since Colin McRae’s death in 2007, Codemaster’s rally series, originally called Colin McRae Rally, before having Rally Replaced with Dirt, and McRae’s name for obvious reasons eventually being dropped, has drifted further and further away from it’s original core gameplay, that of a straight up Rally simulator. Now it seems that Codemasters have almost bought the game full circle and added the word Rally Back into the title, narrowed the focus to just three events, and kicked the learning curve way back up.
Rallying is by it’s nature, one of the most unforgiving forms of vehicle racing. Make a small mistake in a British Touring Car race and you’ll likely recover and still have a chance at winning the race. Make a small mistake on a Rally stage and you’re likely to do serious damage to your car, or worse, destroy it and any chances of winning.
Dirt Rally is more forgiving than real life, though it’s still got a steep learning curve, and becasue Codemasters seem to want to take the series back to hardcore simulation, the game looks best when viewed from inside to cockpit. This of course also happens to be the hardest because you can’t see all around your car and you risk becoming blind, if like me, you spin out on a dusty stage and end up sitting in heavy cloud of dust wondering which way is up.
Dirt Rally looks stunning, it drives well, handles well and demands you respect it. And that’s the key to Dirt Rally: Respect. And time. You can’t just hop in the first car and expect to be able to floor it and make it to the end of the stage. Or past the first couple of corners. You’ll have to take it slow, and even then you’ll have to keep restarting until you’ve learnt how the cars handle on each individual stage.
And even when you think you’ve mastered it, you’re still one small mistake away from disaster. But that’s what keeps you coming back for more. That’s what gives Dirt Rally it’s flaying by the seat of your pants feeling.
Don’t be put off by a huge learning curve, the game also comes with Hillclimb mode (essentially and up-hill rally) and Rally-Cross, a more traditional style race that see’s you racing at the same time as other divers on a circuit that is part off road and part tarmac.
These two modes don’t seem as polished as the pure Rally mode, but add some diversity and probably more importantly, a more tangible online mode.
It’s great to have Codemasters back focusing on a real rally game, and a return to form. I’m once again excited for what comes next, rather than fearing how far away from actual rally driving they ill take the game.
Rating: G General Audience.