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DiRT Rally

April 25, 2016, Author: James Swinbanks

It’s almost nine years since Codemasters introduced the DiRT name with the fantastic Colin McRae: DiRT, a game that is remembered well for two reasons. One is that it was both ambitious and enjoyable and set a new bar for rally titles, the other is its release the day before a tragic helicopter accident took the life of Colin McRae, his son and two others.

Since then, Codemasters had not only dropped the use of the Colin McRae name but switched focus from the traditional style of rally entirely. The results were DiRT 2, 3 and DiRT Showdown. These three games, whilst really good in their own right, all had a general focus on the less traditional forms of off-road racing like Gymkhana and Rallycross. They included point-to-point stages, but they were short and typically low in numbers. As a bit of a purist when it comes to a few facets of motorsport, I enjoyed the last few DiRT games to an extent but always felt like Codemasters had lost their way just a little.

Fast forward to a year ago and you can colour me, as just about everyone else, surprised when a Codemasters title named DiRT Rally popped up on Steam Early Access. It was the first case I could remember of a large AAA developer using Steam’s Early Access as a platform for an already established franchise, and I had to jump in on it. I bought into it, and as the months rolled by I watched as the game slowly had content and features added, as well as how engaged the developers were with the community about their development plans going forward. Not only this, but they seemed to be heading in a very good direction. More focus on point-to-point rallying, with long and open stages, as well as Hillclimb, Rallycross and a host of online features. Throw in a focus on simulating real-world handling techniques and vehicle dynamics, and DiRT Rally showed more promise on this front than we’d seen from the previous DiRT titles combined.

It was only a few short months ago in December that DiRT Rally was released properly on the PC, so the wait for it to head to the modern generation consoles hasn’t been a tense nor long one. After spending hours sliding, rolling, spinning and crashing as many rally cars as possible, it’s easy for me to tell you that whilst DiRT Rally redefines console rally games – once again cementing Codemasters’ position at the top of the racing development pyramid – its brilliance shines heavily on the areas it falls short, holding it back from being something truly special.