.
And as a result of the damage and dirt deformation, this is probably the closest I'll ever get to driving a rally car. There's a good choice here, from Mini Coopers of the 1960s, a boat-like Citröen DS 21, positively lethal ‘Rally GT’ cars that include an Aston Martin GT4 and Chevrolet Camaro, the Subaru Impreza and Mitsubishi Evo (that needed to be included) and some modern R5 and WRC cars. They all handle differently and you’ll find your own favourite. Well done to anybody who can handle the rear-wheel-drive machines with confidence.
More: Dirt Rally 2.0 car list
The stages (only six locations are included with multiple stages) are varied enough, and with the different weather and lighting choices there’s a great degree of replayability. Thankfully, more stages will be added with the Monte Carlo Rally coming on March 26. Let it snow.
On the stock Playstation 4, lighting and textures aren’t so sharp at points and there are a few fuzzy shadows here and there; the Xbox One X makes darkness pitch black while details such as dust from the Argentinian mountains, the sun’s rays and shadows looming from the trees feel so real.
Then there’s Rallycross, for which Dirt Rally 2.0 holds the official World Rallycross Championship licence.
Last year, I had the pleasure of sitting in a WRX Volkswagen Polo driven by champion Johan Kristoffersson around Silverstone, and it felt like I was being pushed by gravity’s full force back into my seat. The apple consumed just minutes before stayed down, just about.
Codemasters’ recreation of WRX seems faithful enough, with acceleration just as brutal as it seemed when I was being whisked around the Silverstone circuit. The cars are a handful to control and there are eight official circuits such as Lohéac, Silverstone and Hell included. I suspect that many will see the WRX modes as an online-only affair, and most will stay for the stellar rally content.
The only minor gripe with Dirt Rally 2.0 is the overly simplified career mode that puts you through the same six locations on each playthrough, randomising the stages, and giving you money for podiums and wins that can be put towards car improvements, team improvements and repairs.
It’s a relatively barebones experience compared to F1 2018 that gives you an incentive to play through each practice session and hone your Haas to eventual supremacy, but maybe that works in Dirt’s favour because the only thing that matters here is the rallying.
And the rallying in Dirt Rally 2.0 is great. In fact, rally games have never been better than this.
Reviewed on PS4 with a Thrustmaster T300 wheel; Xbox One X with a controller.
Release date: February 26. Platforms: PC, Xbox One, Playstation 4
Dirt Rally 2.0 has been updated with a number of new vehicles and new stages including Wales, Sweden, Germany and Rallycross circuits including Latvia and Germany. Check out the updated car list.