DiRT Rally 2.0 (PC) Review

By Tomas Barry 18.02.2019

Review for DiRT Rally 2.0  on PC

In 2015, Codemasters revealed DiRT Rally to the world. It received instant recognition in Early Access form, owing to its challenging and deeply rewarding rally-driving fundamentals, despite only featuring a few tracks. Xbox One and PS4 editions followed the full PC release, to similarly rapturous applause. One reason that DiRT Rally succeeded as a reboot is that it distanced itself from a decade's worth of titles that evolved in design and direction away from the original Colin McRae Rally series. Although this led to many stellar projects, like the more sandbox-orientated DiRT series, long-term fans certainly seemed to welcome DiRT Rally's return to a purer and more simulative rally experience. Ironically, although the sequel doubles down wherever simulation and authenticity is concerned, DiRT Rally 2.0 benefits just as much from its crazy cousin, DiRT 4, integrating a drastically deeper rallycross experience. The result is something special. Lights out. Green flag!

Although Codemasters were already deeply woven into the history of racing games, with the classic original Colin McRae Rally series, DiRT Rally certainly enhanced their reputation, particularly amongst the ever-evolving sim-racing community. Some remained adamant that the classic Richard Burns Rally still featured the most realistic, bicep-enhancing force-feedback and physics. They also pointed out that there's a slight air of simcade-ism, in elements of DiRT Rally's driving experience. Nonetheless, Codemasters' hugely successful project was recognised as the greatest rally experience produced in several generations.

Rather than jump straight into the sequel, Codemasters created DiRT 4. This integrated the excellent handling seen in DiRT Rally, but retained the more playful spirit that series is famous for. It featured a much wider range of off-road disciplines, and its major unique feature was procedurally generated rallies. DiRT 4 also expanded the scope of the rallycross content, which did feature in the original DiRT Rally, but only offering a slither of tracks and cars. Cleverly, and to great effect, DiRT Rally 2.0 integrates and merges the quick-fire fun-factor of DiRT 4, with the more technical and acutely unforgiving experience DiRT Rally built its reputation on. There's much to talk about!

Before getting into the numerous ways in which DiRT Rally 2.0 improves itself as a game, let's talk about the bread and butter, the driving experience. How does the game feel through the wheel? How accurate and authentic do the physics and handling seem? And do DiRT Rally 2.0's driving fundamentals improve enough to win over those who doubt that series' integrity as a truly simulative rally experience? The disclaimer is that this reviewer can only dream of getting behind the wheel of a real rally car. However, speaking as a sim-nerd, Codemasters have made all the right moves here.

When putting DiRT Rally 2.0 through its paces with a Fanatec Clubsport V2.5 wheel-base, Fanatec Porsche RSR 918 wheel and Fanatec Clubsport V3 pedals, the driving experience certainly is exhilarating. There's a much more realistic impression of weight than in the original, which is highlighted when the car is thrown through corners and the intensity of the weight-balance shifting can be felt through the force-feedback. DiRT Rally 2.0 is much more on the money in the domain of realistic physics than the original was, allowing drivers to be much more instinctive and even more reactive than before, provided they're playing with entirely simulative settings.

This will please the sim-enthusiasts no end, because they really do deserve an epic modern rally simulation, even though it is incredible to see the Richard Burns Rally mod community still thriving. Those with reservations about the handling model in the original will certainly find DiRT Rally 2.0 an infinitely more gratifying and realistically-anchored rally experience. Drivers don't come unstuck by losing the battle with the back-end in quite the endless fashion of Richard Burns Rally, but the physics and handling feel drastically more alive, nuanced and authentically-geared this time round.

Screenshot for DiRT Rally 2.0  on PC

There's far more snapback and counter-steering required. Drivers need to be even more reactive than previously, which is a scary thought. But there's no greater sadistic pleasure than going for that perfect run, re-trying for hours until the driver's arms fall off, since DiRT Rally 2.0 feels so good through the wheel. It's not just the considerably more accurate physics, or the heavier, more dynamic handling. The impression of the smaller track details, provided by the lighter side of the force-feedback spectrum, is accentuated through the wheel quite expertly.

