I’ve tried my hand at numerous rally games over the years, and none have ever managed to top the quality and entertainment provided by the Colin McRae series. After the legend’s death the DiRT games started to drift away from the hardcore rally experience and more into the showboating events made popular by Ken Block and the new breed of drivers. They had their place and were a lot of fun, but lacked what attracted me originally – driving as fast as possible from one point to another, desperately trying not to wreck the car. PC gamers have been lucky over the last year as Codemasters put the latest iteration onto Steam Early Access, but finally DiRT Rally in its finished state is screeching onto consoles and promising to deliver the most intense driving experience we’ve had in a long time.
It’s not that there have been no rally games on PS4 or Xbox One, they’ve just been a bit lacklustre. WRC 5 felt basic in its design yet managed to provide some thrills, and Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo looked pretty but had a disconnect between your actions and the track. DiRT Rally has the pedigree behind it to overcome the shortfalls of the other titles, and also benefits from months of feedback and tweaking to make it the most responsive and exciting it could be… well, if 60 million miles of road testing counts as simply feedback. Any racing game fan surely must be getting excited at the prospect of the latest generation of hardware coupled with arguably the most sublime handling model of the last 15 years.
So what’s transferring over from the final Steam release? Everything, which is good. You’ll be challenged across a number of countries and tracks featuring snow, ice, tarmac and gravel, all under varying weather conditions, and in just about every rally car you can imagine – from the classic Group B’s to the latest WRC championship contenders. Damage modelling and inter-stage repairs return as a staple of the series, as does your trusty co-driver. New(ish) is the licensed World Rallycross content which has featured in one form or another since DiRT 2, though there’s more to sink your teeth into this time around and multiplayer makes a significant return. On top of the Early Access game there are also seven extra classic cars so you can power up the original Pikes Peak gravel track in style.
Already available now on Steam, DiRT Rally releases on PS4, Xbox One and Windows PC on the 5th April 2016, and we’ll be bringing our review as soon as we can. There’s also a Legend edition available from most retailers that includes the full length feature documentary about the man himself, Colin McRae: Rally Legend, as well as some DLC to fully unlock and upgrade a Mini Cooper S.