DiRT Rally 2.0 is the followup to 2015’s success DiRT Rally. Heralded for offering the best rally experience in a decade, DiRT Rally was a title fans just couldn’t get enough of. Literally. Cries for more content fell on deaf ears. So does DiRT Rally 2.0 offer what fans have missed?
DiRT Rally 2.0 really is 2.0, building on the framework of the first title to offer an experience that sets a new standard for rally simulators. The core of the game is in the singleplayer, with several modes offering players an experience that they can tailor to fit their desires in almost every way. While the career mode, known as ‘My Team,’ starts you off with a predetermined car for each discipline, following your first championship, you are free to buy whatever car you wish (providing you can afford it) and tacking the progressively more challenging championships as you go about your day.
My Team is named as such as you really are pitched as being part of a team. You’ll be able to upgrade your co-driver, rally legend Phil Mills’ ability to assist you on the stage when you run into trouble, as well as your engineer and mechanics’ ability to fix your car after you wrap it around the nearest tree. It would have been nice to see the livery editor from DiRT 4 transfer over here, especially as you can see some of the possibilities on offer there clearly in the pre-determined liveries available, and the challenges from sponsors would add a nice little additional incentive to the rallies and races. Thankfully, the racing itself is more than enough to make this all seem obsolete in comparison.
DiRT Rally 2.0 is an accessible challenge. The game is clearly aimed at those of us who turn off all the assists, crank our headphones and sit behind a wheel in our rooms muttering Colin McRee quotes. However, if you’re going into the title armed with nothing more than a controller and a genuine love of racing, DiRT Rally 2.0 isn’t out of reach. There are enough assists here to help you through should you wish to use them, and if you’re feeling brave, the game is definitely controllable without them, even with a controller. You’ll be challenged, but not in a way that makes you want to close the game and go slam some doors, the challenge is one that is highly rewarding, and keeps you wanting to master every car the title has to offer.
And what a variety of cars DiRT Rally 2.0 has to offer too. While there are some favorites missing for now (we’ll get onto the ‘for now’ part later) You’ll be hard pressed to not find something you fall in love with. A fan of front wheel drive shitboxes? The Peugeot 205 GTI has you more than covered. Fancy something you’ll die smiling in? Anything from the Group B era should see you well on your way to a smiley, fiery death. If you’re really looking for something special, you can even try the host of new GT4 cars from the likes of Aston Martin and Chevrolet if you like having more power than you know what to reasonably do with. Newer players will want to stick with the smaller front wheel drive cars to really learn the ropes, but the beauty is you really can take whatever you want here.
Where the game offers a little less variety is the number of rally locations on offer in the base game. With just 6 locations, you’ll see events repeated rather quickly as you progress through the game. Right now, there’s a lack of any form of snow rally, which is a real shame, but the new locations really do offer some incredible routes that will not tire quickly. Argentina is a brutal Rally, with rock walls just waiting to swallow you whole. If you like things a little faster, Poland will have you bouncing off the limiter as you fly over jumps into blind corners and test just how much grip is left in that 3-stage old set of soft tires you fitted.
Rallycross offers a little more, with 8 locations from the 2018 season of the FIA World Rallycross Championship. The official partnership with the championship returns also, with a host of drivers and cars from the 2018 season making an appearance. You can even take part in the championship in-game, with the FIA World Rallycross Championship mode taking you through all 8 events, which also happen to be the first 8 rounds. That’s two-thirds of the tracks raced in 2018, and with the team over at Codemasters yet to announce Season 2 of the title’s post-launch content, there’s a chance for more to come. Although the return of Lydden Hill for some grass-roots nostalgia wouldn’t go amiss either.