Additionally, DiRT Rally 2.0 is fully compatible and ready-to-go with Fanaleds software. For Fanatec sim-racing gear, this enables additional feedback touches, such as rumble through the Fanatec Clubsport V3 brake pedal and the Fanatec Porsche RSR 918 wheel. In the case of most road-sims, the extra features provided by this third-party software can often be off-putting and undesirable. However, in the case of DiRT Rally 2.0, Fanaleds significantly enhances the experience, raising the immersion levels even further. Suffice to say that with a middle to top-tier modern wheel, DiRT Rally 2.0 feels excellent.

When using a more affordable setup, such as the stellar Logitech G29 wheel and pedals, the fundamental improvements to DiRT Rally 2.0 are just as clear. With much less torque and resolution available, everything is delivered through the wheel all the same. Players still get an excellent impression of the subtlest elements of track and terrain. Furthermore, it's still a real handful to keep the car under control, with back-end stepping out, and the forces totally out of whack. Just keep in mind that mid-range to higher-tier wheel setups definitely extract the rawest and most visceral DiRT Rally 2.0 experience.

This leads on to another contributing and semi-related factor as to why DiRT Rally 2.0 is best on PC. Most of the top-tier racing gear is made for PC, which brings out the best of the title. More importantly, it's the most versatile and customizable version too. Cubed3 tested a variety of sim-gear with the game, including an Arduino button box, and a custom shifter and hand-brake. Everything works seamlessly, and customization is very easy. It certainly was a relief that the hand-brake worked, because this is a near essential item to get the best from the experience.

While using the button mapped to the handbrake on the Fanatec Porsche RSR Wheel worked surprisingly well, there were inevitable moments when it wasn't easily accessible because of the amount of steering lock put on. The other flaw is that it's just a simple on and off button, so it's either the entire handbrake down or nothing, unless the player starts tweaking with braking assist options. This is good for those who don't mind compromises, but for sim-nuts, a proper hand-brake is the only way to go.

Having a proper handbrake with progressive input, not only feels more satisfying, it also enriches the sense of realism. Moreover, it's pretty much essential for good lap times, not to mention, to keep the car from careering into spectators, clipping banks, getting into potholes and toppling down mountains. While it's possible to enjoy DiRT Rally 2.0 without a handbrake, for the sake of authenticity and enjoyment, the right kit makes a considerable difference.

Screenshot for DiRT Rally 2.0  on PC

Another advantage of DiRT Rally 2.0 on PC is the ability to run triple screen setups. It was simple and easy to get this working, which isn't always the case. When playing on a single-screen, things ran perfectly on ultra, with all extra graphical options switched on. Switching to triple screens, without changing anything, predictably resulted in some slow-down. However, after dropping down from ultra to medium, the driving experience is extremely stable, with a very smooth and acceptable frame rate. It's not the 60 FPS benchmark that's easily achievable on single-screens, but it is more than fit for purpose.

Playing with triples is the best way to experience DiRT Rally 2.0, that is, until VR support arrives, which was recently confirmed by Codemasters to be in the works. Being able to dial in a proper field of view, without ending up with extreme tunnel vision, is the reason why triple screens make a big difference and why sim-racers opt for them so frequently. For one thing, a realistic field of view really helps make timing the perfect turn-in a more instinctive affair. But they can also then peer that much further down the track when side-on, which is very helpful and only adds to the immersion.

This advantage is even more apparent, because the rally courses featured in DiRT Rally 2.0 are notably larger, more complex and open-ended. This is a welcome contrast to the mostly enclosed and claustrophobic courses seen in the original, which are levelled out, this time, with more variety and track complexity. There's a lot more variation in gradients, road-surface types, with more terrain-transitions across each stage. Codemasters have also greatly increased the potential run-off in off track regions.

In general, DiRT Rally 2.0 looks absolutely stunning. Everything, from the car models and interiors, to the vibrant range of tracks, bathed by sunsets or swallowed in darkness for headlights to illuminate, looks amazing. This has to be one of the best-looking racers out there, and it certainly is the best-looking rally experience to date. Those who want to prioritise frames per second may end up dumping a lot of this higher-level visual polish in favour of the best performance, but that would be a shame in many respects.

It's not just beautiful graphics that tie in all the raw and wild ingredients of DiRT Rally 2.0. Codemasters' are known for their excellent work in the audio domain, and they certainly don't disappoint here. There's fantastic depth and detail to sound quality when on-track. Listening to the revs coughing and spluttering, as one tries to put the power down on exit, has never been more satisfying. Elsewhere, the pace-notes provided by co-drivers, are incredible. Drivers will occasionally hear a palpable twinge of tension in their voice, mid-delivery. DiRT Rally 2.0 is full of these neat touches.

