Dirt 5 is releasing on PC and consoles by Codemasters on November 10th with the next-gen consoles getting their own edition a couple of days later. While we didn’t expect a racing game to trigger memories and enthusiasm of a good old Colin McRae, this one delivered exactly that. Wrapped up in an arcade character, Dirt 5 makes an impact in the racing genre, by filling the gap between casual players and hardcore racers. This is our Dirt 5 review.
All racing games can be distinguished by their narrative impact. At least, that is for players that like some story behind their rally games. In that aspect, Dirt 5 delivers a subtle yet acceptable addition to the genre.
The narrative comes in the form of podcasts between races, presented by Donut Media’s James Pumphrey and Nolan Sykes with the memorable additions of Nolan North and Troy Baker as your mentor and antagonist respectively.
It’s a sad truth that not many racing games manage to present narrative in a way that seems organic and not completely out of the ordinary. The decision to “go the podcast way” is perfect for Dirt 5. This way, you can go on your races uninterrupted and then get your bits while you browse the menus.
Apart from the narrative and the progression of races in missions though, that’s as far as the Career mode goes and we’re fine with it. I wouldn’t ask more from a racing game than enhance the racing with something to make me feel that there’s a reason to participate in the next race.
For what it’s worth, I don’t think that many will find the Career mode to be missing its touch. It clearly isn’t at a Need of Speed level of a story but still, it does leave its mark.
By proxy, Dirt 5 is an arcade racing title and its gameplay shouldn’t be harshly criticized as a simulation. Thankfully, I’m not a racing gamer myself so I won’t go to the depth of saying that hardcode racers will find it a one-of-a-kind experience. However, it delivers.
Races feel polished and fast. The opponent AI doesn’t feel too hostile or too linear so you can still have some type of challenge even without the extreme handling mechanics. Needless to say that players that choose to play Dirt 5 with a racing wheel will get the best out of the experience.
Dirt 5 has a tendency to go to the extremes, adding events to spice up things in racing. Apart from classic lap and start-to-end races, there’s a series of arcade races to overtake. The drifting challenges as well as the off-road buggy climbers are not fit for everyone. However, they do offer a great deal of fun.
Playgrounds, Dirt 5’s own race editor lets you create your own crazy stages and participate in the leaderboards with other players. This mode further extends the arcade character of Dirt 5, proving that this isn’t just a racing game. It won’t be an understatement to say that Playgrounds will “live” longer than other PvP modes in the game, given its creative character.
Where Dirt 5 excels though is its use of dynamic weather in each race. This extends beyond the occasional rain or sun, with extreme weather changes within a single race. This also goes for the day and night cycle. You can start a race with daylight and a few clouds to finish it racing through the mud at night while snow is falling.
Of course, dynamic weather comes with its own changes to the terrain with mud and icy terrain making races harder and, as a result, even more fun. If someone asked me what is Dirt 5’s single greatest feature, I’d 100% choose the dynamic weather.
My favorite place, and I believe many others’ too is the garage. More specifically, we all love the car selection procedure. Dirt 5 includes a variety of different car types from small city cars to SUVs to trucks and buggies. This makes gameplay incredibly versatile and car enthusiasts will find yet another excuse to drive a supercar like the Aston Martin V8 Vantage or the Abarth 124 Rally. You can use the Livery Editor to customize your car too, although the customization process is mostly aesthetic.
Graphics is where Dirt 5 shines. It’s not a secret that the game is incredibly GPU hungry and with good reason. Every race area is unique, with a variety of random events like thunders, fireworks, or an occasional Aurora Borealis. Even if you are playing Dirt 5 for the fun of it, you’ll find a spectacle of things to observe in the distance.
It all comes together with the use of weather though. When exceptional car graphics meet great scenery and dynamic weather, the outcome is visual perfection. Although it comes to the cost of performance, we cannot deny that Codemasters did an excellent job in making their latest rally game a sight for sore eyes.
This is where things start to get a bit tough. Although Dirt 5 is absolutely beautiful graphically, this comes as a cost to performance. Let’s start by saying that a mid-range GPU might not suffice to play the game. I’ve seen instances of players that even experienced screen tearing and low FPS on high-end PCs as well as Xbox Series X.
Dirt 5 is hungry for power and with all it can offer it sounds understandable. It is, after all, a next-gen game disguised as a current-gen one. It does fall to PCs and current consoles to pay the price for that upgrade.
I do believe that Codemasters will be able to finetune performance a bit more before the release of Dirt 5 on November 10th so that the backlash doesn’t get to extreme lengths.
As with every racing game, Dirt 5 too needs to have some sound quality to make the driving experience as realistic as it can be. In that aspect, Codemasters managed to “dress” their new game in the best audio with powerful engines and tires drifting. If you want to take things to the extreme, go into cockpit mode and experience the sound on a new level. I personally don’t choose cockpit as a driving mode but I found the sound as realistic as it can be.
Apart from the game sounds though, the Dirt 5 soundtrack is adding new flare to the franchise. Filled with indie rock tunes but throwing in the occasional rap track, the tracklist in Codemasters’ new game could be my new favorite after NFS Underground 2.
Overall, Dirt 5 is the perfect arcade racing game to fill the gap between current and next-gen platforms. It has it all, narrative, excellent graphics, audio that makes it stand out, and, of course, cars that we really really wish we could drive. What it misses is that feeling of a real simulation race title, although its character is nothing like that anyways. It’s safe to say that Dirt 5 revitalized a fan-favorite franchise that was in desperate need of an identity.
There are minor things that Codemasters can do to make this a classic racing title. Enhance handling to make it feel a bit more realistic, make performance better, and add more fluff to Playgrounds.
Remember that Codemasters has confirmed that Dirt 5 will be available for free for Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X and S for anyone who buys it on their respective current-gen consoles.