Review: DiRT Rally (VR)

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DiRT is a virtual reality enabled racing game with a significant twist. While most other titles in this genres pit you up against a loaded track of rival drivers, equip you with power ups, and generally encourage mayhem and destruction along the way, DiRT will face you with one completely different primary enemy: the road.

As it’s name implies, DiRT Rally VR focuses on the niche form of automotive competition known as rally racing. Rally races can stretch for dozens, even hundreds of miles and are typically run on tracks that border on the insane. You won’t find any smooth, NASCAR asphalt on these courses. Instead, you’ll discover sudden jumps, hairpin turns, and rough, naturalistic terrain.

The tracks in DiRT will take you across the globe to some of the most beautiful, and most dangerous, racetracks in the world. To tackle these monsters you’ll be suiting up inside a wide selection of small, durable rally cars. The cars are divided into decades stretching back into the 70s making DiRT a true love letter to the spunky little rally racing community.

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DiRT‘s gameplay centers first and foremost around creating an enjoyable VR experience. Codemasters could teach a few other cockpit based VR gaming studios a thing or two when it comes to overall game design. DiRT offers you an absolute deluge of graphical, interface, and VR specific options to toggle and play with.

For example, if you find yourself prone to motion sickness you can tell the camera to remain fixed when your car rolls or flips (which it definitely will at some point), or you can allow your view to be jostled and upended by the motion of your car as it happens for more immersive racing.

Driving in DiRT is a truly unique, and remarkable, racing game experience. Unlike other, similar, games, your goal in a race is simply to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. For the majority of your time with the game, there won’t be any other drivers to accost you as you drive, which is immensely helpful as the tracks themselves are more than enough of an obstacle to begin with. Most of the competitive aspects of the game originated from leaderboards and other stat tracking. Now that it’s released, drivers should be able to enjoy some of the competitive head-to-head racing as well.

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Whether you’re timing a jump just right, breaking through a particularly tight turn, or deciding whether or not to risk an off-road jaunt to cut a corner and knock a few seconds off your time, DiRT tracks are constantly throwing some sort of challenge in your face to overcome. Luckily, you won’t be facing these obstacles alone.

One of the best, and most memorable features in DiRT is your trusty AI co-pilot. This smooth-voiced co-conspirator is always at your side with a handy notebook full of track notes. As you drive you’ll constantly be hearing him in your ear saying things like, “Left 6 into right hairpin. Don’t cut.”

These word’s can be confusing at first, but after watching one of DiRT‘s quick tutorial videos you’ll be up to speed on the famous rally racer, Colin McRae‘s custom “6 to 1” driver communication system. “Don’t cut,” for example, means not to cut the upcoming corner by going off-road as there is a known obstacle that could prove deadly. This system becomes invaluable to winning races as DiRT features a fairly punishing vehicle damage system that rewards high-level play. Mastering this new language, and using it to your advantage, is one of this game’s most satisfying and memorable features.

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There are a handful of decent game modes in DiRT that should keep racing fans busy for quite some time. There is the standard career mode, a few online modes, and a currency progression system that encourages you to keep racing to unlock new cars and tracks. DiRT also includes a delightful “Team Manager” mode that introduces some light RPG elements into the sim by allowing you to recruit engineers and other employees to work on your cars and improve their stats.

Sound design is consistently wonderful in DiRT, but visually the game does suffer from the limited resolution of current-gen VR headsets. This issue is not helped by a fairly dull color pallet in both the cars and the environments that does little to bring the world of the game to life.

That being said, riding roughshot with only your wits, reflexes, and co-pilot to guide you in a fully-immersive VR racing game never really gets old. DiRT is fun, challenging, and provides some of the most realistic speed and collision sensations of any other game in its field.

It’s also worth noting that in a Steam update, Codemasters indicated that not only would the Steam version of the game be VR compatible, but also that the DK2 should work without issues, so you don’t necessarily need a CV1 to play DiRT Rally.

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