DiRT Rally 2.0 by Codemasters is the thirteenth release in what was originally entitled Colin McRae Rally. Since, due to the unfortunate death of Colin McRae, son and two family friends in a helicopter crash back in 2007, Codemasters dropped his name out of respect from the titles. DiRT 2.0 is a successor to the 2015 release of DiRT Rally.
Now, it’s easy to get confused with the wealth of titles that have been released over time as to which follows which. DiRT 4 was actually the last physical release in the franchise and I did touch on it in a previous review. DiRT 4 was much more focussed on rallying and rallycross and being much more arcade orientated. It didn’t seem too long ago that I was hooning around tracks for fun in that game with the ease that going sideways was made accessible.
So, where DiRT 4 concentrated more on arcade fun, DiRT Rally 2.0 focusses on simulation. Now my main worry there was that if you take away the arcade fun that was there in spades with DiRT 4, a simulation could fail massively. Does it though?
For me, DiRT 4 was pretty much perfection as far as a driving game went. Being a huge fan of the series since its inception in 1998 with the release of Colin McRae Rally, I have played every release, some better than others. The franchise has been a critical and commercial success and is generally acknowledged as a pioneer of realistic Rally racing games. Especially with Colin McRae himself providing extensive technical advice to the games until his death. This time round, Jon Armstrong and Oliver Solberg served as consultants throughout the game’s development, while veteran co-driver Phil Mills lent his voice as the game’s English-speaking co-driver.
Now, I didn’t want to rush this review out before the actual release of the game, and for very good reason. I wanted to see how the Racenet servers would handle the release of the game. Every race you take part in, the results are uploaded to the Racenet servers so, like with Gran Turismo Sport, you have to be connected to the internet to save and to also progress within the game. If you can’t connect to those servers the game will refuse to save. Before the early release for those who pre-ordered the Limited Edition, the game ran perfectly smoothly, however, since the game has gone live to the general public the servers are not handling the traffic at all well. As the game was in its launch phase I played through 4 championships through ,midnight in the UK. The next day I went to continue my game and I was getting the constant message that the Racenet servers were unavailable for a good few hours. Once my game eventually connected to the servers I had lost my previous nights progress and had to start it all over again which was extremely frustrating as the Rally Cross events are quite drawn out over 4 qualifying runs and then 2 seperate finals. Each event can take up to 45 minutes to complete. Over the next day or so I was still getting the same message every once in a while that the Racenet service is not available; something which Codemasters should have really checked out before the launch.
So, down to the nitty gritty of the game. As has been the norm now for the last few releases there are 2 career paths you can play through; traditional Rally and also Rallycross. Now, in Dirt 4 you could see all the events within those paths ahead of you so you had a pretty good idea what to expect as far as the amount of races that were going to have to be tackled before winning the overall title. Dirt 2.0 is slightly different and at first I was confused by it. From your My Team menu once you go into the Events selection the first 2 options are Career Rally and Career Rallycross. Opening one of them then gives you the current championship that you need to compete in. It was at that point that I was questioning if there was any progression after the initial event that I was about to take part in as there was no progression listed. Luckily once you have won the first championship you move on to the next and with slightly increased difficulty levels involved, so its not exactly made clear that you will progress onwards and upwards.
Also within the Career Events menu are the community Event challenges and AI challenges which have a time limit to complete them by as well as various requirements as far as your vehicles are concerned to be eligible to take part. This all adds to the depth of the game so its not just the 2 main career paths you need to complete.
Within your My Team career there are also the options to obviously purchase more powerful cars as you progress to more events, but also there is a staff menu. From there you can purchase more engineers for your team the more credits you earn through racing but also you can upgrade the members of staff you have working for you. Upgrading these brings down the time of repairs for your vehicle between events as well as bringing down the cost of those repairs. In Dirt 4 there was more aim toward upgrading facilities to bring in more sponsors as well as driving down the cost of repairs needed. They have done away with the sponsorship work in this game so the focus is on technical upgrades and you competing to win.
