Building upon the foundation of Dirt Rally, Dirt 4 reaches down to its roots to create a true rally experience. Passing up the flashy experience of Gymkhana and offering variations of the painfully difficult simulation that Dirt Rally presented have made it one of the most welcoming titles to date for both newcomers and oldtimers alike. Personally, I enjoyed the antics of Gymkhana and the cheesy personalities brought to Dirt 2, but I’ve come to wholeheartedly welcome the addition of teambuilding as you climb your way through the ranks.
Rally is a very different sport from other races. Being able to maintain a high speed at all times is almost a necessity if you want to secure that win. While many techniques can be carried across all types of racing mediums, they nearly ask you to forget all you know and treat rally in its own respect. One of the first tutorials emphasizes the use of your vehicle’s weight when taking turns at a high rate of speed, something common in many racing events. However, another teaches you how to properly use your E-brake when an acute turn comes up rather than slowing down to take the turn as you would in other games. Being able to master this technique to maintain your rate of speed can literally mean the difference between a win and a loss when the seconds start to countdown. Luckily, this can be mastered at the Dirt Academy, DirtFish in Washington, USA.
Dirt 4 offers four racing types. Rally, an A to B race focus’ on your final cumulative time across a range of courses. These are usually small tight tracks requiring a lot of vehicular control at high rates of speed. Road Surfaces play a particular role here as well. Pavement allows you to stick to the road a little more while dirt,gravel and snow create more and more challenging situations to overcome. Rallycross places you against multiple racers in a circuit-type race usually revolving around a bracket. An extended lap, or Joker Laps,add another layer of strategy as you’re required to complete one every race. Luckily, your co-driver is pretty good at telling you when to take that extra 250 meters to maintain your lead.
Landrushs make a return as well on Short circuit-type dirt tracks. Focusing on buggies, Stadium trucks and small go cart type vehicles, players race to the finish line in a tradition lap based race. While it doesn’t carry the same Joker lap that Rallycross does, it pushes the players control of the vehicle more as it takes place over dirt tracks usually laden with whoops sections and larger jumps. Finally, the Classics Rally, which really just focus’ more on the cars that started the phenomena in the 60’s and follows all the way through to Class B, probably the most dangerous vehicle class ever introduced to the Rally world. I enjoyed the actual rally events of the game most since it was always at breakneck speeds rather than creeping around other vehicles on mostly uneventful courses.
To compete in these races, you can choose to either race for your own team, or for an already prominent team. Racing for a team usually means you don’t lose any money out of pocket for repairs, but you usually lose half of your winnings by the end of the tournament. Racing for your own team puts a lot more weight on your shoulders, but their can be a large financial return by the end of the tournament. This is where your team building comes into play. Apart from building relationships with your sponsors, the members you hire onto your team have the ability to affect how you perform in the race. The better they are at their job usually means a better return for yourself. This results in less things breaking during a race, and can affect the amount of time it takes to repair the parts as well. Your crew chiefs can gain positive or negative personality traits, but these can be overcome once you dump enough money into your teams racing headquarters. Fortunately, I only had to worry about a few problems. The most prominent one being a tire blowout. Something that starts minor, but eventually makes it near impossible to handle the vehicle.
For those who enjoy online, you can race against each other competitively, take part in monthly and weekly challenges or even build your own track. I had issues connecting online (I attempted numerous times over various days), so I am unable to form an actual opinion, but being able to form your own routes was fun. Mostly limited to the weather and time of day, a track is generated based on the complexity that you choose. It can than be shared online for others to try.
While the racing genre may seem to go stale at times, it’s always great to see new innovations appear. I really did enjoy the cheesiness in past titles, and I would really like to see some of it appear again down the road. However, the amount of detail placed into this series and the amount of power placed into the player’s hands really shows another shade of the Rally world and makes Dirt 4 a hard title to pass up.