If it’s a driving game created by Codemasters, you know it’s going to be good.
They’ve an incredible pedigree, stretching back almost two decades, creating hardcore driving games that appeal directly to motorsport fans.
Dirt Rally 2.0 is exactly that – it’s a simulation designed to appeal to rally and rallycross fans – but with an accessibility about it that will lure in the casual gamer.
The main hub for the game falls in under the My Team section – here you can modify, tweak, repair and repaint your cars, manage your staff and jump into events – with both rally or rallycross flavour – or you can try your hand at some of the community and weekly events to earn a little more cash.
Rally – the art of the perfect run
That edge of your sofa, controller-clenching fear you get when you’re tearing along a dirt track, inches from a cliff edge and with only your stressed co-pilot’s voice to provide you with any clue as to the direction you should be going and the obstacles up-ahead is an experience you’re never going to forget – and one that Dirt Rally 2.0 delivers time and time again.
The rally events are the bread and butter of this title. The well-crafted tracks properly challenge you, requiring your total focus throughout.
For some, this is going to be too much – and on the longer tracks, which can last more than 10 minutes I found it a struggle to keep that focus up, feeling physically drained at the end of my stage. But this is the experience rally fans want from a game, and it’s exactly what Codemasters have delivered.
Rallycross – frantic, high-octane fun
For me, the highlight of Dirt Rally 2.0 is the rallycross events. The short laps mixing tarmac and off-road driving are fast and frantic.
The qualifying set up from the real-world event is replicated here, each event starts with four qualifier runs, with the fastest going onto the semi-final and beyond.
Making a little mistake in your first run is, unlike the rally events, something you can recover from and with no mini-map to guide you and no co-pilot yelling in your ear, there’s a good chance you’re going to go wrong at some point.
A stunning world that will make you take your eye off the road
The world of Dirt Rally 2.0 builds upon the tracks featured in the original game launched back in 2015, with new locations and overhauled environments.
This time round the game launches with 14 locations, including Poland, Australia and Portugal, across both rally and rallycross, with each real world venue featuring multiple stages. No matter how many times you drive each course though, the degradation system, the weather and the lighting will all play a dramatic role in how you approach the run, and how you set up the car.
A great example of the impact lighting has been designed to impact your event is most clearly visible in the low sun shinning along your track, obscuring braking points and other hazards out on the track – it’s an added challenge, but also something that shows the staggering attention to detail Codemasters have gone to with this game.
The time and effort that’s gone into revamping these tracks so they look and feel fresh – without losing the essence of the location is outstanding. These two screenshots above show the improvements at Monte Carlo between the two titles really show cases that.
The developers have already put out their road-map for future content packs coming to Dirt Rally 2.0 including new venues, cars and liveries with the intention of releasing something new every other week.
Spending your prize money on improving your team is just as important as improving the vehicles you’ll be driving. Training up certain engineers will reduce repair time and costs, allow more accurate diagnosis of issues. Each engineer joins your team with their own specialities and focused areas. You can even upgrade your co-driver – the legendary Phil Mills.
Of course, it goes without saying you’ll be wanting to improve your vehicles. Upgrading your brakes and suspension is as simple as spending a little money, improving your engine however, will require driving experience with the car – each mile getting you closer to the next level.
For the hardcore rally or simulation fans, there’s more in-depth tuning available on your car before you get into the race.
As you’d expect from a simulation game, damage to your car can, and does, make or break an event – try taking on a night stage with smashed up headlights!
Repairing what damage you can in between runs – and remembering to sort out your car at the end of a stage can make a massive difference, especially in rally events.
Never give up
This is a game for rally fans, and fans of the series and its history. But Dirt Rally 2.0 offers an outstretched hand to fans of other driving titles enticing them in with the lure of more real, more immersive adrenaline fueled experience.
Pushing yourself for every second can result in tiny mistakes which trash a stage time, leaving you barrel-rolling across the Australian outback (been there, done that!) But the sense of achievement of nailing the perfect corner, the perfect sector and getting to the top step of the podium is unrivalled in modern racing games.
Sure it can be punishing, but you don’t get a Dirt Rally game unless you’re looking for edge of your bucket-seat realism only Codemasters can produce
Dirt Rally 2.0 is out Friday February 22 on Xbox, PS4 and PC. RRP £44.99.
Our review is based on the console version of Dirt Rally 2.0 played on an Xbox One X.