Consistency, you would think that’s important for a franchise. While the Dirt entrees have always been thrilling games to play I do miss a consistent gameplay element. Going in blind you never really know what to expect, is it going to be an arcade experience? Is it going to be for the hardcore racing crowd? This time Dirt 5 totally takes the arcade road and that might sting a bit from gamers who come from the hyperrealistic Dirt Rally 2.0 and the realistic off-road racer Dirt 4. But who am I to complain about the franchise personality, a game should be fun and Codemasters Dirt 5 is definitely that.
We played Dirt 5 for three hours on Xbox One X and five hours on Xbox Series X. This review is based primarily on our Series X experience.
What we liked!
- An immersive visual racing game: Many eyes are on Dirt 5 as Xbox launches the new Series X|S generation without an exclusive racing game. We had Project Gotham Racing on the original Xbox, Project Gotham Racing 3 on Xbox 360, and Forza Motorsport 5 on Xbox One. Racing games have always been a good visual introduction and Dirt 5 doesn’t disappoint with that but it doesn’t really set a high bar as a next-gen title either. It is simply one of the best-looking games for Xbox One and that’s obviously something. Things do look a lot better on Xbox Series X though, textures are crisper and it has noticeable less shadow pop-up while driving at high speeds but it is clear that it simultaneously releases on older hardware. This might sound a bit too negative as Dirt 5 managed to impress me on multiple occasions. One of them is the gloriously detailed Northern light track or the slippery ice track in Norway. Together with HDR and weather effects Dirt 5 manages to create an atmospheric and immersive experience, seeing roads transform by the rain or being blinded by a thunderstrike helps with realistic visuals. The use of fireworks, confetti, fire-effects, and lasers bring a somewhat Forza Horizon like feeling that simply works for presenting unique scenario’s. One final thing to note is how well detailed the ground is, this gets extra attention as Dirt 5 totally nails the vertical play. Roads are never just the same predictable height. Benefiting gameplay and the visuals!
- Level editor and player-created maps: Playground mode is Dirt 5’s future, when people finished the campaign they will continue to come back to this mode for years. Kind of like a Trackmania level creator where you can show off your creativity or explore what your friends or strangers have made for the Dirt 5 community. This is especially neat with the returning Gymkhana mode, so not only creating time attack racer are possible but also crazy stunt Parcours, testing every ounce of skill from the player. The potential is high and hopefully, the community continues to create some masterpieces.
- Campaign: Nine different race types and the return of Dirt 3’s Gymkhana (stunt driving) makes for a fun and expansive single-player campaign. Each race has three sub-missions too, drifting enough, trading paint with a few cars or jumping an amount of distance. This feels a bit forced and some even require to play more patient but it helps with keeping the player busy and engaged. I do feel it is a bit of a shame that rally isn’t included but the muddy off-road tracks make up for that. Racing one-on-one in showdowns makes a return too, ending the story chapters.
- Campaign mode with strong voice acting cast: Troy Baker and Nolan North, these names should ring a bell. Split into five chapters Dirt 5 tells a very basic story about the rivalry. Lots of the jabba jabba talk is done while being on the menu’s, so as a result I wasn’t really paying attention to all of it. It feels a little like wasted resources as these voice actors don’t come cheap and bring little to no value in this racing game. This Inconsequential story in the form of podcasts lacks any sort of emotional connection with the player, I am pretty sure that 99% of the players play the 130 different campaign races and don’t even recall having some sort of story element to it.
- Racing feel: To think this franchise started with Colin McRae as a hardcore racing game… Dirt 5 is the exact opposite and feels very arcade. Unrealistic high speed drifting and almost no car struggling makes for a racing game that is aimed at literally everyone. The multi-terrain races feel a bit different but I never really had the impression that the cars did realistic things. It isn’t always responsive either. Cars with huge spoilers in the sprint race type are a nightmare to control, I understand that you can’t like all nine available race types but I really, really disliked this sprint type.
What we disliked
- Besides the sprint-cars, nothing.
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