A lot of these reveal themselves in the hugely expanded Rallycross content, which DiRT Rally 2.0 really evolves with this sequel. The structure, of quick-burst race qualification heats, followed by semi-finals and finals, offers something far more instantly accessible to players who only have a spare moment. This is especially so since Rally events, due to their length and challenge, tend to demand long playing sessions. However, the core appeal of Rallycross in DiRT Rally 2.0, the Official Game of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, is simply down to how fun, unpredictable and engrossing it is.

Screenshot for DiRT Rally 2.0  on PC

Both players and AI can jump the start, which really increases the tension at the business end of race events! Plenty of chaos, too, is thrown up by the much deeper damage model, which occasionally will require a 'nurse the car home' job, should some particularly bad contact occur. Adding to this, there's also flying car debris, which can get laid-out on track, requiring careful navigation. Driving over a car-door, if its kicks up underneath the body of the car, can end a race. There are other unique Rallycross elements, too, like the joker-lap, which adds another layer of strategy and uncertainty too races. It all comes together so well, that Rallycross in DiRT Rally 2.0 is without question, the most authentic and well-rounded representation of the discipline.

In a more general sense, a big reason why DiRT Rally 2.0 succeeds is how it combines the more technical and simulative ethos of DiRT Rally, with the more accessible format and adventurous air of DiRT 4. Codemasters have been clever and tactful about this, not just pinching the more developed Rallycross mode, but also, thoughtfully extracting what they can to improve the flow and functionality of DiRT Rally 2.0. The great thing is, they achieve this without diluting the integrity and realism that's hard-coded into their flagship rally experience, which some accused DiRT 4 of lacking.

Though Rally events haven't been analysed with the same depth or enthusiasm as DiRT Rally 2.0's more evolved Rallycross mode, rest assured it's better than ever. Rally is enrichened by the more emphatic force feedback, the track variance, and the grander scale of the courses. Not to mention, a huge array of smaller details, that increase the authenticity factor, such as being able to sit at the gate for a full minute, waiting for the stage to be clear like the professionals. Codemasters have also limited the amount of retries a driver gets on the course, which implies that they want people to take a simulative approach to the experience.

On this subject, although nailing a perfect run is a huge rush, it's practically impossible when playing on the most simulative settings. Now that there's ample run-off, instead of pressing a button to be planted back on track, drivers can actually try to recover themselves and carry on, like the real thing too. The reward is a less harsh time-penalty, and the lubricant is Codemasters' well-balanced car-repair system that can be used between stages. While it's not always possible to recover in tighter areas, like when lodged between trees way off track, knowing the car won't evaporate into thin-air for trying, increases the realism quite a bit more than one would think. It's the little things!

There are many other excellent additions to DiRT Rally 2.0. The range of classic and legendary vehicles has greatly improved, with options like the four-wheel drive Audi Sport Quattro E2, the rear-wheel drive Alpine Renault A110, not to mention the Lancia Stratos, and Colin McRae's iconic Subaru Impreza all present. Daily Challenges are also a welcome boost to longevity, though in all honesty, perhaps they're not all that necessary. There's an entire world here for rally-enthusiasts to sink their teeth into. The most sim-inclined rally fans will get hundreds of hours of enjoyment from the fundamentals, whilst more casual players can enjoy more of the general package too. Everybody wins.

Screenshot for DiRT Rally 2.0  on PC

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

DiRT Rally 2.0 does nothing but improve the reputation of the purest, modern rally series out there. Codemasters' flagship sequel retains the same uncompromising sense of difficulty and challenge as seen in the original, but achieves it with a new-found sense of finesse and variety. The expanded and evolved Rallycross experience offers something equally visceral, but in a more quick-fire format and with exciting contact-based racing. This is an excellent counter-weight to the more gruelling and linear experience found in Rally events, and it may serve as the better jumping-in point for lesser skilled players. Overall, Codemasters have outdone themselves with one of the greatest rally packages ever made. Whether it quite out-manoeuvres Richard Burns Rally where it counts, the physics and handling through the wheel, is a matter of opinion, but it certainty hits that mark. One thing is for sure, rally fans everywhere must play DiRT Rally 2.0!









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date 26.02.2019   North America release date 26.02.2019   Japan release date 26.02.2019   Australian release date 26.02.2019   


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