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Game Info:

DiRT Rally
Developed By: Codemasters Racing Studio
Published By: Codemasters
Release Date: December 7, 2015
Available On: PC, PS4/Xbox One coming April 5, 2016
Genre: Simulation Racer
Number of Players: 1+
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
MSRP: $59.99
(Amazon Affiliate Link)

Thank you Codemasters for sending us this game for review!

I have always had a soft spot for racing games, but mostly those of the arcade-y persuasion.  I have good memories of early Need for Speed games, and going back even farther, games like Pole Position, Roadmasters, and Chase-HQ also bring back good memories.  Over the years I would enjoy Gran Tourismo, and eventually TrackMania quite a lot, but I never really got into dirt racing games too much.  I gave DiRT 2 a decent try, but I found that game to be too difficult for my arcade style foot to the floor approach, but it was far too flashy to be a real simulator. When I was given a chance to try out DiRT Rally, I jumped at the chance.

You see, DiRT Rally is really nothing like its recent predecessors.  Rather than focus on flashy races and stunts, this game is down to business.  The physics feel extremely accurate, at least to me.  What really did it for me was when I slid around a corner, and in my front wheel drive car, stepped on it in just the right way, and pulled out of that corner, with my rear wheels fishtailing – just like I have done in real life in the snow.  (Don't tell my wife.)  It felt real enough that I could use my real driving experience to make me better at this game.  I was blown away.  Oh, and did I mention that I slid right off of the cliff on my first turn of a corner?

Yes, that's right.  On surfaces with poor traction, your cars follow the laws of physics and don't always go the direction you turn your wheel.  What you quickly learn playing this game is that putting your foot to the floor is almost universally a bad idea.  Now, I drive a manual transmission in real life, so I understand a bit better than some how easy it actually is to break tires loose.  This is very much the case here, also.  

So, rather than aiming for top speed and keeping it there, you very much instead learn to drive at a comfortable pace to simply stay on the road, as finishing the race and earning some credits is far more important than doing it quickly and crashing.  This game does not allow you complete do-overs – you can restart a race, but that costs credits.  You can't really cancel out of championships once you enter.  A DNF (did not finish) can cost you money from car repairs and from paying your engineers.

DiRT Rally
Highlights:

Strong Points:  Excellent graphics, sound, and voices; very realistic physics, much more so than previous DiRT games; incredibly challenging; stripped down, pure rally experience; excellent wheel support
Weak Points: By far best experienced with a wheel; has many less modes than previous DiRT entries
Moral Warnings: None!  (unless driving into a tree or off a cliff is considered violent)

The customization in this game is a bit more realistic and a bit less flashy than some games.  You can make adjustments and tweaks, but you can't make a 600HP Ford Escort.  You can do things like adjust tire pressures, differentials, and more things along those lines.  You can also hire a pit crew to help repair your vehicles.  Every two races in an event, you have the opportunity to perform some repairs, which your crew helps with.  Each person has a set of stats, and their overall rating is a combination of them.  But they also cost money, and eventually will have to be rehired or let go.

And go you must, but slowly, at first.  There is a certain joy each time you complete a race, and intensity required to do so, that I haven't experienced in a racing game before.  And I was impressed at how the game trains you through each successive generation of cars.  The first front wheel drive 1960s cars are slow, and very inexpensive.  When you step up to the 1970s cars, they are now rear wheel drive, and much faster.  The difference in feel and handling was startling.  But it also slowly trains you on how to handle the faster speeds.  Each successive generation does that more and more, until you can handle the latest all wheel drive super cars with relative ease.  (I have not reached this point.)

It's also interesting how you can earn more and more credits with each race and rank that you achieve, making future and more expensive cars more affordable.  And while the standard Rally mode is the default (and least expensive) courses to enter, the hillclimb and rallycross races require their own cars, which you won't be able to afford until you have saved enough from rally racing.  Hopefully by that point, driving much faster and more powerful cars will feel a bit more natural from all that practice rally driving got you.

The standard Rally mode is pretty much a set of point A to point B races, with at least four (more on higher difficulties) races per event.  Hillclimb is somewhat similar, except that you must first purchase a very expensive hillclimb vehicle, and race up a mountain twice, keeping your best time.  Rallycross is a bit more traditional racing mode, where you race in laps, trying to pass all of your opponents, attempting to win first place.

While hillclimb and rallycross are locked behind credits in career mode, there is also a custom event where you can play whichever mode you like.  You can also pick any vehicle.  There are also leagues and a few other multiplayer modes.  Most of them are competitive based on times, but rallycross is simultaneous.  There are also challenges that are updated periodically for everyone to take part in and compete on leaderboards.

DiRT Rally
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 92%
Gameplay - 16/20
Graphics - 10/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 100%
Violence - 10/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

The levels are in most (all?) cases direct re-implementations of actual rally driving courses that real rally drivers use.  They look simply stunning, and very realistic.  Some courses are mountainous, others desert, others forest, and yet others with snow and ice.  The level design is really great, and will challenge even the most jaded race driver.  As your co-driver tells you that coming up is a hairpin turn, you better listen – or you'll be in a world of hurt.  Really, a big part of getting 'in the zone' with this game is learning to listen and prepare for what is coming.

The graphics are simply breathtaking.  The cars dent and ding in realistic ways. The trees and foliage look great.  The road itself is also really nice – and if you see a bump in the road, you can likely go flying if you hit it at high speed, so being careful is extremely important.  A crash or two can really ruin an otherwise excellent run – especially if you fail entirely with a DNF.

There is also a weather system that really affects how you can drive.  And it looks great.  If you knock out your headlights at night, which is completely possible to do, you may find yourself unhappy with the results.

The graphics scale quite well, and there are a ton of options to work through if you are a tweaker.  I was quite surprised that my AMD R9 290X required a handful of settings turned down from maximum in order to average over sixty frames per second, which is really important in a game like this.

DiRT Rally is some of the most fun I have had in a racing game in years.  While I will continue to have a soft spot for arcade style racers, I was beyond impressed with what Codemasters has accomplished with this title: a realistic rally sim that is not only tough as nails, but really fun to play.  And rewarding.  However, while a gamepad does function as expected, and I did test it with both a Xbox One controller and a Steam Controller, this game really does deserve a decent racing wheel.  I am using an old Logitech MOMO that I got for a very low price, and it works great.  If you are looking for a fun arcade style racer where you just flatten the accelerator the whole time, please look elsewhere.  But if you want a tough as nails but very realistic rally racing simulator, then I highly recommend DiRT Rally.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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