Dirt Rally 2.0

R889
8.5

Score

8.5/10

Pros

  • Tracks are beautiful
  • The weather system is aesthetically pleasing
  • Career Mode is robust
  • Hardcore simulation title

Cons

  • Loading feels longer than it should
  • Proper simulation title that might scare away racing fans
  • Requires an internet connection

We currently live in a glorious age were racing games are a dime a dozen. As such, there is no denying that some titles often drown in the sea of racing games well before they even release. The good news is that I have reason to believe that Dirt Rally 2.0 will stay buoyant and keep on floating for a long time to come.

Dirt Rally 2.0 is the thirteenth title in the Colin McRae Rally series and the seventh title to carry the Dirt name. It is also the direct sequel to the 2015 game, Dirt Rally. After my time with the game, I can say that it is truly a wonderful and very real representation of rally. It is a hardcore racer where cars break down, wet muddy terrain is a cause for concern, and corners cannot be cut for fear of falling off a mountain pass. In this Vamers Dirt Rally 2.0, I go over exactly what it is that makes Dirt Rally 2.0 the head of the rally pack.

Racing trumps story [Career Mode]

As far as story is concerned, Dirt Rally 2.0 really has no narrative or campaign. However, there is a Career Mode that tasks players with building a team, growing a garage, and becoming the best rally driver possible. Much like its predecessor, Dirt Rally 2.0 takes you to different countries as you attempt to win races. This time around, you go to Poland, Argentina, the United States of America, Spain, New Zealand, and Australia.

The tracks are spread across the two main attractions: Rally Career, and Rallycross Championship Career. Rally Career takes you through different stages on a huge tour across the world. Every race features stages where you have to race to be the quickest and most precise Dirt Rally driver. Rallycross, on the other hand, takes you to various stadiums across the globe. In this career mode, you basically mimic official tournament and championship rules as you race through multiple qualifiers, take joker laps, and then race through to the semi-finals, and finals thereafter. In total, players can expect 14 tracks spread across the two modes with various iterations of each.

In both career modes, you have a team of engineers and an entire garage at your disposal. By driving more, you manage to unlock more – it really is as simple as that. Throughout the career, you gain credits that you can use to build up your collection of cars. These range from Rally-only entries to Rallycross, and a mix of the two. You can also enter and leave championship titles at any time. However, once you are knee deep into a championship, the car you are using becomes locked-in. Thus making car choices something to be wary of. This also means that if you want to keep things fresh and play both career modes at the same time, you can not do so with the same vehicles.

Dirt Rally 2.0 also introduces the FIA World Rallycross Championship, a licensed mode where you go through the officially sanctioned tracks, complete with official rules and stages. Through this mode, players get to choose from some of the top FIA drivers and race in their shoes (and cars) to become the best in this regard. The FIA World Rallycross Championship is a neat little touch and addition to the game.

The Dark Souls of Rally games [Gameplay]

Codemasters are great at what they do: creating simulation titles. Interestingly, it must be noted that Dirt Rally 2.0 is not at all related to the Dirt titles. On that note, Dirt Rally 2.0 is not for the faint of heart. It is a hardcore simulation where a single wrong move can set you back or take you out of the game altogether.

While races can be done in a variety of ways, you will quickly learn what your favourite game modes and races are as you play. For me, I particularly found enjoyment in the Rally modes and learned to avoid any and all of the rallycross races. This is not because the rallycross portions of the game are bad, rather it is a personal choice because rally is just so much more of what I love in real life.

All rally races will have you drive through a single stretch of land. This land can span anywhere from 4km to a 15km or more. Just like in real life, you will have a copilot/navigator along for the ride. I adored this aspect. Not only does it mimic real life wonderfully in both tone and feel, but it also helps a lot in terms of navigating corners.

Naturally, it is the navigator’s job to relay information to the driver as they near corners, a stretch of road, and more. While races are pretty straightforward, Dirt Rally 2.0 is a hardcore simulation in that it has no mini-map that you can constantly check. You will learn to rely heavily on your navigator’s voice and feedback as he tells you to turn certain corners and watch out for others. Simply put, the game offers zero hand-holding.

When you take on your first rally event, you will be bombarded with information that feels and sounds “foreign”. “2 left turn, into a stretch, 30, one right turn” does not mean what you think it does. “2 left turn(s)” does not mean that there are two left turns ahead. Rather, it means that the tightness of the corner is rated two and that it is best taken in the second gear. The same counts for three, four, five, and six, with the higher numbers meaning straighter roads and fewer bends to worry about. Unfortunately, the game does not hold your hands or explain very much in this regard. It is up to the player to know what these terms mean or keep on failing races until they do. A hit or a miss in game design, depending on your proficiency for the sport.

As a rally lover, it took me a brief moment to refresh my memory on what the notes and relayed shorthand actually mean. While simple, it can become quite overwhelming to anyone who has never played rally games before. With that said, I must admit that it is not fair to players how the game simply expects you to know these beforehand. They really should be explained in a better way, especially for novices to the sport.

