Posted on 24 Jul 2017 by K-putt

DiRT 4

The Defence

Developer: Codemasters
Publisher: Codemasters
Genre: Racing
Platform: Consoles, PC
Review copy: Yes
Release date: US 06 Jun 2017
EU 09 Jun 2017

The Prosecution

Minimum
Recommended
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i3 3.0 GHz
AMD FX 3.4 GHz
VGA: Nvidia GeForce 440
AMD Radeon HD 5570
RAM: 4 GB
HDD: 50 GB
DirectX: 11
Controller: Full
Mod Support: No
VR: No
FOV Slider: Yes
FPS Lock: 120+
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i5 3.5 GHz
AMD FX 3.5 GHz
VGA: Nvidia GeForce 780
AMD Radeon R9 390
RAM: 8 GB
HDD: 50 GB
DirectX: 11
Controller: Full
Mod Support: No
VR: No
FOV Slider: Yes
FPS Lock: 120+

The Case

After about 6 years of DiRT abstinence we get another game in the series, or rather, in the main DiRT series. The previous DiRT Rally was a more simulated and focused approach in the vein of casual Rally games, and it worked out quite well for Codemasters, since it was one of the more successful Rally games with nearly 700,000 people owning it on steam alone. Of course, the game’s been… dirt cheap a couple times over the last two years, but that’s still a large number of players regardless of how inflated they are. So, DiRT 4 has some big shoes to fill. Will it stay the casual game it’s always been, or try to emulate the more focused approach of DiRT Rally? Well, I played the game for a while to find out for ‘ya! No need to thank me. I know, I’m awesome like that.

The Trial

Right from the get go after loading up the game, I was pleasantly surprised by the Scottish fella who introduces you to the game’s menu. A very welcomed change from the “HEY FELLOW KIDS, YOU’RE SUCH COOL GAMERS, DUDES! RAD!” voice-over from DiRT 3. This Scottish-mang then starts showing you the ropes of driving a car on the dirt tracks and asphalts of DiRT 4, all while not sounding like a condescending twat. Drifting, braking, accelerating… even corners are on the learning program! These lessons aren’t really a bad idea though, since they do tell you one or two interesting techniques of driving a Rally car, and might be worth your time even if you played Rally games before. After you completed (or skipped) the tutorial, you’re able to then compete in your very first Rally-stage, Oooohweeee!

After completed your first race, you’re able to build your own team with the prize money you earned. Codemasters sure did some cool things with the team mechanic this time around. You can change the co-driver, hire engineer staff to make the repairs on your car faster or even PR managers that’ll give you better offers on sponsorship’s, each of these folks differ in ratings. A better rating means faster repairs or better sponsors for your team, it’s also possible to upgrade your team’s facilities with bigger garages for more space. There is also a ‘Private Collector’, which will offer you rarer “old timey” cars that would be unavailable otherwise, or build a R&D department that will increase your car’s performance ever so slightly.

Nobody cares about the traffic laws anymore... definitely not me!

Even catering is a thing! Yes, Catering. Luckily it’s not such an important facility to worry about since it only improves the staff’s morale and nobody cares about that, I mean, they get paid… right? What more do these peasants want for crying out loud! While creating your team, you will come across the ‘Branding & Sponsor‘ section, with it you can create your own livery… sort of, and choose your sponsors. However, creating a livery is sadly, quite basic, you’re only able to choose from a few pre-made presets and change the colours… even the sponsor placement is done for you.

Once you start a Rally-stage with your own team, you’ll get a message from your sponsors telling you what they want to see from you; “Get 3 green sectors”, “No Damage”, “Get in first place” and so on. Completing one of these goals will earn you more money in the end, and you really want/need all the schmeckles you can get. The facility upgrades I talked about earlier are very, very expensive, though for the time I’ve been playing the game, these rewards are rather small in comparison to the Rally-stage reward themselves. Still, some easy goals for each race are always nice to see, despite however small the benefit actually is in the end. With all that said, here comes my first (and biggest) nitpick with DiRT 4… the design of the stages themselves.

Codemasters made a big fuss about their new introduced “Your Stage” feature, in which you pick where, how long and the difficulty of the stage, then the game will create a randomly generated stage to fit your picked criteria. Which all sounds pretty cool… until you notice that each stage looks and feels almost exactly the same, with just the corners being different. The look and feel of pre-made race tracks are now a thing of the past, which is a shame since DiRT Rally had such amazing stages that differed quite a bit from each other, even in the same area. Now, that isn’t to say that every race in DiRT 4 is a randomly generated borefest. The Land Rush and Rally Cross races are indeed made by some fellow humans, which easily shows because they’re much more detailed and more fun to drive on.

Nearly endless stages for all your DiRTy needs.

