DiRT Rally only released on consoles during April 2016 (December 2015 for PC), but while this was the return to form for the rally racing sim from Codemasters, fans of the more varied spin-off racing series still longed for the follow-up to 2011’S DiRT 3 (not including DiRT Showdown as that wasn’t a numbered entry).  Those call’s were answered with DiRT 4, which not only offers that addictive arcade style variant, but you could also choose to play the game with the simulation format that belongs to DiRT Rally, and DiRT 4 does a superb job in catering for both sets of play-styles.

One of the first things you may notice about DiRT 4 is just how beautiful it looks, as this game looks fantastic down to the finest of details.  Every car looks as authentic as they possibly can and even the stripped down interior can’t help but catch the gaze of your wondering eyes from time to time.  But in all honestly, it doesn’t matter what generation of the series you’ve played since the original Colin McRae in 1998, Codemasters always ensure that they produce some of the best looking games in the genre and DiRT 4 is certainly no exception.

Unfortunately while DiRT 4 does not feature any of the official cars kitted out with sponsors associated the World Rally Championship (WRC), it does in-fact feature some official circuits from the FIA World Rallycross Championships.  The five circuits included are Lydden Hill Race (UK), Höljesbanan (Sweden), Lånkebanen (Norway), Pista Automóvel de Montalegre (Portugal) and finally Circuit de Lohéac (France).

However, what DiRT 4 does superbly to counter the lack of official WRC circuits and courses, is via a brand new feature called “Your Stage”.  What this does is procedurally generate a whole host of rally stages, which not only allows you to create your own races, but the stages in the career mode are also procedurally generated, which means that you’ll rarely ever encounter the same stage twice (unless you replay of race of course).  I’m sure this won’t entirely satisfy some purists, but this is quite possibly a game-changing mechanic that should add so much more life to your game.

Going back to DiRT 4’s lush visuals, the fact that most of the stages are procedurally generated, just makes it all the more impressive in some respects and of course being the type of game that this is, it’s more than just an ascetic.  The slogan “No Fear” was a common fixture during DiRT 4’s marketing campaigns and this term could not be truer when racing to win.  Sure, you’ll be able to go flat-out when the stages are dry across the dusty tracks, but when the dynamic weather kicks-in; it really does change your approach.  The mud splattering from your mud-guards, water splashing which will momentarily knock you slightly off-course to the trail of dust that you leave in the wake of your competitors.  Each has a purpose and alters the way in which you must approach each race.

It’s also well worth noting just how good DiRT 4 sounds too.  The engines purr as good as any racer that you’ve played, the screech of the tires on the tarmac as you attempt to drift around a tight bend, to the shift of the gears changing and the pistons pumping.  Even when your car is falling apart (assuming you race like a crash-test dummy), it sounds so realistic, to the point that I had to pause the game to see if it was my PS4 which was making that rattling sound and if you have a decent headset, the game sounds even better.

In career mode you will take on a series of events across a variety of disciplines.  Not only will you be racing to win (obviously), but to get the best out of your car and team, you can hire, fire and choose the sponsors to be associated with your team.  You can manage everything from car mechanics, right on to improving your VIP area which goes towards keeping your team happy, not to mention that having the best mechanics possible, it will improve your continued success in the long-run.  Choosing the correct sponsors is also vitally important as each one comes with their own stipulations, so choose wisely to ensure that you have reachable goals to earn yourself added cash bonuses.  You can also pick your cars liveries and where to place the sponsors, but in comparison to almost endless customisation liveries and community creations in games such as the Forza series, DiRT 4 falls a little short in this department.  But that’s a minor nitpick in what is essentially a fantastic game and Forza has spoiled me in that respect.

DiRT 4 also features a Competitive mode will brings you daily, weekly and even monthly challenges, each with their own unique challenges and rewards.  So, much like the potentially gaming changing Your Stage, the Competitive mode in DiRT 4 helps keeps things fresh for the long haul.  If you want to try something a little less serious, then Joyride might be your cup of tea.  Here you can take on a variety of fun mini-games of the as you compete against yours and the online communities best scores and times, which by the way, DiRT 4 features cross-platform leaderboards.

If I was going to have one proper criticism with DiRT 4 is with its online aspect.  In general when I’ve gotten into a race or event (sometimes it can be as quick as jumping into a race if you’re lucky or even 5-10 minutes as you wait for a lobby to fill up), my experience has been rather smooth with practically no lag or disconnect issues.  However in one instance I was part of a six race event with eight other players.  When I reached race five I was leading by 10 points, with the lobby host hovering around mid-table with no hope of winning the event.  So he decided to change the type of event at race five and as a result, the event was reset to back to race one, making my 10 point lead meaningless, which was very frustrating to say the least.

In conclusion, DiRT 4 had a lot to live up-to, not only with the series as a whole, but also against the more recent and fantastic DiRT Rally.  Yet DiRT 4 manages to exceed my expectations as it brings back happy memories of my favourite instalment from the series; DiRT 3.  It’s always a good sign with any top game when it’s difficult to put down, when you’re away from the game and all you’re thinking about is jumping back for “one more go” and DiRT 4 will no doubt cause you many a late night.  We may be half-way through 2017 already, but DiRT 4 has most certainly set the bar for the genre this year and it sits firmly in pole position.



Author

Richard Lee Breslin
Richard Lee Breslin

30+ years of gaming with no signs of ever stopping. I have a BDes Hons Games Development and Digital Media, and I hope to one day turn my passion for gaming and writing into a living. My favourite gaming series are Resi Evil, Metal Gear Solid, Silent Hill, Assassin's Creed, Uncharted and The Last of Us. I collect gaming merchandise, comics and movies. I love football (namely Aston Villa) and WWE. I can also often be found wondering the outskirts of Raccoon City. Follow me on Twitter @Solidus5nake