Over the years, Codemasters have established themselves as the quintessential racing game developers. They have had a few misses along the way, but have managed to establish some very strong franchises that cater to different folks out there. The DIRT series is one of those series and with DIRT 5, they really pull out the stops to prove why they’re the best in the business
Down and DIRTY
DIRT 5 returns to the original roots of the DIRT franchise, meaning that this isn’t a racing sim of any sort, but rather a white-knuckle, over the top arcade racing experience that is not only a lot of fun to play but easy to get into and enjoy. Sure, seasoned racing vets will shred the tracks up in no time, but the game is incredibly easy to play, even if you’re new to the wonderful world of racing games. Cars don’t react that realistically, tracks are easy to get into and the starting AI won’t destroy you for being a bit of a noob. The bright colours and awesome soundtrack is open-armed and inviting, and the perfect sort of experience for somebody new at racing games.
There’s a lot of options in DIRT 5 but the best place to start is the Career mode, which makes up a massive chunk of this game. Here you will be greeted by a whole bunch of different racing modes such as Rally Raid, Stampede, Land Rush, Gymkhana and Path Finder, to name but a few. There’s a helluva lot of variety in tracks and modes to keep you busy and it’s best to just go with the flow as you’re shepherded along, trying out everything that’s on offer. Accompanying this is the rather awesome Donut podcast, where people talk about the DIRT series of racing and have a sort of story that features a rivalry between two racers, AJ and Bruno Durand, voiced by Troy Baker and Nolan North respectively. It is actually incredibly well done and I found myself listening to these podcast way longer than I should have considering this is a game about silly off-road racing.
A sensory overload!
DIRT 5 looks and sounds amazing, and has some of the best visuals I’ve seen in a video game to date. The cars are all very well detailed, though not as good as something like Forza or Gran Turismo, it still looks pretty damn good. But what makes this game really stand out isn’t the detailed vehicle models in a showroom, but rather what happens out on the track. The game features real-time ray tracing, meaning that all sorts of reflections and shadows are done in incredible details. The game also isn’t shy in showing it off, with almost all the tracks having some form of reflective surface present, be it ice or water puddles.
Races also often transition from one sort of environmental experience to another, where either a massive snow or sand storm suddenly comes in, changing the look of things, or it becoming night and the colourful neon lights and fireworks suddenly become a feature of the race. It looks amazing and while it is over the top it is an absolute joy to experience. DIRT 5 is one of the best looking games I’ve seen, and playing it on PC, gave me a very good glimpse of what to expect on next-gen consoles.
I should also mention that DIRT 5 has an incredibly diverse number of locations and tracks available, including one set here in South Africa, in and around Cape Town, and the Cape Town Stadium. While it is always nice to see some local representation in video games, I can at least also confirm that the Cape Town location, especially Ultra Cross in Cape Town Stadium, is some most fun content in the game. I enjoy almost everything about this game, with the exception of Sprint races, which are incredibly hard to get used to and aren’t that much fun.
I should also point out that I tried connecting both the Logitech G29 and G920 Force Feedback steering wheels, but it seems that it is not supported in-game as neither was picked up and there’s no option to configure it. It is probably for the better since this sort of racing game usually doesn’t play that well with a wheel.
Playing online is a bit of a hit and miss with DIRT 5. If you just want to race against others online, the options are rather limited as you jump into random races with people and have no say in what you want to do. I didn’t get too many matches here and played a few races with the same guy a couple of times. Hopefully, this will be improved with a few patches down the line. The Playgrounds make up for this though, in a big way. This is a mode where people can build and create their own tracks, which can be shared online and people can play on and compete for rankings on leaderboards. The level designer is pretty solid and robust, and while I suck at making such levels, I did have an absolute blast at checking out what others have up their sleeves.
An old school arcade racing blast
I had an absolute blast playing DIRT 5 for review and I am very far from done with this game. It’s the perfect pick up and go racing game to waste half an hour and it has so much on offer that it can keep you busy for some time to come. It’s not only fun to play but also stunning to look at, and sports a slapping soundtrack not heard in racing games in a long time. The execution is almost perfect and DIRT 5 is one of the best games I’ve played this year.