DiRT 4 provides a very solid racing experience for a wide audience. Especially the Rally mode is simply sublime, but then again, they had an excellent base to build upon. The Rallycross mode is enjoyable, but lacks finesse to be truly great. The ability to play with a wide array of setups and have fun is simply great — I don't need to set up my steering wheel to have fun every time, the controller works great, too. The same goes for the difficulty customization, I'm not in the mood for a hard sim drive all the time, and I love being able to switch on a dim The game is great, but it does feel a little bit like a full price standalone expansion of DiRT Rally. If you don't own that game, this is a great purchase, but if you do, I don't think it's worth picking up at full price.
The latest installment in Codemasters‘ DiRT-series successfully caters to nearly all types of racing gamers: whether you’re looking for an easy arcade drive or a (near) sim racing experience, DiRT 4 covers it all. At the same time, the series goes back to its roots by providing an authentic rallying experience, building upon the success of DiRT Rally.
Back to basics
Unlike some of its predecessors which had a variety of game modes loosely inspired on real motoring events, DiRT 4 provides a narrower but much more authentic selection of game modes. Like the previous games, there is a career mode where you start out as a young and upcoming racing driver. The game offers you a choice between three different types of racing; Rally, Rallycross and Landrush. Except for the latter (which is fictitious) the rally and rallycross experiences are very similar to the real deal. Besides the racing itself, the game puts you in charge of managing your racing team which has just the right amount of depth. You’re responsible for hiring team members, buying and selling racing cars, settling deals with sponsors, upgrading facilities and designing the team’s racing livery. It’s never too distracting or complicated, but it’s a nice change of pace after spending half an hour or more winning a championship.
Rallying and rallycross
As could be expected due to the excellent DiRT Rally, the rallying mode is simply top-notch and features everything a rallying fan could want in terms of authenticity and realism. The rallying stages are varied, long and hard. Unlike some other Codemasters‘ games there is no ‘flashback-mechanic’, so it’s do or die. Both cosmetic and mechanical damage are implemented well — there’s no weird visual glitches or any ‘I don’t remember damaging that part of my car’ like some games. Races can be restarted, but damage can also be repaired in between stages — at a time and monetary cost — just like actual rally racing. Handling is more than sufficiently realistic on a variety of surfaces and cars, no matter what you use to play. Pace notes are implemented both audibly and visibly, and work very well. As for the stages themselves, they are visually detailed and feature some nice touches, such as damaged cars on the side of the road, spectators dodging and even drones flying over you as you’re speeding towards the finish line.
As for rallycross, it’s just as detailed as the rally game mode. It implements everything you would want as a rallycross fanatic — qualifying, semi-final and final heats, joker laps, spotters and more. It’s a nice change of pace from rallying, as the races are generally shorter and there are other competitors on track. However, the rallycross game mode has some annoying shortcomings that take some of the fun out of it for me personally. First of all, the collision model seems a bit funky. I’ve rear-ended quite a few opponents by accident, and on multiple occasions I’ve found my self driving under my opponent. Since I didn’t have a snow shovel mounted mounted on my front bumper, that seemed a bit weird. Additionally, the AI feels rather inconsistent, even on hard difficulties. This took away the strategic purpose of the joker lap, turning it into a simple off-road circuit race. The spotter giving random and inconsistent advice strengthened this feeling even further.
This game features some serious customization, and by that I don’t mean Need for Speed-esque tuning of your cars. Instead, this game allows you to tweak nearly every nut and bolt of both the handling and the difficulty settings. As for the handling settings, the game offers two different presets; Arcade and Simulation. After picking one (which can be made in an informed way, as the game lets you try out both before making a decision), the settings can be adjusted further to your liking and depending on what input method you use. While the game plays excellently with controller, it also works extremely well with a variety of different racing wheels, providing an array of wheel settings to be tweaked. If you aren’t fully happy with your settings, don’t worry — the game lets you change the settings at any point in the game without punishment, you can even change back from simulation to arcade if you so desire.
As for the difficulty settings, it’s the same story. You can change anything from AI difficulty (obviously) to auto-repairs, number of restarts and a variety of driving assists. Again, the game provides a number of sensible defaults in this as well, if you don’t want to spend any time on it. Based upon your settings, the game calculates a multiplier that it applies to prize money to make sure the difficulty stays at just the right level. I for one was very happy with this system, as it allows me to choose my own play style. For example; I like to play on the highest difficulty settings, but I don’t like to be punished for failure — I want to be able to try again and again until I succeed, and this worked out very well. I chose the most difficult settings, but went with the unlimited restarts option. And boy, did I need that. The rally races are really tough on the hardest level, and I needed quite a few restarts to beat them. If you’re the player who doesn’t enjoy that, no worries — just tone down the difficulty whenever you feel like it.
Graphics & Audio
Audiovisually, this game looks and sounds the part. The cars look and sound authentic (no vacuum cleaner sounds here like in other games *cough* Gran Turismo *cough*), and the environments feel realistic and alive. Being a multiplatform title, it doesn’t look as great as some recent exclusives such as Horizon: Zero Dawn, but it’s definitely more than good enough. On PC, the platform I tested the game on, it manages to stay at a solid 60fps both on lower settings on a low-end machine and on very high settings on a gaming rig.
DiRT 4 provides a very solid racing experience for a wide audience. Especially the Rally mode is simply sublime, but then again, they had an excellent base to build upon. The Rallycross mode is enjoyable, but lacks finesse to be truly great. The ability to play with a wide array of setups and have fun is simply great — I don’t need to set up my steering wheel to have fun every time, the controller works great too. The same goes for the difficulty customization, I’m not in the mood for a hard sim drive all the time, and I love being able to switch on a dime. The game is great, but it does feel a little bit like a full price standalone expansion of DiRT Rally. If you don’t own that game, this is a great purchase, but if you do, I don’t think it’s worth picking up at full price.