Although Dirt Rally 2.0 is very much a hardcore simulation title, I firmly believe that it should, at the very least, include some kind of training mode. Instead, it is up to the player to experiment via ‘trial and error’ through custom races; and become used to the controls, gameplay, and navigation this game has on offer. It is not for beginners – a fact that I think will hurt it in the long run as it finds its niche.

I must commend the game for the sheer number of modes it does have. Career Mode encompasses the two main events: Rally and Rallycross. It also holds daily and weekly challenges that are one-off races players can do for a spot of cash on the side. The extras section is where players will find the FIA World Championship, Custom races, Time Trials, and another great feature: Historic races.

Historic races are a series of themed events where players get to ride in historic vehicles. You start out in the 60s and 70s era and work your way toward other eras of classic rally racing. This mode allows you to learn about the heritage of the sport and it is a feature that I personally loved seeing included.

Another incredible aspect of the game comes by way of the dynamic weather system. Apparently, the weather system is meant to change as you progress through certain events. While this is true, I only noticed it a few times. More often than not, the weather would already be set as events began. With that said, I really liked how different the weather made certain tracks feel. Rain versus sunny weather or vice versa, changes the dynamics of gameplay quite a bit.

As you would expect, the best kind of weather comes by way of sunny skies and dry roads. As soon as rain falls, roads become covered with mud, and vehicles become more susceptible to sliding. This requires a whole new level of precision driving, as you have to sacrifice speed for precision. One and two left turns suddenly become far more dangerous, while seemingly innocent stretches of road, with simple jumps, now have the ability to throw you off cliffs if taken too fast or at the wrong angle.

The weather system also pairs incredibly well with the time and date system. There is nothing more beautiful than a mountainous backdrop while the sun sets and the rain falls lightly on the car; and a bed of rocks down below as you fall off because you became too distracted to focus.

As good as the game is, there is one thing that baffled me a lot. For some reason, Dirt Rally 2.0 needs a constant connection to the Internet. While this may seem trivial, it should be noted that not everyone will always have a stable connection. During my time with the game, I disconnected once. The game immediately threw me out of the heat I was doing, and presented me with an error message. The message forced me to either go back to the main menu, or quit the game altogether. Both options would leave me with all progress lost. Fortunately, I stayed on that screen as long as possible while I reset my Internet and regained a connection. The game then resumed in the middle of the heat as if nothing ever happened.

I can understand why a game would need a connection when rankings and stats need to be uploaded, but forcing me into a connection when I am doing nothing more than the singleplayer Rally or Rallycross Championship events is mind boggling at best. This was immediately off-putting when I found out, and an unnecessary caveat to what is otherwise a great game.

Rally has never looked so good [Performance & Visuals]

While Dirt Rally 2.0 has nothing on the likes of Project Cars or Assetto Corsa, it stands as one of the most stunning simulation titles that I have had the pleasure of playing. While it is true that the weather system can create beautiful backdrops, it must be noted that Codemasters did an incredible job in replicating the worldwide stadiums.

While I cannot speak for the authenticity of the various rally stretches, I did like how much detail the developers poured into the geography of the tracks. Mountains felt huge as I drove on their passes, while dirt roads looked incredible in both sunlight, moonlight, and everywhere in-between.

I have to mention that loading often felt a little too long for my liking. While this can be attributed to the console I played it on, I felt that it was unnecessary. The reason why I am saying this is because the game likes to give you loading screens based on the area you are going to, and the track that you will drive on next. The developers try to make it better by throwing nicely animated messages on the screen with information of the time of day, the kind of weather players can expect, and more.

However, directly after, it will usually put you in the service area, where you can tune your vehicle, fix your tyres and more. While the loading thereafter is basically nonexistent, I feel like it could have been better with multiple short loading screens rather than one single big loading screen. Nevertheless, once loaded the game performs incredibly well.

Unforgettable Rally Experience [Conclusion]

Dirt Rally 2.0 is very much the Dark Souls of racing simulation. There is zero hand-holding here, and it is not afraid to throw you into the deep end. Once you learn what the rally jargon means, however, and once you get to grips with how much vehicles can be affected by the smallest of weather changes, it becomes easy to play and provides a lot of fun in the process. I found immense enjoyment in learning the “rally code” and having to adapt my play style to the weather.

The game also looks beautiful. While not as crisp as the likes of Project Cars, it will hold up for a long time as one of the better-looking racing titles out there. Loading times can leave gamers wanting, especially when you are thrown into a static area right after where the game could have loaded in the background. Requiring a constant Internet connection is also a rather unusual caveat, and is something gamers should take note of.

Overall, Dirt Rally 2.0 is a charming title to own and enjoy. While its hardcore nature might ultimately scare off many gamers, I think that once it has found its niche, it will remain as one of the best Rally games ever made.


Time Played 15 Hours
Difficulty N/A
Platform Xbox One
Acquisition Review code courtesy of Codemasters