Codemasters is one of those developers, that consistently hit it out of the park, when it comes to racing games. With their biggest racing titles including F1, GRID and the DIRT Rally series, DIRT 5 is the latest to come from the development garage of Codemasters and is from the Codemasters Cheshire team.
A spin-off of their original rally games, DIRT 5 has more of an arcade feel, while its racing has a rallycross approach. With tighter and faster sprint style gameplay, you will race across several racing game types, in multiple car classes and across several countries, including America, Brazil, Greece, China and South Africa.
There is a basic narrative woven into the career mode. You are an up-and-coming racing driver, taken under the wing of a top racing name. You race your rivals to become the best. The story is throwaway and nothing special, but does includes the voice talents of Nolan North and Troy Baker.
Start Your Engines
Now let’s get to the real meat of the game, the racing. As mentioned, the gameplay has more an arcade racing flavour, as opposed to it’s rally simulation of its Colin McRae Rally/DiRT Rally stablemate. You will compete in a number of events, including point-to-point races, rallycross and time trials. You will across harsh, rugged landscapes in modes like Stampede. You’ll have to balance your speed with precise handling. Drifting around the tight bends, while maintaining speed is the key to winning many races.
There are a range of cars, with different power and handling ratios, but there aren’t was to modify the car physically. You can however, customise your car visually. With a hefty suite of colours, texture patterns, stickers, sponsors etc. to unlock through career mode. The lighting and weather effects are stunning at times. Sun rays creep through tree lines, the transition from day to night has a realistic lighting tone, while rain and snow feels visceral and dangerous during racing.
As well as looking great the weather and environment are the real challenge, in reaching your goal. Mud splatters your view, while night events make it hard to see the track ahead. Snow covered roads are slippy, while forcing winds and blizzards obscure your vision. Blistering sun views, glitter the puddles on the ground and claustrophobic nature of some winding tracks, tests your concentration.
New to the franchise are the Ice Breaker and Path Finder events. Race on a frozen lake and try to maintain control. Hit the wrong driving line, sees you skid far from your intended path and lose position. An interesting race event, but hard to master. While Path Finder has you ditch speed for maneuverability. Battle rocky landscapes, hill climbs and twisting courses, in order to get to the end on time and in one piece. Unfortunately, path Finder suffers from some dodgy physics at times, as your car bounces between rocks and cliffs. Maybe this will be fixed in a patch.
At times, playing DIRT 5 felt a lot like the PlayStation franchise MotorStom. this familiarity is because the team behind DIRT 5, also worked on the likes of MotorStorm and ONRUSH titles. Trudging through the mud filled environments, shared a striking resemblance at times. Although there are minor damage effects, like missing body panels and cracked widescreens, I would have loved to have seen a full damage mechanic implemented. There are plenty of car crushing opportunities, that may have made races more unpredictable. Instead if you go hit barriers, you tend to bounce off them with little consequence.
Build Your Playground
New to the DIRT series is the Playground mode. This mode allows players to design and build elaborate racing arenas. With a wide range of tools at your disposal, you can create new gymkhana events, gate races, that see you hit a number of checkpoints in the fastest time or even collectible challenges called Smash Attack’s, that see you collect objects under a time limit.
Drop a starting point on the map and build a twisted, drift defying route around the arena. Place loops, ramps, gates and other obstacles, in order to craft challenging objectives. Include fireworks, rings of fire and confetti cannons, to add a bit of flair. Save your creation and upload your map to have it played by the world or compete in other players arenas, to reach the top of the leaderboards.
It’s a decent addition to the overall package, which adds extra challenges and maps, as the community builds team. Many will test your patience and driving skills.
On The Podium
DIRT 5 has some great looking environments. The weather effects are blindingly beautiful at times, which also add to the changing racing conditions. AI is competent, but I would of liked some more aggressive racing at times and if a fully realised damage mechanic was to be implemented, it may have added more challenge. It’s a good racer overall, but doesn’t finish top of the podium. It has some good ideas to build on for future titles.
DIRT 5 is available right now on Xbox Series X and Series S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Google Stadia. It is available for PlayStation 5 in some parts and will be available worldwide on November 19th. Anyone that has the last-gen version, can upgrade for free to their next-gen counterpart. Check out DIRT 5 website for more details.
With tight driving mechanics and varied environments, gameplay is fun throughout the career mode. I would have liked more of an emphasis on car upgrades or increased damaged morels, that may have given races more of a tactical feel. The Playground mode is a robust builder, allowing you to make or play extra arenas and challenges. Overall, DIRT 5 is a solid arcade style racer.