by Anthony Maynard
reviewed on PC
Taking in the Scenery
Henningsvaer, Norway, the location of your very first race in DIRT 5's campaign mode. Just before pedals hit the floor, and the roar of engines fill the air, players are shown some gorgeous scenery. The calm before the storm. A lighthouse overlooks a small fishing village, with the sun's reflection bouncing off choppy waters. A breathtaking view that shows DIRT 5 is a beauty to look at. While environments in racing games may go unnoticed when driving 100 miles per hour through them, taking in the scenery while you can is more than worth it.
But what are things like behind the wheel? I'm glad you asked. There is a reason most next-gen consoles showcase racing game trailers. Racing games are the perfect way to show off the new graphical power of a new console. Improved lighting, small beads of water on the windshield, dirt particles kicking up off the tires. These things go a long way in immersing the player into the driving experience. One course I raced on started lightly covered by snow, but by the end, the sun went down, and the snow fell even harder. The weather plays just as big a part in a race, as the cars themselves. Heavy snow changes how your vehicle handles, causing you to slide. It changes the way you drive, which changes your strategy mid-race. Adding a level of detail in the weather systems, are the lasting impressions the cars have. As you drive around, lap after lap, you'll notice tire marks engraved in the snow, or mud if it's raining. It's these details that add a level of realism fans of the genre will love to see. The sound design is also worth shouting out as well. You can hear the gravel and dirt rattling underneath your car, turbos whirling, and even exhaust pops with every gear shift. DIRT 5's presentation is perfect, and something to be admired in the racing genre.
Fast & Furious
DIRT 5 doesn't showcase the same level of hyper-realistic simulation found in DIRT Rally. Instead of being focused on simulation based racing, DIRT 5 is clearly intended to be a fun arcade style of racing. A style it pulls off very well. Those who have played the Rally installments will feel the difference in how cars handle here. For those unfamiliar, I'd compare the Forza Horizon series to the Forza Motorsport series. One is simulation, the other more arcade. The driving in DIRT 5 is more forgiving and loose feeling, there is no co-pilot calling out turns, angles, or speeds to guide you. Crashing doesn't mean game over, you simply bounce off whatever wall you hit, and keep going. That being said, DIRT 5 is by no means easy. Easy-to-learn, hard-to-master is how I'd describe it. Things can get intense and a bit hairy from time to time, and one wrong move can result in losing a race.
There are five game modes featured for players to test their mettle in. These modes are: Career (which we will discuss later), Arcade mode, which is a custom event creator for offline play making use of every car, track, and event. Next up we have Time Trial, which allows you to set your best times on a track, and places them on a global leaderboard. Then we have the Multiplayer mode, which allows you to take the racing online. Lastly we have the Playgrounds mode, which is new to the DIRT franchise which I previewed back in August. You can read about that here. DIRT 5 has a mode to offer for all types of drivers, no matter the preference.
DIRT 5 offers up a star-studded cast for their freshened up career mode. Players are dropped into a world-renowned off-road racing series that delivers constant action, spanning various locations and events. Our driver catches the eye of AJ, who is voiced by the phenomenal Troy Baker. AJ serves as our mentor, who takes us under his wing and shows us the ropes of each event. A little bit into your career, you realize you aren't the only new racer trying to own the spotlight. Enter Bruno Durand, your rival, who is voiced by Nolan North himself. Adding a story to a racing game and introducing a rival helps raise the stakes and gives some variety to a mode that was in need of something fresh.
Your entire journey is covered in depth by the DIRTPodcast by Donut Media, hosted by James Pumphrey and Nolan Sykes from the Donut Crew. The energy and excitement that they bring to the game helps keep things fresh when you're further into your career and have seen some of the same races and tracks. Occasionally they will have special guests that include AJ, Bruno and some other personalities as well.
The neat thing about Career Mode, which is split into five chapters, is that players can take multiple paths. If there is a specific race type you don't care for, chances are you can skip it and choose the one you prefer instead. These days, in gaming, giving players the choice to progress the way they want, and not forcing them to play through content they don't like, is something that should be celebrated. For the completionists out there, don't worry you can do EVERY race the game has to offer. Completing races will reward you with stamps, a certain amount is needed to unlock the main event at the end of each chapter. Placing higher in a race will reward you with more stamps.
Completing certain objectives throughout the career mode unlocks secret Throwdowns. Throwdowns are tougher head-to-head races against a fiercer opponent. Winning these Throwdowns will net other rewards excluding stamps. All in all Career mode is the meat and potatoes so to speak, in DIRT 5. The developers clearly wanted to improve the lacking mode from past installments, and offer something excitingly intense for players.
DIRT 5, sets out to offer an arcade style racing game with an in-depth narratively driven career mode, and an array of other exciting modes for all to enjoy. The graphics and environments on display are stunning, with an immersive sound design to tie it together. The Playgrounds mode offers an endless sea of creative possibilities for players to test their skills, while chasing the top spot on the global leaderboards. All of these features are a wonderfully wrapped gift, that comes together to create one of the most fun racing games to date.
Variety of modes, Sound Design, Gorgeous graphics, narratively driven career mode.