Have you ever fancied jumping in the driver’s seat of a Rally car and going for a spin around the muddy hills of Wales? DiRT Rally might just be the closest you will get to having that experience.
Upon starting the game your first stop should be the tutorials, but as informative as they are, video shorts with a voiceover explaining the various techniques are no match for hands-on experience and I recommend the tracks of Germany – I found them to be the easiest of the six countries on show in DiRT Rally. Germany’s tracks are ideal for learning about weight transfer and why your car might not react as you may expect.
Leaving the glitz of past titles in the dirt, this game focuses purely on Rallying and it’s not for those that give up easily. It’s tough and will punish you for any lapse in concentration. Be prepared not to finish your first Championship and don’t expect to get a podium place easily.
After badly damaging my car during the second course of my first event, I was adamant I could make up some ground; I set my engineers to work trying to fix the damage I had caused, confident that my car could make it through the third and fourth courses. Feeling like I had learnt from my mistakes and by using the accelerator and brake carefully rather than just jamming my finger down on the trigger, I managed to jump up to third but the final course was to be my car’s demise.
While taking a corner a little too quickly, I hadn’t quiet got the weight transfer correct. The back end swung out and pulled my car over the edge of the track and down the mountain forcing me to retire, missing out on any championship points and precious credits for my troubles. It was bloody brilliant and I wanted more. Going into the second event I was determined to at least finish, I got to the third course before my car was deemed too unfit to race. Third time is the charm right? I made it past the finish line of the fourth course and a podium finish – I felt awesome.
I wish I could say that it was easy from here on in, but DiRT Rally is anything but easy. It’s tough, unforgiving and demands you concentrate throughout the entirety of each course.
There’s so much to consider. You have to think about the surface you’re racing on – each one makes a considerable difference to your racing style – there’s also various bumps and jumps to watch out for and finally, you have to make sure you brake and accelerate to get the best out of weight transfer – this is the core physics behind the game – and never have I seen it play such an important role.
There’s very little help from the HUD either – there’s no mini map, no racing line – just you, the car and your co-pilot. Listen to him carefully, he is your guide and often you won’t be able to see the road ahead. First you much learn the lingo, forget easy right and long hard lefts, this is all about numbers. Often the list of commands comes thick and fast, but after a while your brain will relax allowing you to focus on the challenges ahead.
Some tracks are so tight, and the car often feels like it’s going too fast. You need nerves of steel especially as your co-pilot calls out one corner after another. As the clock flashes that you are making good time, a nervous exhilaration takes over causing further risk to making a mistake. It makes for a wonderful driving experience and where other racers offer a robust arcade experiences or a simulation with a handy rewind feature, there is no safety net with DiRT Rally. At anytime you can ruin your time with one silly mistake.
While you can manage a team of engineers, hiring and firing them until you find a team that matches your Rally style, there’s no assistance when it comes to fine tuning your car. It would have been great if the team offered a tuning recommendation based on what road surface was next in the event – the greater your team synergy, the better the recommendation.
Progression through career is by placing in the top three of the overall championship – it won’t be easy. Each championship is made up of a random selection of four courses – one from each of the six countries. Beyond the main career there’s also circuit racing in Rallycross and the lofty climbs of Pikes Peak in the Hillclimb event. Online is made of the usual online modes and there’s daily, weekly and monthly challenges to best, but the challenge of getting through the career and moving onto bigger and more powerful cars is more than enough to keep me entertained.
I found the first DiRT to be quite a challenging game, something I couldn’t say of the other titles in the series. Ditching the arcade vibe that the series had been drifting toward. DiRT Rally is an adrenalin-filled look into the world of Rallying – a game that Colin McRae would have been proud to have his name stamped on.
Thanks to Koch Media and Xbox for supporting TiX