The sub-genre of racing simulators is not one that I bear a special love towards, but it is one that I highly respect. The grand endeavour to achieve absolute realism in a video game, be it from the laws of gravity to the horrors of war, includes perfecting the sensation of an Audi Quattro flying along a forest floor on a gravel track. This, combined with the fact that I am an absolute motoring nut, is what makes me interested to see what Codemasters delivers in the sequel to 2015’s DiRT Rally.

2.0 has high standards to meet. The first game now serves as a benchmark for simulated rally racing. DiRT 4, while taking a small step back into arcade territory, was successful in delivering an entertaining thrill ride that encompassed multiple approaches to on and off-road driving. The trick is now to double down on achieving that desired realism and expanding on the peripheral elements that make up the sport. It also has the opportunity to set itself apart from the competitors.

And DiRT Rally 2.0 succeeds in doing just that. Seriously so.

This game is difficult. REALLY DIFFICULT. I have been playing racing games for years but I have never encountered anything like this. Codemasters’ attention to revising the game’s environmental factors and vehicle control has resulted in an extraordinary experience. One that I was not at all expecting. First time around, I got into a Lancia Fulvia and took it for a spin through Chandlers Creek in Australia. A 12-and-a-half kilometre run, I crossed the finish line in 30th place, taking fifteen minutes to cover the distance after having ripped the rubber off my front left wheel at the halfway point. The technical catastrophes that were noted after the race were not down to Lancia’s infamous build and reliability problems, they were down to me and only me. My co-driver is probably still undergoing trauma counselling.

But within that ordeal, one clearly sees in what aspects the game’s innovations lie. Upon choosing a set of wheels, the player is bound to a track that is unforgiving as it is painstakingly constructed. The quality of the road, regardless of whether it be gravel or tarmac, is susceptible to change via a myriad of factors. Is it raining? How many cars have come through here already? How narrow are the bends and how jaggered are the sides of the road to the point that one scrape will flip the Mini Cooper?

Dirt Rally 2.0’s gameplay is very neatly structured to emphasise player precision in the events available. There is a disappointment to be found here, as there are only a limited number of tracks spread out across the world. These are also then just broken into several and reverse stages. But these tracks are long and given the speed at which you travel and the amount of concentration you have to give, do take time and effort to complete. They all complement each other in the championship progression system.

Those maps are beautifully rendered. The imagery seems to be lifted from DiRT 4 but it has been given an extra particle treatment. Everything looks a bit rougher around the edges and therefore more realistic in the natural setting. The road itself is the biggest beneficiary of this. Aside from your-co-driver calling out when you’re about to grab air, all of the small humps and ditches can be seen when close enough. How quick you are to react to them depends on those awesome reflexes, but the procedural elements mean that you are never presented with something too unexpected. While the visuals may lose points when scrutinised very up-close (except for the car, the car looks amazing), the sweeping shots and camera angles of the replay feature, capturing the overall aesthetic, means that your perfect run looks absolutely stunning. I can see why Codemasters really pushes for you to upload those videos.

The game boasts an impressive car collection; from historical titans to the hi-tech weapons of modern-day rally racing. I was especially pleased to discover the inclusion of the GT Rally category, which allows you to deviate away from the typical front and all-wheel-drivers and try out a V8 monster on the beaten track. I would never be caught taking an Aston Martin V8 Vantage along dirt roads, but the combination of that power combined with rear-wheel-drive exhilaration is a fun deviation from the more serious business conducted by the Subaru WRXs and the Golf GTIs. Also, that sound. Like every engine in this game, from either the front or back of the car, the sound that that 4.8-liter powertrain makes will melt your ears.

You need to look after your car, and you do that through hands-on mechanical modifications and staff management. At first glance, the system can look very intimidating, and I query the lack of any sort of tutorial mode for newcomers. This may be a game for the enthusiasts, but it would be a well-meaning consideration. However, thanks to a very neat interface, all the repair work and progression preferences are well-explained and indicated. Some of them are even open to changes according to how you prefer to drive. Safe and steady, or Fury Road.

The game does not waste time with inconsequential elements like non-mechanical vehicle customization, nor any theatrical elements that may seek to tell a story of some kind. There is not even a prominent musical score accompanying your journey. Bare-bones sounding but like I said, this is for the enthusiasts who are here to do one thing: Race. Your co-driver understands this, and his instructions to ensure you don’t crash and burn are well-timed and clearly delivered. He will also maintain optimism in the face of complete failure, which is nice of him.

In terms of career progression, you’re able to make my way across the globe competing in a diverse range of categories, while also slowly building up your collection. Currency can be slow to accumulate, so pick your wheels carefully. The Fulvia was adequate, but I found my driving style much better accommodated in the Mini, and things got really interesting when in the next category, I got my hands on a used Alpine A110. I am a complete sucker for the classics, and each vehicle is unique in how they drive, so test drives are an excellent addition to to help you find the car that best suits you.

Exiting the career mode, you open up the freeplay menu to discover multiplayer basics. DiRt Rally 2.0 features the FIA World Rally Cross Championship as an extension to the single-player experience. You can also try out historic rally matches, and also time trials that serve as a functional testing ground. If you really want a tutorial-like start to this game, I suggest that you head over there. Meanwhile, the FIA championship is a good complement that gives more attention to the tarmac terrain and straight-up traditional racing. Here, you have to literally fight over drivers to stay in first place. Don’t worry about difficulty though. The AI is restrained by a simple slider button on the options (though I am not sure how big the difference between say 35% and 36% difficulty is when out on the track).

The multiplayer includes a series of daily and weekly challenges, that can be fulfilled in the pursuit of leaderboard glory and cash. However, there is not that much to do with your friends here other than to set up championships on varied maps and post your times. Acceptable and expected, but a bit more diversity in mode and map modification could have gone a long way to improve this game’s longevity and reach. One’s focus is then mostly consigned to the career and on the simulator.

I am thoroughly impressed with this game. It looks good. it feels magnificent. This is definitely not a title for the light-hearted motorist. It is for bloodthirsty rally enthusiasts who want to honour the skills of Colin McCrae and get to feel what he felt. This is the kind of racing that Codemasters is good at and here, their skills are on full display as they deliver a top-notch rally game. Be warned though, it doesn’t have a sense of humour…and it expects great things from you.

Last Updated: February 26, 2019

DiRT Rally 2.0
Despite a bare-bones multiplayer, DiRT Rally 2.0 is for hard-core enthusiasts of the sport. It is an unforgiving simulator that delivers a racing experience that, though highly difficult to master, is satisfying and requires utmost concentration and engagement.
DiRT Rally 2.0 was reviewed on PC
84 / 100

One Comment

  1. Admiral Chief

    February 26, 2019 at 16:31



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