Dakar Desert Rally PS5 Review – It’s a whole 4 years since Dakar 18 and to me it seems a lifetime ago that I played and reviewed for the PS4. Looking back at that time I did enjoy the game, but it could have been so much more. 4 years on and enter Saber Interactive to the ring to try their hands at the extreme desert rally.
Dakar Desert Rally PS5 Review – A little history
Formerly known as the Paris Dakar Rally, the gruelling race is one of the longest and hardest rallies that is about today. Extreme heat, insufficient signposting, and a batch of aggressive rivals all hurrying to the same end goal could well describe rush hour in any major city but when you are racing on all types of surfaces, but mainly desert then that is what sets this apart from anything else.
Renowned for its lengthy stages as well as array of offroad vehicles all vying for the top spot conquering both their competitors and the undulating terrain the Dakar is famous. However, can the feel of the actual rally transfer to PC and consoles?
Dakar Desert Rally PS5 Review – Kicking up the dust
Well, the simple answer to that is yes. The previous release felt sparce in detail with rather simple graphics which left me feeling like I wasn’t playing it on the PS4 but instead on an older console. Thankfully this time round the game is lush with details.
Trees, rocks and water splashes a-plenty in the denser routes, but even when you are flying over the dunes in the desert it doesn’t feel lifeless with shrubs sticking through the sand. Due to the size of the tracks involved in the game this is quite an achievement as it can easily be described as an open world racer where there are no real corners or turns marked out. You have to follow the directions of the co-pilot and listen carefully to compass directions given.
One thing I will mention is at the start I felt that the steering mechanics were abysmal. The car didn’t feel like I was in control of it at all. After a little fiddling in the options menu, I managed to ramp up the input sensitivity which did help a lot, but the car still doesn’t feel fully responsive to what I was wanting it to do. After a few races under my belt, it did start to feel a little better as I got used to how the game reacted, but it’s still not great.
Sport mode is a perfect start in your career for the first timers. The opponents are less challenging, the waypoint markers are clearly visible from a distance to give you a better idea of where you are heading. Above all, there is less damage which you will easily find yourself getting lots of as you easily go straight ahead when applying the breaks trying to make a turn on the loose sand. This mode does still offer a nice challenge for newcomers and doesn’t hold your hand all the way through which I liked.
Ramp up the difficulty in the game and you lose your markers and have to heavily rely on instructions given by your co-pilot and keep a close eye on the compass at the top of the screen.
Dakar Desert Rally PS5 Review – Drama throughout
The game gives a real sense of drama throughout the races with a fantastic soundtrack that sits really well with the game and does keep the heart pumping with every moment. Couple the sweeping strings and pounding drumbeats with the weather dynamics in the game and it does keep you on the edge wondering what is coming up ahead.
I have never felt the same emotion before as I did when racing at night through a massive thunderstorm. The lightening effects are simply amazing flicking between sheet and fork lighting up the entire sky ahead for a brief moment before being plunged back into darkness with just your headlights showing the way. I felt tense whilst concentrating on my co-pilots instructions and the lightening actually making me jump a little.
On the other end of the scale, the bright sun blinds you as you head into it making it difficult to see where you are going and then the next minute being plunged into a sandstorm. The transitions are seamless. Dakar Desert Rally throws everything you can think of at you and does it really well.
Dakar Desert Rally PS5 Review – Vehicles galore
The licensed vehicles in the game follow a similarly high quality to the rest of the game. With the choice of racing trucks, cars, bikes, quads, and SxS from the last few seasons of Dakar, and the possibility of unlocking classic vehicles from the event’s past by winning races using all five different categories of craft the game just keeps on giving in detail.
Racing through the different environments feels fantastic especially when, on the rare occasion, you come across a rusted crashed plane or the underbelly of a long-forgotten ship and have to race through the debris avoiding the structures that once held the ships hold in place. My slight issue with this however is that I don’t really feel any handling difference between the different surfaces. You would have presumed that there would be more grip on the few and far between tarmac surfaces, but there isn’t.
There is also an issue with tracks left by other cars. There have been numerous other games where tracks are left, and it affects your handling and direction control if you get stuck in their ruts. I would have hoped that it would be the same here, but it isn’t. You can easily drive through deep areas left by other drivers tyres without any adverse effects on your handling.
There is also very little difference in the speed of your vehicle when ploughing through water or driving through sand. I would expect a slowing when you hit the water, but there isn’t.
Dakar Desert Rally PS5 Review – The Finish Line
Dakar Desert Rally promises a lot and does deliver on the vast majority of the game. There are just a few issues that I found but doesn’t really take away from the game itself. On the whole it is a really fun experience with a great soundtrack and graphics. Whether it is a game for the hardcore racing sim players I’m not sure that it comes up to scratch.
The iconic Rally has been recreated in spectacular fashion and is a joy to play.