DiRT 4 offers roughly around 50 different cars in more than 20 varying classes. Classic cars of the 60s, up to the Rally Cross monsters from 2016, with a few buggies thrown in for good measure. There are also 4 “sub-classes” if you will; Rally, Land Rush, Rally Cross and Historic Rally. You won’t be able to mix and match these cars in each event though, Rally cars are for Rally-stages and buggies are for the Land Rush stages. It would’ve been fun to drive one of these larger buggies over a Rally-stage in the freeplay mode though, or even an old mini cooper from the 60s on a Land Rush buggy stage. Especially since the driving physics differ quite a bit from each other, something you’d actually expect of course, because driving a giant pickup truck with the physics of an old Ford Escort sure would be weird.

After 2015’s successful DiRT Rally release, Codemasters announced that DiRT 4 will feature the same driving physics, and they weren’t lying. It does feel quite similar, as long as you’re using ‘Simulation’ instead of the ‘Gamer’ mode, which is something you’re asked to choose at the start of the game, and you’re able to change that whenever you want via the main menu. While the simulation mode is similar to DiRT Rally’s physics, the gamer mode is closer to the previous DiRT games. The cars are easier to handle, as is the braking, and you don’t generally slide around as much. All while still feeling like you’re actually doing a great job handling your car during a race, even though the game is actually doing most of the work for you.

Online racing is a part of every racing game that I know of since like… forever, and DiRT 4 is no exception. There is Daily events, where you compete against different people’s best times on a Rally-stage, or just proper Rally Cross races. However, I wasn’t able to find a whole lot of races when I tried the online mode. Something that will hopefully change once the game comes down in price, since it’s currently a full $60 USD game. At least you’re able to enjoy the great soundtrack of the game while you wait for an online race to appear, that’s something… right? Speaking of, the developers did a bang up job of picking great songs in a variety of genres, from the greatest Queens of the Stone Age and The Hives tracks, to the Electro-fresh beats from The Chemical Brothers and Disclosure.

The lack of advertisements is off-putting... something I wish I could say.

Now to the technical part of my review… the graphics, which I’m afraid to report that DiRT 4 is certainly a step down from DiRT Rally. I blame mostly the randomly generated rally stages for that, because these stages drag down the entire look of the game for me. Scenes are sparsely lit and mostly flat looking, if they would have only stuck to the handmade stages of all previous games, this wouldn’t have happened. Though, even the handmade Rally Cross or Land Rush stages look kinda flat, probably due to some very lack-luster Ambient Occlusion implementation and 2006 quality level foliage. Perhaps they had to tune down the graphics in order to get 8 cars on the screen while still getting acceptable performance?

Who knows… but I personally expected more from DiRT 4, at least the game does run alright on my machine, with an i7-4790K and GTX 780 Ti, I’m able to hit 60 FPS somewhat consistently at 1440p on High/Ultra settings. However, I did read in the Steam forums that a lot of people have been experiencing performance problems, then again, it’s the Steam forums… so who knows what these people have been doing, probably using the games 16xQCSAA setting, which will obviously murder your framerate. While I mention anti-aliasing, I wish the game would have offered more than just some blurry CMAA or performance eating hardware multi-sampling, just a simple SMAA or even TAA option would have been a much appreciated addition, sadly, as it stands, it’s either a very blurry/expensive AA for us… or ‘Welcome to Jaggy-town! Population: Your bleeding eyeballs”.

The Verdict

So, is DiRT 4 the successor people have been waiting for since DiRT 3? Ehhhm… maybe? I’m not really sure to be honest, and with the inclusion of a ‘Simulation’ and ‘Gamer’ mode, I don’t think even the developers are so sure themselves. I always perceived the main DiRT series as a more casual game, with the more simulation-focused drivers out there, Codemasters made DiRT Rally. But with the latest game, they tried to combine both worlds, and I’m not sure they could completely pull it off. Randomly generated racetracks, buggies and Rally Cross just screams casual to me, then you have the simulation driving physics thrown in, which has us ending up with egg flavored ice cream. It doesn’t quite fit together, but if you like eggs… and ice cream, you might still enjoy it.

Case Review

  • Gamemodes: Various modes are available fairly early on, be it Rally, Land Rush or Rally Cross.

  • Cars: Over 50 different cars in 20 different classes, quite a big collection of “vroom vroom’s”.

  • Physics: While enjoyable, I feel Codemasters hampered themselves by focusing on 2 driving physic modes instead of just one.

  • Visuals: Nearly 2 years after DiRT Rally, I expected more fleshed out environments with DiRT 4. Sadly, the former might be the better looking game…

  • Racetracks: Most, if not all of the Rally-stages, Codemaster’s ‘Your Stage’ creation tool was used. Lacking the more unique, hand-designed feel of the previous games locales.

3.5 Score: 3.5/5
A not so casual DiRT game in the main casual Dirt series.

Evidence

  • Settings: Plenty of options to suit your PC's specs, the standard low-to-ultra selected bells and whistles.
  • Soundtrack: An actual great list of officially licensed music tracks, should be something for everyone.
  • Controls: The typical customizable controls. I'm not able to test wheel support myself, but most common wheels and pedals are supported.

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