Old Git Reviewer
Before I start on about Dirt 4 it’s worth bearing in mind I’m an old git. I write reviews for old gits. My hands are numb, my reactions are dull and my wits are scrambled. But I love games, always have, and I’m part of an ever increasing demographic: the old git gamer. The games studios need to cater to our needs too but equally we need to accept we’re never going to hit the heights of our youths or compete in the leaderboards against the twitch time of the average 18 year old gamer. Such is life.
Since it came out in June I’ve played Dirt 4 almost daily (this is written in December 2017). It’s become my most played game of the year, and quite possibly my favourite. This is mainly due to the addictive Dirt Daily, Weekly and Monthly challenges where you put yourself up against the other players times. There’s much more to the game, and a few weak areas, which this article will try to cover.
Technically speaking I regard Dirt 4 as something of a triumph. The graphics are excellent and highly optimised. I run it at 4K on mostly High settings with the anti-aliasing slightly turned down to allow a frame rate that rarely dips under 50FPS. The sound is another plus. It’s very detailed and crisp with every engine sound taken from the original cars and the effects like the whoosh of gravel and the bang as you hit a cattle grid really gives you a rattle.
Handling – maybe the most important aspect of a driving game – is my favourite thing about it. Codemasters made a decision to tune the handling for the average gamer in this one (rather than the also excellent Dirt Rally in which the tuning was made for experts) and I’m very glad they did. Self-interested elitist fucks don’t seem to realise that the creators have a prerogative – almost a duty – to aim their games at the average gamer. But the elitist are still catered for: you can make the cars as twitchy and undriveable as you like in the tuning screen.
One place where the moaners do have a point is in the character of the stages. This is the first outing for Codemaster’s procedural stage generation code. Each stage is made up of individual sections cleverly merged together for the five environments (America’s fast gravel, Australia’s red dirt, Wales’ gravel, Sweden’s ice and Spain’s tarmac). In practice you do see – even within a single stage – patterns repeating themselves. Though the scenery and elevation changes you’ll become pretty used to the various sections and there’s no doubt that this limits the overall character of individual stages.
Dirt 4 is not rendered unplayable though – far from it. The number of cars, all with personal characteristics, and the sheer wealth of things to do will keep even the most ardent rally enthusiast occupied for a long while. The single-player side of things has four main championships – landrush, rallycross, historic rally and rally. The first two are around tracks and the latter two – the meat of the game – along multiple stages set in the environments mentioned above.
Cars are also split between the four championship modes. You earn money in all competitions and use that to buy more cars. You can also rent cars but driving your own lets you configure them to your taste, improve them and earns more money when competing – there’s plenty of money about though and it’s not a big deal earning it to buy new cars.
There’s also a damage model that can affect your car both cosmetically and its driveability. The latter provides a small drain on your money and the efficiency of repairs can be changed by hiring a chief and temporary engineers. Again this is an almost unimportant part of the game with little effect on your driving with one big exception. If you lose a wheel during a stage you’ll either have to cope with driving slowly or lose 30 seconds to replace it. Either choice effectively ends your competitiveness in the stage, or whole rally.
As mentioned before the Dirt Daily, Weekly and Monthly challenges you up against your fellow drivers to beat their times – I love these modes as they keep the challenges fresh. Their one-shot nature makes them quite thrilling. Although I’m not the greatest I like to know where I stand amongst my peers and try to make progress. There is a multiplayer side to the game (real time racing, where you actually see your opponents in the track modes) but unfortunately it’s not been particularly well done and as far as I can tell is hardly used.
During the writing of this review Codemasters have come out with an update to the game that adds multiplayer ‘Clubs’ to the game. Only time will tell how they pan out but to be honest the time is past and I hold out little hope that many will take advantage. Perhaps strangely there is almost no DLC for the game either, no extra tracks, no new environments and not even new cars have yet to see the light.
Quibbles aside I don’t hesitate to recommend Dirt 4 as a game to buy – more so if you can get it on the cheap in the Steam sales. It’s my favourite racing game of 2017 and by far the game I’ve played the most this year. It’s a good game for an old git who doesn’t spend some time on a reasonably gentle learning curve. As long as you don’t expect to make it to the top of the leaderboards and judge your progress against your own times you’ll do okay.
This game was reviewed on an elderly Sandy Bridge Core i7, with 32GB of RAM and a Nvidia GTX 980 video card.