‘DiRT 4’ Review: What We Do, Don’t Like After Our First Week Of Playing

Because “DiRT Rally” was such a hit, “DiRT 4” had some pretty big shoes to fill. But Codemasters didn’t stop at ensuring the franchise’s latest installment is as good as its predecessor.

With “DiRT 4,” the U.K.-based developer has created a sim racer that retains the same level of realism as the game it replaces, while also offering better visuals and more features that appeal to a wide array of gamers.

There’s no denying “DiRT Rally” was one of, if not the best off-road sim on the market, but it was released mostly as a way for Codemasters to sort out its current-generation physics engine. As a result, it was designed to appeal mostly to experienced gamers.

The new game, as promised, bridges the gap between that and the arcade-style play of older “DiRT” titles.

One of the biggest ways it does so is through its inclusion of the DirtFish Rally School, which is a roughly 315-acre facility in Washington. Referred to as the DiRT Academy game mode, this is where you can go to learn everything from how to trail-brake and execute handbrake turns, to how to drive on different surfaces.

These lessons are a dramatic improvement over the ones found in “DiRT Rally,” which were video or text-based only, as an instructor talks you through the course before you try it yourself.

Even when you’re not participating in a lesson, though, the DirtFish campus still is great for honing your driving style. While roaming the grounds, players will find turns of all shapes and sizes on a variety of different surfaces that will teach them to think on their feet.

That’s a good thing too, as “DiRT 4” lets you race in all types of inclement weather, such as rain, fog as well as snow, and sometimes the conditions will change mid way through a race.

Although most racing games have wet-weather physics engines, few offer as intense an experience as “DiRT 4” when the conditions are less than ideal. And that’s largely due to the types of motorsports the game includes.

Rallycross is one of the only forms of racing in which you’ll you slide through turns door-to-door with another gamer while it’s chucking down. Similarly, no other category can offer a challenge quite like driving flat-out through a foggy forest relying solely on your co-driver’s pace notes to not crash.

With roughly one week of playing under our belts, we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of what “DiRT 4” has to offer. In addition to user-friendly rallycross and rally events, it also features thing such as Landrush races and a mode that lets you design your own rally stage, both of which will be loved by casual gamers and hardcore sim racers alike.

Given that it improves on every minor complaint we had about “DiRT Rally,” it’s hard to find faults in the new game. One thing we do wish Codemasters included is a way to filter your matchmaking request by vehicle class, in addition to discipline. Without that, we sometimes have to search multiple times to find a race in the class we’re looking for.

That said, the combination of “DiRT Rally’s” proven physic and the improvements Codemasters made to its graphics make “DiRT 4” one of the most exciting sims we’ve played in a while. And we’ve only played the game on a one-screen setup. We can only imagine how impressive all its features are in virtual reality.

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