DiRT 4 (Playstation 4 Review)
Codemasters have been giving us the keys to their motoring world for some time now. Their annual Formula 1 games in recent years have delighted me, but what may seem like a million miles away from the sterile and clinical Formula 1, is the thrilling and nail biting Dirt 4. Don’t get me wrong, I love the tech geekery that comes with Formula 1 games. However, powersliding around that dusty trail with a sheer cliff as your motivator for not losing it, brings the primal nature out in all of us. Will Codemasters’ follow up to the critically acclaimed Dirt 2 and Dirt 3 be a welcome addition or the family outcast?
Unfortunately, I haven’t had much luck with rally games in the past. They have always offered spectacles in the form of my car careening off a mountain, or wrapping itself ‘round a post. However, the precise nature of the games have always driven me away. That is until the fun was thrust forth in the form of the Dirt games. I have fond memories of sitting with friends and comparing our ability to carry out tricks around obstacles until the early hours. What with Dirt 2 being my first foray into the franchise, Dirt 4 will have some mighty big foots to fill.
Outside of accessibility and realistic driving, the most important factor in modern motoring games is their Career modes, and Dirt 4 does a fine job here. It allows you to create your avatar and choose which races and championships you wish to take part in; from edge of your seat time trials in Rally racing to Landrush races pitting you in competitive head-to-head racing against other mighty off-road beasts, to the official FIA World Rallycross allowing you to take part in one of the most rapidly growing and intensive motorsports in recent times. There is a lot on offer for anyone picking up Dirt 4. Personally I have spent the most time in Landrush and Rallycross, as I prefer to have opponents racing with me rather than setting sprint times.
The opponent driver AI difficulties do leave something to be desired. I usually drive with max AI settings in racing games and starting off with Dirt 4 was no different in this regard. I quickly found that they were far too good for my abilities to start off with. Naturally, I lowered the AI levels by one to give myself a bit of learning space, and the racing quickly became far too easy. Filled with self confidence, I raised to max settings once again, and then like a swing from Thor’s hammer, I was crushed. Defeated, and with my controller’s life flashing before its eyes, I begrudgingly lowered the AI again to progress the game. Another feature of Career mode, and a personal favourite of any motoring game, is the creation and running of your own team. This involves buying cars for the divisions you are racing in, hiring employees to repair the car between races and upgrading the team headquarters to improve team relations and allow for more options during car upgrades. You are also able to design the look of the cars, make sponsorship deals to allow for more payouts when targets are met… the list goes on. The Career mode really is quite an all-encompassing experience, and one that offers lots of replayability. Ever appealing to the diehard racing geeks, Dirt 4 allows you to “tune” the car to adapt to each stage depending on the weather conditions, how you drive and what the stage surface is like. You name it, you can tweak your car to crush it.
A personal gripe, but I understand that it is necessary, is with how long it is for stages to load in career mode. Thankfully, the mundanity of waiting is broken with the affirming buzz of the remote. I don’t know why, but this little probable afterthought almost always brought a smile to
my face. I often commented to myself how nice a touch it was, and cottoned on that I had said that about twenty times already that night. One other major unflattering mark against Dirt 4 is that I had a few issues with the car deciding whether it was going to be upright or lay on its side after a collision. This usually resulted in a rather confusing display of agility from my car switching between these positions a couple of times all within a few moments.
Admittedly I am a bit of a snob, and somewhat an ignoramus when it comes to the wonderful world of motorsport. I emphatically follow F1 and I can name all the facts and figures for the last decade or so without missing a beat —don’t test me. However, when it comes to the wider spectrum of motorsport, I am at a loss. Recently, I have been watching Rallycross as much as I possibly can. Its pedal to the metal and hair raising from start to finish and is exactly how I remember motorsports being from when I was a child. Dirt 4 lets you throw cars around narrow tracks at high speeds, it allows you to pit your machinery and wit against the world, it lets you blaze a trail of glory across the world and put your team in the spotlight. Dirt 4 is the embodiment of what we want, and remember, motor racing to be.