There are few better at creating ultimate rallying experiences than Codemasters.
For years they have brought us realistic and enjoyable titles, from the early Colin McRae Rally all the way to the more recent DiRT series of games. Now they are back once more, this time looking to further expand on the highly revered and ultra-realistic gameplay of DiRT Rally with none other than the direct sequel DiRT Rally 2.0.
When DiRT 4 released, I – like many others – enjoyed it thoroughly. It was a great game that brought accessible and enjoyable rallying to fans, but it didn’t quite bring that same level of realism players had come to cherish from its predecessor DiRT Rally, with things returning to more of an arcade feel over the simulation style design of DiRT Rally. Fortunately, DiRT Rally 2.0 is Codemasters’ response to fans crying out for more of the souls-like rallying and as you’d expect, it’s once again another fantastic, yet punishing, experience.
The first port of call when booting up DiRT Rally 2.0 is the main menu, and from here you’ll be dropped straight into the My Team menu which acts as the main space in the game, allowing access to all manner of Career Races and Challenges, as well as other options like the Garage from which you can purchase and tune your cars, and Staff letting you hire your team of engineers. There is also a Freeplay option in which you can choose between Historic rally races, the Official FIA World Rallycross Championship, Time Trial and Custom races. All are great experiences for those not wanting to be tied down to the main Career.
The first place to start should always be with the Career option and in DiRT Rally 2.0 there are two distinct paths to choose from; Career Rally – your traditional timed rally races comprising of sectors – and Career Rallycross. After jumping into either one, you’ll be faced with the championship that you’ll be taking part in, but unlike previous titles in the DiRT saga, there is very little that’s made about what you’ll be progressing towards; in fact I was left wondering if that was all we would be getting from a series that usually provides a lengthy and in-depth career mode. Fortunately, things do pick up, and after you’ve completed each of the events in your current championship, the next championship that provides more of a challenge and a bigger reward unlocks, continuing until you’ve mastered them all. Sadly, the presentation of these doesn’t become any clearer as you progress, but at least the content is there.
Joining the Career mode options are the aforementioned Challenges, which come in the form of Community Event Challenges and AI Challenges. Both of these can bring singular events that are available for just 24 hours, or multi-stage week-long events, with players rewarded depending on what Tier they finish in once the event is completed. These challenges often have vehicle requirements attached though, so it’s best to get some cash saved up in the Career mode first, to ensure you’ll have something to drive once a challenge you like the look of comes up.
You will also want to take advantage of the Staff option within DiRT Rally 2.0. This is one which will see big benefits should you wish to pump hard earned race winnings into it from the start, as you hire and build a team of race engineers, reaping the rewards of lower repair times and bringing the cost of those repairs down too. You’ll need to be found repairing your cars too.
There is however only one thing you will ever need to worry about before stepping out onto the track and that’s the car you’re going to use. There are a ton of vehicles within DiRT Rally 2.0 to tear it up in, from H1 FWD machines such as the Mini Cooper S and the Alpine A110, all the way to the Group A 4WD beasts such as the Subaru Impreza 1995 and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI, before moving on to the RX Supercars and R5 monsters such as the Ford Fiesta Rallycross R5, the Citroen C3 R5, and the Skoda Fabia R5. Often cars can be purchased as second hand too, with just a few technical damages to worry about so you can often get involved in the best rides for a little cheaper should you spend the time to look through every available option.
Onto the track though and DiRT Rally 2.0 is an incredible rally experience. From the moment the green lights are a go and you chuck your ride into 1st gear, things only become more and more exciting. Taking corners on a dusty dirt track will see the muck kicking up behind your car in the rear-view mirror, pebbles can be heard bouncing off the side of your car as you fly through each corner and every grass verge, while rocky ascents and bottomless ditches all scream danger; slashed tires, or rolled vehicle are sure fire ways to either add a ton of time onto your overall result or put an end to your race entirely.
The actual handling of the cars is a lot like the original DiRT Rally too, with each slight turn on the steering wheel enough to send your car careering over the edge of the track boundaries should you have made your move too early or too late. There is a real sense of needing to understand the feel and the behaviour of each individual car you decide to take to the track if you hope to be successful.
That said, DiRT Rally 2.0 is slightly kinder to players this time around in the fact that there is the option to at least have Co-Driver call-outs appearing on screen. As someone who loved the bare minimum on-screen in the original, I swiftly opted to turn these off to ensure I was concentrating on the calls of my oppo directly, but the option is there if you need a hand.
In fact, there are many options available letting you setup the game how you see fit; the usual assists such as Manual or Automatic Transmission, Clutch Override, ABS, Launch Control, Traction Control and Stability Control amongst many others can help to tailor the experience to one that you feel most comfortable with.
One surprising aspect though is that there is no difficulty option whatsoever, unless you are to jump into the Freeplay game modes. But then, even choosing the easy difficulty in these will prove quite challenging for some, whilst rally veterans will find the standard difficulty just the right amount of challenging.
One thing that was spoken about in the lead up to the release of DiRT Rally 2.0 was the new feature of Surface Degradation. This is something that comes into play later on in championships, mostly with tracks taking a beating after several cars have driven on them, allowing you to see changes in the forms of grooves in the dirt and worn track surfaces. For me though, whilst I did at least see a few different changes in the surfaces along the way, it’s hard to say that there was ever really much that felt all too different about a track I was racing on in terms of handling on a degraded surface, with the true challenge instead coming from getting used to more powerful cars and the different weather conditions.
Once you are done with your racing, the end of each event is always something you’ll be keen to see, mainly thanks to the income that’s received which can then be pumped into new cars or repairs between stages. There is also the lure of multi-platform leaderboards – something that is slowly becoming more prominent and does indeed feature in DiRT Rally 2.0 on Xbox One.
With such leaderboards present, it’s not really a surprise to know that DiRT Rally 2.0 relies on players being connected to the internet at all times, with Racenet required to be able to save progress, post leaderboard times and take part in the weekly and daily timed challenge events. For the majority that won’t prove an issue, but it is something to bear in mind.
If you enjoyed the realism and satisfaction of a pure simulation type experience in the original DiRT Rally, then DiRT Rally 2.0 is a game you’ll love. It has everything we adored in the original and only expands on that further with incredibly enjoyable racing, a steep learning curve and plenty of great sounding rally machines to take to the track in. Sure it would be nice to see a few more tracks given the only official layouts come in the form of the Official FIA World Rallycross tracks, but from a pure gameplay perspective, DiRT Rally 2.0 is the closest you’ll get to racing across dirt and asphalt tracks at ridiculous speeds, without actually risking your life in a real life rally car.
I truly recommend that you give this a go if you’re after an engaging rally experience.