Outside of your My Team menu the freeplay menu brings you the chance to take part in Historic races driving some great cars from rallying past. You can jump straight into the FIA World Rallycross Championship as well as create your own custom championships and the trusty old Time Trial events. Now, I mentioned the Rallycross Championship; I wouldn’t recommend jumping straight into that! Through the career there is a learning curve, starting off pretty easily with low powered front wheel drive cars. The more championships you win the harder the AI cars are to beat, something which DiRT 4 didn’t actually seem to incorporate. The races within that game were all really easy to win which is why it was more of an arcade focussed racer. As you progress through championships you start to unlock more events which you will need to buy a more powerful car to take part in. The more powerful the car, the harder it is to actually tame. The Rallycross championship will drop you into some of the most powerful vehicles the game has to offer and at first, you will seriously struggle to win races, let alone be able to actually keep up with the competition. There is no option within the game to change anything with regards to difficulty, only within this part of the game, but even dropping the AI difficulty down to the bare minimum will see them romping all over you.
The various cars within the game range from front wheel drive, rear wheel drive and 4 wheel drive, and this is where the game excels as far as Im concerned. The handling for each type of drive is significantly different for each. The front wheel drive cars have a terrible habit of severe understeer, so if you are applying the throttle whilst trying to corner your car will just drive straight on as well as braking causing the car to leave you unable to steer at all as your wheels lock and you keep heading in a straight line. Rear wheel drive cars are amazing to get the back end out and create some serious oversteer. That being said, give it too much on the accelerator and you will spin leaving you facing the wrong way. The 4 wheel drive cars are a dream to take to the track in especially for cornering. A little dab of handbrake going into a corner will initiate some beautiful drifting, something which has carried over from DiRT 4. So the handling is extremely realistic but so are the sounds that come from the engines and environment within the game. You can hear those loose dirt pebbles peppering your paintwork as you career around the tracks.
Moving on to the graphics of the game. What can I say about them other than they are absolutely beautiful, a joy to witness. All of the photos used within this review are screenshots from my game. A lot of which are grabbed after the heat of battle when you can sit back and enjoy a replay of the race that you have just been in. The textures and lighting have obviously been given some serious attention to detail and it shows. I thought DiRT 4 looked amazing, this has stepped it up to a whole new level. Within the Rallycross career Codemasters have even brought in some new tracks as well as updated some previously used ones in DiRT 4 and updated them for the better.
Then we move on to the birth of the game, the idea behind it all, the traditional point to point rally. The development team have worked hard in this department. Everyone who has played these titles previously will be all to well aware of the format of racing a rally so I wont bore you with technicalities, however there has been some serious tweaks going on behind the scenes this time round. The most notable of all (and possibly even most annoying one of all) is the track wear with time. In a rally, its never just you that will be racing on the track although you don’t ever go head to head with people directly like you do in Rallycross. If you are fortunate enough to be the first out on the stage that day the track is pretty much plain sailing. The more traffic run over those loose surfaces, the more it gets rutted and chewed up under the tyres, so if you are unlucky enough to have to start much further down the order the surface will be tricky to drive over. Various tracks left by other cars can see your tyres getting stuck in them seeing you veer off the course you were planning to take which certainly keeps you on your toes at all times.
The level of damage to the vehicle as well looks and feels very genuine, especially if your tyre bursts out on course. Within the rally stages you can pull over and swap your tyre over at the cost of a time penalty but these penalties can be reduced by upgrading your co-driver within the Staff members menu. If your tyre blows in Rallycross you can pretty much kiss that race goodbye as the car is awful to drive and you cant stop to replace the tyre on track. It doesn’t affect just you though, the AI cars are all affected by the same things that you are and there has been many times I have seen an AI car trying to drive with a flat tyre and them spinning out of control as I lap them as well as nay damage they have picked up to their bodywork twisting up the chassis of their car.
I questioned just how Codemasters could improve on perfection as far as DiRT 4 was concerned, but the thing is, they actually have. Everything about DiRT 2.0 has been stepped up to a whole new level to the point where as far as actually driving sims are concerned, its close on the heels of GT Sport and biting down hard.
This is without doubt one of the best racing games out. I still and probably always will prefer Gran Turismo, but perfection within a game is rarely achieved and other than the issues with Racenet which Codemasters are aware of DiRT 2.0 has easily achieved perfection as far as I am concerned. 9.5/10 and it will be a 10/10 as soon as Codemasters fix connection issues.
**PLEASE NOTE: AIR Entertainment were kindly supplied with a review copy of the game by our good friends at Koch Media. This did not influence my review in any way as per our Review Policy**