WHAT YOU NEED TO PLAY DIRT RALLY 2.0
Dirt Rally 2.0 is compatible with the Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC platforms, and while you can have a decent experience with a gamepad, we thoroughly recommend the use of a wheel to get the most out of this game. We’ll explain why further down.
HOW MUCH DOES DIRT RALLY 2.0 COST?
If you subscribe to either Xbox Gamepass Ultimate or Playstation Plus, we have good news: the standard version of Dirt Rally 2.0 is free for users of those services right now.
Otherwise, the standard game currently costs $67.45 on Xbox, $56.95 on Steam and $62.95 for Playstation at undiscounted retail prices. Discounts are frequent, however, so keep your eyes peeled and you could pick it up for significantly less. DLC ranges in price for a few dollars for individual cars, to $15-20 for a season pass that gives you access to multiple DLC modules in one hit.
WHAT’S DIRT RALLY 2.0’s GAMEPLAY LIKE?
Remember how we said you really need a wheel to enjoy this game? Well that’s not just because racing sims generally deliver a more immersive experience when you’ve got a tiller to twirl, but because Dirt 2.0 features one of the best implementations of force feedback ever.
From the second you pull off the starting point in your first race, you’ll know exactly what I mean. The wheel tugs left and right, reacting not only to the engine’s torque but also the camber of the road and telling you precisely what’s going on underneath your front tyres. Ruts will pull the car into them, while putting one wheel on grass while the other stays on gravel will deliver an appropriate response to your hands
Even on our Logitech G920 - a mid-range wheel that’s not quite at the hard-core level of e-sport spec Fanatec units - Dirt Rally 2.0 delivers more feel and feedback to your fingertips than any other game I’ve experienced to date, and for a rally game that’s vital to not just winning, but even just surviving a stage in the first place.
And Dirt Rally 2.0 is hard. With a capital H. You’ll need every advantage you can get, and practice really does make perfect. Do NOT expect to do well in your first rally. It’s difficult to just keep your car out of the scenery, let alone beat the talented AI which, even on the ‘easy’ setting, are ruthlessly quick.
Decoding the calls of your co-driver are central to doing well. Pace notes are something you don’t find in any other racing game genre, and it’s that extra element of having to keep track of spoken cues that will separate average drivers from excellent ones in Dirt 2.0.
Called by veteran co-driver Phil Mills, the pace notes tell you what kind of turn is coming up; how fast you can go through it; and what danger factor there may be from rocks on the road, steep drop-offs to the side, etcetera. Learning the code and paying close attention to them effectively allows you to ‘see’ each corner before you arrive there, allowing you to set the car up ahead of time to not only stay on the road, but to be as fast as you can be.
The surface degrades as more vehicles go over it, which gives you an incentive to stay at the top of the finishing order throughout the rally. Lagging down the bottom? You’ll need to endure more rutted surfaces and the compromises to traction and steering authority they bring.
Just as in real life rallying weather plays a big part in Dirt Rally 2.0 and there’s genuine tension when the weather starts to close in, or night begins to fall. Rain adversely affects grip levels and the stages are almost entirely pitch-black at night if there’s no moon, and the game will often throw BOTH of those conditions at you in the same rally stage.
The upshot is that the AI drivers tend to drive much more conservatively in the wet and dark, so if you’re able to adapt to the danger you might find yourself having an easier time getting to the top of the time sheet.
Just don’t run off the road and smash your lights like I did one time. Completing the rest of the stage with just the dim glow of a single low-beam to guide me was the very opposite of fun.
The graphics work well from the cockpit view, which, if you’re a die-hard rally simmer, should be your viewpoint of choice, with plenty of scenery detail whizzing past and distinct visuals for each rally environment. You won’t see any tree or shrub assets from New Zealand popping up in Spain, for example, and the fast dusty stages of Australia look especially authentic.
From the outside, the cars boast plenty of authentic detail and accurate 3D models, and also accrue dust, dirt, mud and grime as you progress through the rally – and damage too, if you’re having trouble following the pace notes. Rainy stages look fantastic too, with glossy puddles and dark, sticky-looking mud not just adding to the visual ambience, but giving you clues about where the grip is.
