Dirt 5 is the fourteenth game in the late Colin McRae’s rally series and the eighth time Codemasters have used Dirt in their title. While the original Dirt focused on pure rally, the numbered series has moulded into more of a pick up and play off-road arcade racer, with the Dirt Rally series taking mantle for the simulation approach. Dirt 5 continues to have players travel the globe, compete in a number of various events but this time with a unique narrative career mode, starring voice acting stalwarts, Nolan North and Troy Baker. But overall, it is the strength of the racing that will determine if Dirt 5 finishes the race on the podium.
Dirt 5 is an absolute blast on the track with each class of vehicle feeling uniquely different and the track’s surface playing a big factor in the aggressiveness of the player’s driving.
The campaign throws the player straight into the action with a quick race tutorial on how to become the best. It brings the Forza Horizon type of festival feel, with tracks packed with fans, over excited podcast type of commentary and those bright neon colours that just spell out ‘fun is being had here.’ The campaign mode is different from past games; with this one having five chapters of races to complete. Each chapter offers up a plethora of racing types, and allows the player to tackle in the order they want. Completion of each race will give the player one of three stamps depending on how they finished. Most races do not require a podium finish to be completed and all Dirt 5 requires is enough stamps to enter the final races (always 3 to choose from) to complete at the end of a chapter.
With well over 100 different events and a solid number of racing types, I absolutely loved how I could choose my path to the main event and try to ignore they race types I was not enjoying. This being anything to do with the left-only-turning Sprint cars. Some of the race types on offer are:-
- Land Rush, a spectacular heavy hitting racetrack in wild weather. I fondly remember my first rush, with heavy rain pelting down after the first of three laps, changing the dirt to a thick slush of mud, with the sun quickly returning and creating reflections that bounced off the truck sizes puddles the 4WD vehicles had made.
- Rally Raid, a favourite of mine that offered a Forza Horizon type of point-to-point racing across a tough, hardened environment that pushes the driver to attack and hit jumps at speed.
- Stampede, 4WD trucks on unmarked terrain with jumps and pile-ups on harsh bends. The name, along with the roaring beasts explains this race type well.
- Ice Breaker, a race on ice that requires a bit of patience on the accelerator and smarter use of breaks to drift. A standout track in this race type is under the Manhattan Bridge.
- Gymkhana, a stunt type event that is judged on points and includes doing donuts, jumps and smashing boards.
- Pathfinder which was my favourite brought a tough mode and the only event based on times. The player needs to make their way through a track that is ridiculously steep, has large drops, tight turns and requires smart use of the accelerator and weight. It reminds me of what the Trial’s games could be if it was in the Dirt world. Seriously Codemasters, give us more of this
Along with the racing is the class of vehicles; there are rally cars officially licensed from the 80s and 90s, 4WD beasts and some road racers kitted out with the off-road kits. While variety does not reach the heights of Forza Horizon, there is enough here for most rally enthusiasts. Sadly any customisation that is not visual is out the door for Dirt 5 and even the livery customisation options are a little bland with the best things being locked under a player level cap. Having everything from the start and options to share liveries online would have piqued my interest more here.
The difficulty options make Dirt 5 welcoming to new comers while it can also be ramped up for veterans. While there are five difficulties that mainly change the AI, there are three different options for vehicles, from high assist, to low or none at all. If the player is having difficulty but does not want to lose the challenge they can tinker with these settings for a custom approach.
The optional story is laid out via a podcast called DONUT. While there is no cutscenes, hosts Nolan Sykes and James Pumphery have entertaining discussions between events. What really pricked up this reviewer’s ears was when the player’s mentor, AJ (Alex Janicek) and later on rival Bruno Durand were introduced and are voiced by arguably best in the business, Troy Baker and Nolan North. While everything these guys voice act does not turn to gold, it is good to know they have not phoned their work in here.
Within Dirt 5’s campaign, there are also Takedowns and Sponsorships. Takedowns are one-on-one races that mentor AJ organisers. Unfortunately, none of the Takedown events were hard or felt needed. Sponsorships allow the player to bring in revenue; and as drivers level up, they will unlock new sponsors with new perks and requirements. Players can also bring in extra revenue through doing various race objectives from drifting, being in the lead, trading paint or a mixture of these. Many of these are hit or miss, such as drifting into the lead so many times causing the driver to have to slow down and risk finishing first just to try to drift into the lead again.
Dirt 5 sees the player travel all over the world, bringing racing to the likes of Monument Valley USA, China’s bamboo forests, countryside Tuscany Italy, the frozen East River under the Manhattan Bridge and the outskirts of Brazil’s favelas, with its muddy terrain. All venues look the part and are a joy to race in and it looks stunning on an Xbox One X (see our Xbox Series X update this coming this Tuesday). The lighting of the environments is superb and the way weather dynamics and day to dusk to night cycles change throughout the racing is beautiful. Car models are detailed with their off-road kits and will show superficial damage after trading paint and collisions. The title also allows for the resolution to be dropped in favour for a hard 60fps mode, which is great for online purists. The soundtrack brings a high beat modern rock that helps with the flavour of the festival style racing. The audio also adds to the experience, with the roar of engines battling in the Stampede races, the slosh of the mud while sliding around bends and the crunch of contact all adding to the immersion on the player in the game.
Once finished with Dirt 5’s campaign, the Playground is the next step. The playground area provides a sandbox for players to create their own tracks, fitting it out with jumps, 360 degree tunnels and more. Players can also upload their playgrounds for others to download and experience. At the time of this review, there were already a number of impressive playgrounds to tryout.
Multiplayer only makes this title so much sweeter. There is an online mode of up to twelve players that offers multiplayer racing across most modes and tracks; it also includes some interesting battle modes as well. All ran smoothly and I had no connection issues at time of review, it just became a battle to fill racers up during the review period.
What impressed me was the 4-player drop-in and out cooperative campaign. While the split-screens can get a little crowded at times, I had a blast playing with mates while continuing my progress. 4-player is also available via the arcade mode where players can choose their favourite race types, tracks and vehicle.
The game can be paused anytime offline but online players need to wait for races to end. It is perfect for all ages and with the multiplayer, assisted driving and knocking down the difficulty, it can be great for family night.
Pottsy for One More Game
9 – Amazing – as near to a 10 as you are going to get without it being a 10. It’s an amazing experience that just requires that little something else to make it a masterpiece. Your hard earned cash and time would be well spent here.
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Dirt 5 was reviewed on an Xbox One X. It is also available on Xbox Series S|X, PlayStation 4|5 and PC.
The publisher kindly provided the code for this game. All thoughts on this game are ours and ours alone.