DIRT 5 Review (Xbox Series X)
Every Console launch needs that big flashy racing game that shows off the shiny new hardware and graphics capabilities. This normally means Gran Turismo for PlayStation and Forza for Xbox. Well, this year not only is it the same game for both the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, but it is also possible to play said game on the outgoing generation as well at no extra cost. Now, the sceptical of you might be thinking that either there wouldn’t be much difference in the versions, or that the game itself will suffer from being rushed. But we are glad to report that for Codemasters latest version of DIRT, this is not the case.
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DIRT 5 could be considered surprising for many reasons. For a start, the simulation point to point racing of DIRT 4 is no more. Instead, the Codemasters Cheshire studio has opted for a more arcade style of racer. Gone is the ultra-realistic racing, farewell co-driver and adios instant rewind. Instead we are presented with a fresh racing festival type experience complete with narrative. It feels like the crazy lovechild of Motorstorm, Forza Horizon and SSX Tricky.
The first thing to notice about DIRT 5 is how good the game looks on both Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S. It definitely feels like a last hurrah as you play on the Xbox One S. Upon the first start of the game you have the option of choosing whether to prioritise between visual quality and frame rate. The game still looks better than any other racing game on the Xbox One. But it comes into its own on the next generation Xbox. We experienced the game running as smooth as butter at 60fps (the best our TV can handle) and looking fantastic. Each of the various locations and 70 odd tracks look lush and detailed as you race your way through the game. Add in the dynamic weather effects such as thunderstorms, snow, rain and dust storms and you have a breathtakingly stunning looking game.
Adding to the gorgeous visuals, is the controller vibration. This feels in sync with how the car is behaving on screen. To the point where when the vibration was disabled in my controller due to low battery, it affected my driving as the force feedback was missing.
As per usual with the DIRT franchise, there is a lot of content to work your way through. New to the series is the Playgrounds mode. Here you design your own racing arena, or download others that have been community created. Multiplayer is possible both online and offline via split- screen, with party modes such as Vampire and Transporter added to the roster. The meat of DIRT 5 however, is career mode. This is a Series that consists of various races and events that would be familiar from previous DIRT games. Stampede, Land Rush, Sprint, point to point Rally Raid and the return of Gymkhana.
There is also a loose story that plays out throughout the career. It takes place in the form of a series of Donut Media’s DIRT Podcasts. Nolan North and Troy Baker play out as rivals in the DIRT sporting world. The drama unfolds as you play your way through a series of 5 chapters that contain a bunch of events split between the various race types available. These events are structured in a way that you can either race each one in the chapter, or pick the one you fancy in each tier and work your way through the chapter that way.
In terms of gameplay, DIRT 5 is a double edged sword: the swing to a more arcade driving experience is both the best and worst thing about it. Racing a dirt buggy through a muddy jungle or putting a Mudclaw through its paces in a Pathfinder event is extremely satisfying. Races are action packed and the cars slip and slide stupendously through the dirt as you struggle to find the balance between a controlled drift and a crash into the barriers. Events like the fantastic Pathfinder are a lesson in throttle control that will have you squealing with an equal amount of delight and terror as you attempt to guide a 1900kg beast through a route that was never intended for it.
The downside of this arcade style of racing comes into force with the events that requires more precise care of handling. All the vehicles are rather “flighty” which is fine for most events – basic throttle control will always get you through. But to do well in the Gymkhana events, for example, previously required you to abuse the handbrake (with precision) and (precisely) manhandle the car around the arena. Unfortunately DIRT 5’s handling is intended for having fun instead of trying to fling a car round a 180 degree corner, hitting a jump and doing a donut around a pillar. It’s the lack of precision that turns the triumphant return of Gymkhana into a bit of a misfire. Now, this shouldn’t be taken as the deal breaker that stops you from buying DIRT 5. It is instead a niggle that takes the game from being great to very bloody good.
So, instead of grumbling about the delayed Forzas and Gran Turismos this year, you will find yourself thanking the racing gods for Codemasters and their daring gamble that paid off. That is, of course if you don’t mind a bit of brilliant arcade muddy mayhem, an awesome soundtrack, and two video gaming legends flung into the mix
9 Muddy Tyres out of 10