Dirt started off as a more arcade-like presentation of rally racing, popularizing it to the masses. Codemasters have spent the past few years transforming Dirt into a hardcore simulation. The latest result is Dirt Rally 2.0, another unapologetically unapproachable racer that forces players to earn every single victory. It's so punishing that merely finishing a series of races is an accomplishment in and of itself.
Just like its predecessor, there are no rewinds here. Despite titles like Dirt 3 finding a mainstream audience, Codemasters have gone out of their way to make Rally inaccessible to anyone that isn't already into rally racing. There are no tutorials or tips to be found. At least the first Dirt Rally had a video explaining how to understand the directions your co-driver spouts out. So, if this is your first experience, you'll have to look up guides and learn the sport. Otherwise, you'll have no clue what "R6, 30, L2" could possibly mean.
Those that have experience with rally racing can jump right back into the driver's seat, be it on the left or right side. The actual driving feels quite familiar, as Dirt Rally 2.0 is just as brutal and punishing as the original. All it takes is one mistake to ruin your positioning in both a seven-minute stage and a six-race event. Consistency is king in rally racing. Anyone that plays recklessly or loses focus for just a moment will learn how cruel it can be.
While these moments manage to annoy, I always came away mad at myself for making a mistake. The races of Dirt Rally 2.0 aren't punishing without reason. When I had to annoyingly make my way through night stages with broken headlights, I only had myself to blame. Hitting a fence in the previous race had come back to bite me. I only had moonlight and the occasional glimpse of flash photography as guidance. I made an absolutely terrible time, but I still finished those events because rally racing is all about perseverance. You're not going to win every time, or even often, but you're certainly going to give it a solid effort.
However, if there is one thing that doesn't show that same effort, it's the Codemasters servers. Unfortunately, they made Dirt Rally 2.0 an always-online experience (so that in-game currency can be carefully monitored) with absolutely no added benefits. Simply buying car upgrades can be frustrating since you need to wait for every transaction to finalize. Oftentimes, I couldn't load into a race because I was disconnected from the server. These issues have seemingly gotten a bit better with time, but it's unacceptable that they're occurring at all. If a company makes the call to make a title always-online, the player's experience should be prioritized. That simply isn't the case here, and the decision negatively impacts every session. I even saw Dirt Rally 2.0 crash back to the dashboard a number of times as I tried to connect.
In lieu of a traditional career mode, players can build a team of cars and staff in My Team. This mode offers up a variety of events from rally racing to rallycross and limited challenges. Annoyingly, many of the challenges require certain types of cars, which means players will have to grind away in order to get enough currency to access it. There are enough events rotating in and out each week that players can probably access a few of them at any given time. While I didn't love all of these decisions, it's nice to have a proper sense of progression. Unlocking new tuning choices for vehicles is an enjoyable gameplay loop even if getting locked out of events is frustrating early on.
One of the biggest changes from the original is an increased focus on rallycross. This wound up being a bit of disappointment. The rules make it so that even qualifying is a drag. Players have to do multiple qualifiers before making it into a main event. This is, of course, faithful to how the sport actually plays out. That doesn't change the fact that there's too much foreplay and not nearly enough meaningful action. The added variety of getting to run small lap-based courses is a plus, but it feels like such a burden compared to doing rally stages that I had zero desire to do any rallycross after seeing every locale once. Much like the main game, some extra player-friendly options would have made the inclusion much better.
Dirt Rally isn't reinventing the wheel nor is it looking to offer an accessible experience to a rally racing novice. While that's a bummer in and of itself, Codemasters still delivers an incredibly satisfying racing experience that's second to none when everything comes together. These moments of joy feel far too spread out, mostly due to a reliance on servers that rarely work as intended in their current state.
TechRaptor reviewed Dirt Rally 2.0 on PlayStation 4 with a code provided by the developers.
Editor's Note: Due to unforeseen circumstances, this review was initially published with an incorrect score and has since been corrected. We apologize for the error.
- Top-Notch Racing
- Always Fair
- Satisfying Wins
- Lack Of Tutorials
- Awful Online Connectivity
- Rallycross Falls Flat