Once you’ve picked your car and your event, it’s time to get behind the wheel. This is where unsurprisingly, DiRT Rally 2.0 really, really shines. All the cars feel unique, each with their own quirks, be it in design or handling, that makes switching from one car to the next even more of an experience. The experience that highlights just how right Codemasters have got it with the dirt stages in DiRT Rally 2.0 is balancing a rear wheel drive car on the throttle on the throttle in the rain on a rutted, drenched stage. It’s such an engaging experience that you’ll find yourself coming back to, even if you spin wildly. It feels as it should, even at low speeds rotating the car with your right foot behaves as it should, fixing a complaint many had with the first title.
Sadly, one complaint that isn’t quite so fixed is the tarmac stages. While dirt stages feel fantastic, tarmac still has some of that disconnected floaty feeling that disappointed in the first game. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a vast improvement on the first title, but it’s just not quite where it should be. What the tarmac stages do offer, is a great look at the new tires added into DiRT Rally 2.0. You have a choice of 3 compounds on all surfaces, with soft tires offering the most grip but the shortest durability, while hard tires offer the least grip but last the longest. Medium tires are, predictably, slap bang in the middle. On tarmac, however, There is also the option for a wet compound, offering much-needed traction in increasingly slippy conditions.
Outside of ‘My Team,’ DiRT Rally 2.0 features several other modes. The aforementioned FIA World Rallycross Championship mode sits alongside the historic rally mode. This mode takes you through the history of Rally, giving you the chance to get behind the wheel of some of the sport’s most iconic cars. Finishing one championship in the top three will unlock the next. If you’re after something a little more tailorable, then custom championships are also available. You pick the stages, you pick the cars, and away you go. This is also where you’ll find the majority of the title’s multiplayer modes, allowing you to create and join events. finally, time trial, which allows you to take to any of the title’s stages looking for that elusive, perfect run.
Backstepping to multiplayer, most player’s dabble in multiplayer is likely to come within the ‘My Team’ mode. Obviously, leaderboards exist for bragging rights, but it’s the daily and weekly challenges that are likely to get people competing. While you run on your own, you’re competing against the rest of the world. There are no restarts, if you make a mistake, the whole world can see it. No pressure eh? This does, however, highlight an issue with the title. You are required to be online to play the career. Quite why it’s not just an online for online components situation I’ll never know.
Graphically, DiRT Rally 2.0 is comfortably one of the most attractive looking racing titles out there. It’s not quite on par with titles like Forza Motorsport 7, but the power on offer is not to be sniffed at. There’s the odd iffy tree, and rain looks a little, strange, but the lighting is a true marvel. Early morning/evening stages showcase just how good this title looks. Low sun glistening through the trees, shining an orange glow over the road. The moon, lighting the road as the sun sets. Turn your lights off and you’ll see nothing except what the moon shines on. It’s done right.
The inclusion of bespoke stages has definitely helped the team take DiRT Rally 2.0 to the next level visually. Weather and time help to make these look even more unique, as well as adding a challenge to the driver. Additionally, the stage degradation feature really changes the game up, with stages becoming totally different beasts to tame depending on your starting position. Players were slightly underwhelmed with the generated stages in DiRT 4, and the return to bespoke stages is definitely welcome, even if the die-hard players will no longer be needing the services of their co-driver in a couple of months.
This is where the post-launch support is going to come in. We know it’s coming, and that’s brilliant news. What’s not so hot is that you’ll recognize a lot of the content coming in Season One, because it was in the original DiRT Rally. While it’s nice to see these stages get remastered, some players are bound to feel a little cheated. The lack of some fan favorite cars, such as my personal favorite in the Peugout 106 Kit Car, and the rear wheel drive Group B cars might well hold back a few players, but there seems to be a chance they’ll come in later down the line. It’s definitely a subject that’s split the fanbase, but it doesn’t take from the fact that the base game is absolutely phenomenal.
DiRT Rally 2.0 is exactly what I wanted it to be. The new standard in Rally simulation. While the lack of variety might deter some players to wait for the DLC to be reduced, those who get stuck in will not regret their choice. Getting behind the wheel is pure joy, offering a fulfilling challenge that keeps you coming back for more. Time and time again.