Those true-to-life graphics are matched by authentic sounds. The pops, bangs, and turbo sounds of Dirt 2.0’s rally heroes are overlaid with the sound of gravel and mud ricocheting around your wheelwells, and again the sounds offer you another sensory input about what’s going on at the road surface. Does it sound wet and splashy, for example? You’re on mud now, so take that into account.
Get good, and this game will teach you much about how to handle a car sideways. Managing the high-powered rear-wheel drive sports cars of the R-GT class takes particular finesse, but let them loose on the tarmac stages of Spain and you’ll have a ball. On gravel, mud and dirt, you’ll eventually become a master at exploiting the dynamics of front-drive, rear-drive and all-wheel drive, and those dynamic differences are also something that Dirt 2.0 models well.
IS THE COLIN MCRAE DLC WORTH IT?
The late Colin McRae is inextricably linked to the Dirt franchise, having lent his name to the first game in the series, Colin McRae Rally. That game was a hit, and led to six more McRae-titled rally games before it was rebranded to Dirt.
Now McRae is once more part of the series, with a DLC dedicated to the Scotsman’s career now available. Called Flat Out, it brings two new cars – his iconic Subaru WRX S4, and the Subaru Legacy RS from earlier in his career – and a new map set in his homeland of Scotland, along with a bevy of races that retrace the man’s tyre tracks.
But rather than simply have you complete a whole rally at the helm of something McRae drove (besides the Subarus, the Flat Out DLC also makes use of other cars already in Dirt 2.0 like the Mini Cooper, Peugeot 205 and Ford Sierra Cosworth), Flat Out plays more like a ‘greatest hits’ album.
You’re instead put into a number of scenarios where the victory conditions aren’t always just ‘finish first’. Sometimes all you’ll need to do is place second to win the championship, or even just survive the stage without terminal damage. It’s just as challenging as the base game but also a little less frustrating given the variety of cars, stages and tasks you’re put through.
Would we recommend getting it? Absolutely – even if only to pay our respects to one of rallying’s great names.
ARE THERE ANY DOWNSIDES TO DIRT RALLY 2.0?
To some, Dirt Rally 2.0 might seem more like hard work than genuine fun. To others, the reward of seeing that work pay off is where the actual enjoyment lies. It’s like crossfit – brutal punishment from an objective point of view, but boy is there a rush of endorphins when it’s all over.
Unlike Forza Motorsport 7 and Grid, there is no rewind system in Dirt Rally 2.0. Did you mess up a corner? Flipped your Impreza into a stack of logs? Too bad: either limp to the finish, or restart the entire stage. With stage lengths often being anywhere from five to 15 minutes, those prone to ragequitting may want to keep the Valium close by.
The standard game only has six rallies to choose from – Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Poland, Spain and the USA – and after a while it can start to feel a bit limited. The rallycross mode gives you the opportunity to mix it wheel-to-wheel with AI, but to be honest it just feels like a sideshow in Dirt 2.0.
Happily, there’s a vast menu of DLC for Dirt 2.0 now. Including the Colin McRae Flat Out DLC we talked about above, there’s 44 individual downloadable content items for you to choose from, ranging from individual cars like the Peugeot 306 Maxi, 2001 Subaru Impreza WRC, Lancia 037 Evo 2 and Porsche 911 SC RS.
There are also new rally environments, including Wales, Greece, Finland, Monte Carlo, Sweden, and Germany, plus a handful of rallycross arenas too. Buy the Game Of The Year edition, and you’ll get all of the above for roughly $30 over the standard game’s pricetag.
The graphics are great on PC, but just a little soft-edged on the Xbox One S we used for the bulk of our testing. You still get the same awesome weather effects, water reflections and colour depth, but on bigger monitors and TVs the textures look noticeably low-res. That’s not so much a fault of the game but really a hardware limitation, and at least the framerate stays appreciably high no matter what.
VERDICT – 8/10
If you’re starting to get bored of racing games that just have you go around circuits again and again, or you prefer a more solitary experience where you don’t have to share the road at all, or you just want a game that encourages you to go sideways as much as possible, then Dirt Rally 2.0 is worth taking a look at.
Be warned though, for this is one of the most difficult racing games you can buy right now. For those who feel like they’re ready for a new challenge, that’s probably a good thing - just make sure you have a wheel in front of you to fully appreciate its high-fidelity experience.