With the “Dirt Rally” released in 2015, Codemasters not only raised its long-standing racing game series “DiRT” to a new level but also successfully inoculated it with exactly those simulation aspects that had been missing from previous offshoots of the series. “DiRT Rally 2.0” now continues this evolution – with success, as a detailed PS4 test version proves.

An Audi Quattro thunders along a paved country road in Spain. Trees and crash barriers rush past with a monkey’s tooth, and when the car drifts through a bend, it leaves impressive brake marks on the ground. The previous measurements were all in the green. Then suddenly, the road section narrows and makes a nasty left turn.

It is closely followed by a long straight that drops steeply to the right. We catch the curve, but on the straight, we lose control for a short time due to a careless braking maneuver and have to watch how the two right wheels of the vehicle lose their grip. A little later the entire vehicle slides down a slope uncontrolled and overturns.

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And so welcome to “DiRT Rally 2.0”, which – just like the previous game – punishes driving mistakes and not least because of that puts a big grin on the face of every rally enthusiast. But not only the general demanding degree of difficulty inspires, but also the revised handling model deserves a “thumbs up.”

In contrast to the “DiRT Rally” from 2015, the sequel now simulates for the first time how a section of the track is worn out by pilots driving ahead. For example, if we start at the very front of a particular stage during the New England Rally, the surface of the track is still completely untouched.

It looks completely different when the first half of the field was allowed to start ahead of us. Then deep fears adorn the track and influence where our car finds optimal grip and where it doesn’t. Besides, if it rains on such a stage, the water collects in the furrows and in this way creates even more difficult conditions.

What remains is an additional boost of motivation that regularly spurs us on to drive in a highly concentrated manner and to achieve the best possible starting position in every race. In short, a great new feature that Codemasters implemented with great attention to detail.

With The Right Tire To Victory

Another exciting gameplay innovation for “DiRT Rally” fans is a tire management. Before each stage we can now choose between three different tire types. The first is the tire with the soft tire compound. It ensures the best possible grip and traction on gravel tracks but wears out relatively quickly, which often makes it a risk factor on long special stages.

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The medium compound guarantees the right balance of performance and durability. If, on the other hand, you want optimum durability and accept a reduction in grip, choose the hard compound. If a tire bursts, we can change it in “DiRT Rally 2.0” even during a race. However, this requires that we carry one or two spare wheels with us – which in turn involves an additional weight of 20 kilos per tire and also affects the driving process of our car.

Better, Faster, Smarter

The linchpin of “DiRT Rally 2.0” is the game mode “My Team.” Here we take part in a rally and rallycross career and earn credits this way, which we then spend on the purchase of new vehicles and vehicle upgrades. Those who like also invest their hard-earned credits in new employees and employee training.

With a better-trained mechanic, for example, we reduce repair times between individual stages. If, on the other hand, we upgrade our co-drivers skills, we reduce the time penalty for punctures on the track, among other things.

The chief engineer would still be there. If you level up your knowledge, you can explore vehicle upgrades faster and thus unlock them more quickly. Admittedly, these management aspects are subtle, but in the end, they don’t fit into the career as harmoniously as comparable role-playing elements in Codemasters “F1 2018”. Perhaps not because of the lack of small cutscenes that keep everything narrative together.

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„My Team“ mode also offers daily and weekly community events and AI challenges. Sounds exciting, but it’s primarily aimed at the multiplayer player, as many of these challenges are linked to specific vehicles. And these, in turn, require high investments of 360,000 credits and more to land in your garage.

In addition to the “My Team” mode, we can also let off steam in the outdoor game, where, among other things, we put together championships according to our tastes, tackle historical rallies from different periods of time, complete predetermined rallycross races and set personal best times on the tracks of our choice during the time trial in order to beat them again and again. Codemasters, on the other hand, has eliminated the iconic hill climb challenges of the previous game.

A World Tour

“DiRT Rally 2.0” offers a great selection of routes. These are spread over six different countries and provide a fantastic amount of variety. Let’s take the Catamarca Province in Argentina as an example. Here we experience merciless rock formations.

Or how about Leczna County? In the Poland scenario, the fast gravel roads lead through dense forests, extensive farmland and remote villages with lots of onlookers.

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No less demanding is the Hawks Bay region in New Zealand. Curvatures of the road, ditches and dirt deposits at the edge of the track combined with the sometimes stormy weather are the biggest challenges here. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work dynamically in “DiRT Rally 2.0”, so it can’t change from one condition to another during one stage.

But it doesn’t bother much, because when rain pours down the windscreen by the liter, and we plow through slippery mud from the cockpit’s point of view, we have our hands full keeping the situation under control anyway.

The Rest Of The Fixed

But the other three rally scenarios also have their pitfalls. In the Australian city of Monaro, for example, it’s mainly bridges and fences as well as swirling dust that put a spoke in our wheel. New England on the American east coast is entirely different. Here the level designers challenge us with night rides through beautiful deciduous forests and meter-long jumps. Well done to the one who tuned the suspension and shock absorbers before!

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The last in the group is a region in Spain, where asphalt roads, nasty bends and suddenly appearing steel crash barriers set the tone and careless drivers – as outlined at the beginning – quickly point to the rear places.

Snow doesn’t play a role in the current scenario mix and will only become part of the gameplay experience on the March 26th with the addition of the Monte Carlo Rally. On April 23rd and May 21th, the makers will also add the Sweden Rally and the Germany Rally – but only for buyers of the Season Pass or the Deluxe Edition.

Cultivated Rallycross Action

Are you more in circuits? No problem either, because in “DiRT Rally 2.0” it’s all about getting down to business on eight typical rallycross tracks. Here, too, the following applies: Whether Mettet in Belgium, Trois Rivieres in Canada, Silverstone in England, Lohéac in Brittany, Hell in Norway, Montalegre in Portugal, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain or Höljes in Sweden – each track has its unique features and takes you to the limit, also because of the aggressive AI opponents.

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To finish a race successfully, we have to think very carefully about when to install the obligatory, somewhat longer Joker lap. Right at the beginning of the race to have the whole thing ticked off as quickly as possible? Or slightly later, to make time for the start?

A rewind function is also missing in this game mode. However, we can switch to the settings menu at any time and adjust driving aids such as the ABS, automatic braking, start control and stability and traction control in six steps and improve the finesse of the AI drivers with a slider.

Summary

Thanks to optimized driving feel, meaningful detail improvements (first of all track wear and tire management), a hand-picked selection of tracks in six wonderfully varied scenarios, improved graphics as well as successful upgrade and tuning options, “DiRT Rally 2.0” manages to overtake its already famous predecessor game. Here, too, it’s incredibly fun to take full risks and improve your performance bit by bit, despite all the adversities.

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For the ultimate adrenaline rush from summer on also in VR, where initially only owners of an Oculus Rift take off. Support for other glasses has not yet been confirmed, but in the end, it should only be a matter of time.