Review Copy provided by Codemasters. Reviewed on PC.
Dirt 5 is one of the most fun arcade racers that you can get your hands on. Emphasis on the arcade part because this change has made fans very divisive. With this title, it feels like Codemasters have finally figured out what to do with the Dirt series.
Dirt 5 is not for everyone. It is way more arcadey as compared to Dirt 4 and it’s clear where the game’s influences come from. Codemasters Cheshire looked at the Dirt series and felt that Dirt 2 and Dirt 3 would be great titles to use as their foundation for Dirt 5.
And to facilitate the lean towards a more arcade experience, they’ve completely changed up the handling of vehicles in Dirt 5. If you’re coming from Dirt 4 or Rally 2.0, you’ll immediately be able to tell how different everything feels. If you’re worried about Dirt becoming an arcade racer series, don’t worry because the Dirt Rally series still exists to fulfill all your sim-rally desires. So, now that I’ve stressed the fact that this game is for the more casual and arcade-sim lovers, let’s properly get into it.
I’ve never been a big fan of off-road racing titles but Dirt 5 has slowly managed to change that. The game is very easy to get into thanks to the various driving assists that players can turn on. These allow you to get a feel of the game and to ease your way into making the game more challenging for yourself. You can turn on traction control, automatic transmission, and even let the AI do the braking for you if you want. Once you’re into it, you can take the training wheels off and see how much you’ve improved. And taking off the training wheels is highly recommended since the AI in this game is extremely easy to beat. If you want to stop the game from getting stagnant it is an absolute must to do that.
With that out of the way, let’s talk a bit about where you’ll be beating the AI. There’s a total of 10 locations in the game and each of them allows for Dynamic Weather and features multiple tracks. Gone is the track generator from Dirt 4 in an attempt to give players a more cohesive experience. And trust me when I say that the Dynamic Weather really changes things up. Driving at night in a Thunder Blizzard in Norway completely changed the atmosphere of the track and had me second-guessing my decisions during the race.
If you’re worried about the fact that there are only 10 locations to race in which might get boring for you, the game has multiple modes for you to check out. First and foremost, the Career mode.
The Career mode in this features veteran voice actors and co-hosts of Retro Replay, Troy Baker and Nolan North. The former acts as your mentor while the latter as a bitter rival. It was somewhat fun listening to Joel guide you while Nathan Drake shit talks you whenever possible. Alongside that, fans of the popular automotive YouTube channel Donut Media will also hear familiar voices as Nolan Sykes and James Pumphrey are also in the game. The pair have an in-game podcast that is used as a narrative device as you progress in the story. And as a casual fan of Donut Media prior to this game, I felt it was a neat way to add them to the Dirt Universe.
Once you’re done with the somewhat short story mode, you can try your hand at a variety of different modes. The popular Gymkhana mode returns from Dirt 3 which gives you small playgrounds filled with obstacles that you do stunts and skills around to rack up high scores. There’s the new Playgrounds mode which is essentially a track editor that allows you to create and share levels. It wasn’t something I delved too much into but I can’t wait to see what the community creates.
The online multiplayer mode is something I didn’t check out but the fact that the game has an Offline 4-player split-screen on EVERY platform is awesome. And you can play the Career mode in split-screen as well which means you and your friends/siblings/co-op buddies can play through the story together. Besides these, you also have the good old Arcade Mode and Time Trial mode.
There are a few issues with the game though, namely with performance. Playing on a PC with an RTX 2070 Super at 1440p I was not happy with the performance or the visual fidelity. For a title that’s been showcased as a next-gen launch title, it’s underwhelming in my opinion. The PC version also had crashes, hitching, and stuttering issues. The graphical settings in the game are also missing some very obvious settings like allowing you to play in Windowed mode. These are, however, known issues and are seemingly going to be patched in.
Another disappointment at the time of writing this review is the lack of proper Wheel Supports which is supposed to arrive sometime in November. Plugging in my Logitech G29 Wheel only for it to not really work properly was annoying and I really wished it launched with proper wheel support. The lack of deadzone settings also made using a controller hard since you couldn’t properly adjust your analog stick deadzones. This is a feature that should absolutely be in the game where you make minute movements especially since people will be using a controller because there’s no Wheel Support yet.
And my final grievance with this game is how it handles vehicle crashes. The vehicle deformity isn’t great which can be chalked up to the fact that it’s an arcade racer but I’d have liked to have seen better deformity to the vehicles. Crashing into other vehicles also feels very “eh” instead of being impactful or feeling like it had “oomph”. It felt more like bumper cars rather than powerful off-road vehicles when I bumped or rammed into other vehicles.
With all that said, who really should play Dirt 5? If you enjoy arcade racers like Forza Horizon and some of the newer Need for Speed titles then this game should be right up your alley. If you’re looking for a more serious simulation experience then I highly recommend you look elsewhere. However, with the current performance issues and lack of wheel support, I would recommend waiting until those two issues are fixed before diving into this game.