16th Jun2017

‘DiRT 4′ Review (PS4)

by Matthew Smail

dirt-4-ps4-cover

Right from the beginning, DiRT 4 obviously seeks to build on the success of the critically acclaimed DiRT Rally, whilst simultaneously reaching for the more mainstream audience of the previous entries in the series. It’s a much calmer experience than the other numbered entries, and where the art of the traditional rally has lost ground to more and more outlandish interpretations in previous games, it is back with a vengeance this time around.

As a result, DiRT 4 feels a bit odd, but only if you overthink it. The development team have built a game that seeks to unite fans of both the traditional rally games that made them famous (and in 2015, who showed their support through sales of DiRT Rally) and, erm… whoever it was that kept buying the previous entries in the DiRT series.

Whilst DiRT 4 may have lost some of its identity, it remains extremely credible – and enjoyable. There are fewer racing disciplines in this outing than in other games in the series canon, with rally, classic rally, rallycross and land rush modes being the only ones included. Rally and classic rally are basically the same mode but with cars drawn from the present and the golden age of 90’s rallying that saw greats like Colin McRae and Richard Burns emerge onto the scene respectively. rallycross and land rush modes pit drivers against each other in more direct competition, using either traditional rally cars or very specific buggies.

The game features a career mode that presents players with the opportunity to play through each of these race modes a considerable number of times, with each one drawing from the selection of tracks and locations available. There are only five rally locations in DiRT 4 which is a shame, but the introduction of a semi-procedural course generation tool called Your Course ensures that you’ll never run out of unique stages, even if the locations they take place in get a bit dull. Similarly, there are only a handful of rallycross and land rush stages, but by mixing up the race format and direction, and by making these modes something of a sideshow, it works quite well. Just know this; DiRT 4 is a rally game first, with these other modes included as a welcome distraction rather than a central feature.

Another minor addition is that of the My Team mode, which introduces the idea that the player has their own team to operate and manage. This mode is kind of fun, but a long way away from being super exciting. Players can influence team chemistry by performing well, listening to advice and achieving various objectives that occur on a race by race basis. Team members such as mechanics, PR representatives and others can be hired and fired, and each will provide a (usually) fairly negligible effect such as increased earnings, faster repairs and so on. It’s all fine and dandy, but none of it is really necessary if I’m being honest.

What is exceptional in DiRT 4, as you would hope, is the racing. The two driving modes from DiRT Rally return in the form of Simulation and Gamer, with the former presenting a much less forgiving take on features like car handling and the effect that different road surfaces have on the vehicle. Gamer focuses on the more casual, arcade style racing that DiRT drivers probably seek out, but it can still be challenging when influenced by the heavily customisable range of assists, opponent difficulty level and so on. What I particularly liked is that there is the potential for a challenging race here for anyone, but similarly, with everything turned down to the easiest setting, DiRT 4 is very approachable and can make anyone feel like they’ve achieved something.

I’ve played DiRT 4 extensively on a normal PS4, a PS4 Pro and a high end PC, and I must say, whilst the PC version looks staggering, the console version is no slouch either. The frame rate is consistently high in almost every mode, with the main exception being a common drop in frame rate to perhaps high single figures for just a split second at the start of every land rush race. Rally’s look particularly stunning, with Wales, Spain, Sweden, Australia and the USA all faithfully recreated, with variable weather possible in each location. The PS4 Pro does receive enhanced features over and above the PS4, but they are relatively subtle and still some way behind what a good PC is capable of.

Online, DiRT 4 features cross platform leader boards should you want them, and it is also where the directly competitive race modes come into their own. I found the netcode to be faultless, and I was able to join lobby’s and races without more than the most minimal amount of minor technical issues, most likely caused by my own internet connection.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed DiRT 4, probably because of the focus on more classic rally action, which is undoubtedly my preference. The career mode is long and varied, and the Your Course feature adds potentially unlimited variation as long as you can cope with racing in only five locations. The inclusion of land rush and rallycross as the only handoffs from previous DiRT games seemed strange to me at first, but even as a distraction, it’s nice to have a change of pace and a more competitive multiplayer mode to enjoy. All in all, DiRT 4 might not be quite as good as DiRT Rally (which had the benefit of being unexpected) but it is nonetheless an excellent racing game.

**** 4/5

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