Features

DiRT Rally PS4 preview - rally sim is console bound

A rally game made by proper enthusiasts who truly understand rallying

Launching a rally simulator at a Welsh rally school is brave decision. How can a driving game, even when using a steering wheel and pedals, compete with threading a MK2 Escort RS2000 through a Welsh forest on gravel?

The simple answer is, it can’t. But, when the chief game designer, Paul Coleman, is a proper petrolhead (he owns a BMW 1M Coupe) and is rally co-driver in his spare time, you know the latest DiRT Rally is going to be as close to the real experience as it can be.

Subscribe to evo magazine

evo is 21 and to celebrate, we're returning to 1998 prices! Subscribe now to SAVE 39% on the shop price and get evo for its original cover price of £3.00 an issue, plus get a FREE gift worth £25!

After driving the stage at the Higgins Rally School, and living out one of my boyhood dreams of driving a MK2 Escort on gravel, my first attempt at the game was to try and emulate that experience. I couldn’t choose an RS2000, but instead I had to stump for a full works, BDA’d RS1800 – if only real life were like that.

There are plenty of rallies to choose from, whether it be snowy Sweden or sunny Greece. I opted for the Sweet Lamb Welsh stage as it was closest to what I had just driven. It came with some typically Welsh weather, grey and wet – far worse than the weather I’d been out in. Maybe real life isn’t so bad. The scenery however, was very familiar. Tall evergreen trees and piles of recently felled logs scarily close to the edge of track. The puddles in the gutters, which reflected the small amount of sun there was, seemed particularly well considered too.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

I was much braver in the game, naturally. That braveness, meant I also caused a lot more damage to the car. It’s not an easy game to jump into, and requires a fair amount of patience before it becomes satisfying and fun.

I only really started to gel with the game once I delved into the many ways you can modify the cars. Each car’s personality is very different and, to an extent, drives how you’d expect. For example, a Peugeot 205 T16 is far more lary and intimidating than a Ford Escort Cosworth. But, as every driver is different, each car needs a bit of modifying to make it work with your driving style.

Making the changes is simple and easy. Want a quicker steering rack? And, from what I can tell, all the cars on the game need one. It’s just an option in the menu. Stiffer dampers or anti-roll bars at the back for more oversteer? Easy. Lower the ride height for a tarmac stage? Just as easy still. Closer gear ratios are just a few buttons away. Each modification has a quick edit option, but you can fine-tune your car even further. For example, rather than just stiffen the dampers at one axle you can choose the bump and rebound settings too if you wish. It’s unrealistically easy, but all the better for it.

Once you’ve got your car set-up for the stage you’re driving on and your personal style, you can start to appreciate the game. The way the cars dive, roll and rotate feels very realistic, and if you’re used to driving quickly (on loose surface or not) it will be relatively intuitive. The cars find more grip the harder they are driven too. Braking helps the front find more grip and as the tyres dig into the gravel or snow the more traction they find.

The selection of cars is great. There’s the current crop of WRC vehicles, but there’s also cars that real enthusiasts lust over. There’s a Renault 5 Maxi Turbo, Sierra Cosworth, Alpine A110, Lancia 037 to name just a few. I compliment Paul on the inclusion of the E30 M3, not the most obvious rally car. He replies with a perfect response, telling me it’s only in the game because he loves the video of Patrick Snijers at the limit on the Manx rally. I told you he was a proper car guy.

Where Paul's experience as a co-driver really helps the game is beyond the driving. The pace notes are not only exactly as they would be for a rally he was co-driving for, but he also does the voice in the game too. To add to the realism, he recorded them through his helmet intercom in a moving simulator.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The other novel part of the game, which comes from Paul’s hands-on experience, is the element of luck in the career mode. Not only can you suffer mechanical damage or a puncture, but the cars you’re competing against can too. They also won’t be able to drive at full pace until they reach the next service point, slowing them down over several stages. If the damage is bad enough, they may not be able to continue at all.

So a computer game is never going to give you the thrill of actually rallying. But DiRT Rally is far cheaper than actual rallying, lots of fun and deeply involving. 

Advertisement
Advertisement

Most Popular

Visit/ford/focus-hatchback/202030/2019-ford-focus-ecoboost-review-a-family-favourite-past-its-prime
Ford Focus Hatchback

2019 Ford Focus EcoBoost review

Some might suggest the UK is falling out of love with family hatchbacks, but the Focus EcoBoost is a good reminder of why it remains a compelling pack…
9 Dec 2019
Visit/news/22743/first-details-of-the-gordon-murray-automotive-t50-hypercar-revealed
News

Gordon Murray Automotive T.50 hypercar revealed

A true successor to the McLaren F1, Gordon Murray Automotive has revealed more about its spectacular T.50 hypercar
10 Dec 2019
Visit/mclaren/202028/mclaren-620r-goes-for-the-gt3-rs-jugular
McLaren

McLaren 620R goes for the GT3 RS jugular

Limited run extreme Sports Series McLaren 620R road car brings GT4 aero to the road.
9 Dec 2019
Visit/hyundai/201819/hyundai-i30-fastback-n-versus-the-nurburgring
Hyundai i30 N

Hyundai i30 Fastback N versus the Nurburgring

We brought the Hyundai i30 Fastback back to its spiritual home in Germany's Eifel mountains, where there is a racing track you might well have heard o…
7 Oct 2019