Preview: DiRT Rally (PC)

images (3)ESRB: No rating as of this writing, but a T for Teen is expected if past games are an indication
Genre: Racing
Developer: Codemasters
Publisher: Codemasters
Platforms: PC
Price: $35 (Early Access)

 

 

I recently had the chance to play DiRT Rally on Steam Early Access. DiRT Rally is the upcoming game in Codemasters’ rally car game series which used to be called “Colin Mcrae Rally.” For those unfamiliar with rallying, it is a series of short time trial races which are done in multiple stages on back, dirt, and asphalt roads and are point-to-point—no direct competition with rival racers laps. Each segment’s times are added together and the team (driver and navigator) with the quickest time wins. With all this said, how does the game shape up so far?

Gameplay

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There is a basic kind of gameplay that all racing games feature, and DiRT Rally is no different. There are keys for each of the main controls in the car—throttle, brake, handbrake, turn left, turn right, and for manual transmissions, shift up and down. There are also keys  for resetting your car on the track and manipulating the camera (camera on hood, behind steering wheel, and behind the car). All of these actions can be customized to any key on the keyboard you want.
The cars can be setup manually or can be left on default. Since rallies are done in stages, and each stage has different percentages of each road surface and condition, and it is advised to tune vehicles to accommodate each segment. The only downside to games like this is one has to be a gearhead to understand proper tunes. Figuring out how things like brake bias (how much braking is done by the back wheels and how much braking is done by the front wheels) affect your vehicle’s performance when cornering are key to your success in this game. For people like me, it takes a lot of trial and error to figure this all out.
As you can probably tell, this is not an arcade racing game.
Once your car is tuned, you can go rallying. DiRT Rally is a blast to play. The cars are incredibly responsive to your commands. Make a slight mistake and you’re off the road and your car has taken a lot of damage. This, in turn, makes the car harder to drive. After each stage, you can fix your car up, but this will add to your total time. You will have to figure out if the time lost fixing your car is worth making your car perform better. If your car becomes too damaged, you will not be able to finish the segment, and thus the race.
DiRT Rally is setup in rally car eras, from the 1960’s and each decade up to the present). At the beginning of your career, you will only be able to afford the cars from the 1960’s, and you will make money depending on where you place in each rally. As you gain more money,  you will be able to buy the better and newer cars.
I have not played a lot of DiRT Rally, and I suck at it, but I am have a great time each time boot up the game and play.

Presentation

Dirt Rally onto Steam Early Access  (7)

Even though DiRT Rally is in early access, the game still looks great even though I don’t have a great PC, and can only run the game on lower settings. The cars and environment are incredibly detailed, and the texture pop-in is at a minimum. I really am impressed with how polished this game looks, being that a full retail launch has only been announced for later this year. All the car sounds are there, including the crunching and grinding metal of broken parts. The only thing that I feel is missing is the navigator’s voice, for I have seen gameplay with it intact. This absence is weird, and I can only suggest that it is because the game is in early access, and there are some bugs that need to be ironed out.

Conclusion

So far, DiRT Rally has impressed me. The level of detail and polish that was put into the early access version is staggering. Codemasters have really refined their skills and keep pumping out impressive rally games. DiRT Rally is only going to get better before the full launch. I cannot wait to see how this game turns out!

Jonathan Klassen

Just a small city, Christian boy from the province of Saskatchewan in Canada. Go Riders Go! I have a wife (Andrea), a son (Ethan) and another one on the way.

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