DIRT 5 Review

Richard Walker

Increasingly, DIRT has become the rowdy, rambunctious little sibling to the relatively straight-laced, down-the-line DiRT Rally, although there's always been some sort of common ground between the two sides of the same series. Lest we forget, DIRT started life as a Colin McRae game, a slightly more playful take on the core series, with off-road events that themselves veered off-road away from point-to-point rallying. Never before has the gulf between DiRT Rally and DIRT been as pronounced as it is in DIRT 5. This one's the naughtiest and most boisterous one yet, fully embracing its role as the anti-DiRT Rally. And you know what? It's all the better for it.


Is this Macho Man Randy Savage's truck?

Not that there isn't a place for DiRT Rally's challenging technical thrills, of course, but DIRT 5 is focused entirely on off-road racing as a neon-laced, fireworks-tinged kind of fun. Every racing event feels like some sort of apocalyptic celebration, akin to several Forza Horizon Festivals all popping off at once, strewn with confetti, streamers, sparks, lasers, and billowing fireballs. Every race venue has its own surfaces to master, be it loose gravel, shimmering wet mud, or sand kicked up in swirling clouds, but it's what's happening at the edges of the track and the growling cars jostling at its centre that will keep your eyes locked and your attention rapt.

In the simplest of terms, DIRT 5 might just be one of the most attractive racing games I've ever played. And that's not just because it's leading on next-gen platforms – in reality, it's not, and I spent much of the time playing on a current/last-gen console, dumbfounded that what is supposedly now obsolete tech can still conjure such eye-popping, ocular confections. Vitally, on the track DIRT 5 is never anything less than an unbridled joy to play, recalling the best moments of something like MotorStorm – you wonder whether, under the umbrella of developer Codemasters, the last vestiges of Evolution Studios hasn't sought to rekindle some of the old magic from its fondly remembered PS3 launch title.

The MotorStorm vibes are especially palpable in returning DIRT modes like Stampede, Rally Raid, or Land Rush, where mud and mirth collide with pleasing effect. At the heart of the experience is a Career mode in which you're taken under the wing of brash racer AJ, voiced by Troy Baker, fittingly competing with bitter rival Bruno Durand, voiced by Nolan North. Meanwhile, the Donut Media fellas narrate the pre-race and provide colour commentary where needed. For the most part, these fripperies surrounding the Career are unimportant, acting as window dressing for the more than 130 events and their (slightly distracting) optional objectives. But then, sometimes a bit of window dressing can be a nice thing.


Less traditional events like Ice Breaker have your car dancing on the slippery stuff as you try to wrangle it around curves, whereas Sprint races involve navigating oval circuits using what is essentially a huge engine fitted with open wheels and an outlandishly huge spoiler. You have a single gear and have to control your acceleration. It's popular in the US, apparently. Not every race type manages to hit the mark, sadly, though they do deliver a certain degree of novelty. Regardless, it all counts towards earning 'stamps' that allow you to progress to bigger, more demanding races, as well as head-to-head 'Throwdowns' against challenging rivals.

There's a surfeit of variety in DIRT 5, ensuring that you seldom feel like you're doing the same race twice. Events are evenly spread across exotic locales, so one minute you're drifting through a stunning bamboo forest in China, the next you're wheel-spinning through deep mud in a Brazilian jungle on the outskirts of a favela, rain lashing down around you as Christ the Redeemer looks on from its mountaintop pedestal. Then you'll be tearing around a twisting street circuit in Manhattan, pulling donuts in an indoor arena Gymkhana event, or navigating rocks and nigh-on 90-degree slopes from the wheel of a custom rockhopper, in Path Finder. Boredom and repetition are dirty words in DIRT 5, and, consequently, it's hard to put down.


Something's not right here.

That's before you've even considered the modest selection of Online races and party games, as well as local split-screen, Arcade Free Play and Time Trial modes, and the powerful creation tools available in Playgrounds. A huge canvas on which to build your own arena-based gymkhana or smash attack event, or to make your own labyrinthine time trial, the possibilities in Playground mode are endless. You need only browse through the 'Discover' tab to see how many amazing creations the community has already come up with. Meanwhile, coming soon, my very own series of random smashable items surrounded by hay bales. Look out for that.

Cars run the gamut, too, encompassing 80s and 90s rally legends, classic rally cars, modern rally cars, cross raid vehicles, Rally GT, and loads more. No stone has been left unturned. And that's really what makes DIRT 5 rather special. Not only is it stuffed to the gills with meaningful content, but it's also a resolutely fun and exciting game to dip into when you're craving a short, sharp burst of adrenaline. In short, DIRT 5 is undoubtedly Codemasters' best racing game yet - a spectacular series entry that straddles the outgoing and incoming generations with jaw-dropping visuals and a sense of pure fun that's impossible to escape. A fantastic game, there are few racers that thrill and delight in equal measure like this one.

DIRT 5

One of Codemasters' best racing games, DIRT 5 is an unbridled shot of adrenaline-fuelled fun that's impossible not to love. Superlative stuff.

Form widget
92%
Audio
80%

Rockin' tunes, enjoyably knockabout voice work from Troy Baker, Nolan North, and the Donut Media lads, as well as suitably angry-sounding engine noises all make for a heady audio brew. Vroom vroom etc.

Visuals
95%

It's been a while since I've been this wowed by a racing game in terms of pure graphical prowess. But DIRT 5 isn't just pretty, it's also wonderfully imaginative, transforming exotic locations into spectacular places you'll want to visit again and again. Cars look gorgeous, too.

Playability
90%

Insanely good fun. Thrashing a car around DIRT 5's tracks proves a consistently gratifying source of unadulterated racing joy. Few things beat aggressively fighting through a pack of rivals, churning up mud, and flying off ludicrous jumps.

Delivery
90%

Career is pretty much a succession of different racing events, much as you'd expect, but it's presented in an enjoyable, colourful, and inviting way. Add to that the immediacy of Arcade and multiplayer, as well as the creative tools of Playgrounds, and you have a very generous package.

Achievements
50%

Only twenty achievements, not particularly well spread. There's 200G on offer here just for dabbling with Playgrounds for ten minutes, which seems bizarre. Also, driving 10,000 miles?! Has Codemasters lost the plot? No. Just no.

Game navigation