Getting down and Dirt-y
The Dirt series has always been at the forefront when it comes to combining real world driving mechanics with a fast-paced arcade style that oozes with charm. After two failed attempts to push the franchise in different directions with “Dirt Showdown” and “Dirt Rally”, both expertly mediocre in all facets, the series has gone back to its roots with the official forth entry, Dirt 4.
And praise the gaming gods it has. As just when racing genre was starting to turn stale, Dirt 4 drifts through the pack to show just how magical racing games can truly be.
Much like its predecessor, Dirt 3, the forth entry has a minimalist approach to why exactly you’re racing. You’re an up and comer who likes racing, and so you race. You’re here for a racing game, so what other excuse do you need?
As you race, your character levels up by completing events and a selection of challenges given at the start of each race. As you gain more experience, different forms or race open up to you.
So, while you start off with good old-fashioned dirt rally races, by the end you’ll be taking part in massive dirt buggy events, night time speed runs, and hillside drift challenges that make Initial D look tame.
The verity of events to tackle is mind blowing. Then you find out that the game is also randomly generated, and soon realise Dirt 4 has the potential to technically create infinite tracks for you to race on forever!
Plus, the game now incorporates random events into races to keep you on your toes. Sometimes you might be notified over the headset that another racer has broken down, and so you’ll need to keep an eye out for their car on the track.
And at one point, a car had a crash and was wedged nicely into the trunk of a tree. These events keep the game constantly fresh and make the events feel like actual races, rather than static track you just drive along.
But when you’re not busy racing and laughing at your unfortunate opponents, you can also manage your very own team. You can buy cars from dealers or auction houses and start your own enterprise which involves hiring drivers and sorting out sponsors for your races.
While these menus are finicky and confusing at first, get it right and you’ll see a massive profit boost for every successful race you and your team manage to win.
Looking at your best time at the end of a rally to see that your team has also secured some other good positions in the leader board is a strangely satisfying feeling often unfound in racing games.
But what really pulls it all together is the games breath-taking visuals. Lots of racing games bank on their impressive visual presentation to hide their lacklustre gameplay (lookin at you Project Cars 2), but Dirt manages to weave its visual presentation into the very core of the racing itself.
While speeding through lush woods and glistening sands, a drone might fly ahead or a fox might run across the track after a rabbit. These little visual flairs go a long way to making Dirt 4 feel alive and full of energy.
If only the same could be said for the soundtrack.
After the masterpiece that was Dirt 2, the Dirt games have prided themselves on having star-studded soundtracks that perfectly encapsulate the rush of racing. Sadly, Dirt 4 seems to have forgotten about the joy of music and keeps it’s audible attractions to the most basic level.
Songs can be heard during menus, playback, loading screens, and diegetically through speakers when getting ready to race but that’s it. There’s no little prompt that appears on screen when a song comes on to let you know what it is, there’s no option to skip tracks, there’s not even a way to customise the music in the options menu.
It’s a missing feature that serious racing fans won’t even realise is missing, but for those who adored the way music was incorporated into previous entries, prepare to be disappointed.
But considering how the only complaint with Dirt 4 is that the music isn’t very engaging, it goes to show just how much of a racing marvel Dirt 4 really is. With smooth and addictive gameplay, beautiful graphics and enough replayabilty to keep you driving for years, Dirt 4 comes in at first place as a must own title for any gamer.
Should you play Dirt 4?
Thanks to Koch Media for supplying a review code