The Codec Moments team’s favourite racing game of 2016 has been given PSVR support to drop you right in the middle of the cockpit action. Not content with giving gamers a level or two for a VR experience, Codemasters have added full support to the base game meaning that everything in the original release can be played from the comfort of your headset. DiRT Rally VR has the potential to be the ultimate off road driving experience, so does it live up to expectation and make you feel like the legend that inspired the series in the first place?
If you enjoyed, and were able to get anywhere near mastering, the original release, the DiRT Rally VR upgrade is simply superb. Selecting the enable VR option from the main menu switches the modes over and kicks in the social screen on the PS4, though the actual full VR experience doesn’t start until you’re in a rally stage. Once it’s loaded in, you’re sat in the drivers seat with your co-driver at your side, watching the countdown and waiting to floor it. 3… 2… 1… GO! The engine roars, the tyres kick up gravel, and you hurtle towards the first bend trusting your navigator to give you the right calls at the right time. It’s exhilarating in a way that the standard 2D version can’t match and is difficult to convey in a few static screen shots.
Jumping in for the first time I hit the online daily challenge – Pike’s Peak in the rain and all on my own. There were points in the base game where you’d hold your breath or feel the jeopardy of what you’re doing, but nothing like this. The fear of running off the road whilst hurtling at speed on soaked tarmac with rain streaming up the windows and not being cleared fast enough by the wipers… it’s brilliantly done. You’re more cautious until your confidence has built up, then you’re more reckless because you can see more of the road ahead. Crests, hills, dips and bends are easier to judge, and inclines make you realise exactly how steep the elevation changes are. Each tight turn has you looking to the apex to pick up the optimal point for placing your front wheel, and you can better sense when you’ve straightened up enough to get the power back on and improve the drive out of the corner. When it flows and you’re in the zone there’s no other rally game that can beat it.
If you want to share the experience with someone else, there’s a co-driver mode where the person not in the headset uses the social screen to follow a rhythm action type game to get the driver the right info for the track ahead. It’s fast, complicated and nigh on impossible to get right for some of the inputs. Mixing up moving the d-pad, hammering the face buttons, shaking the controller, and drawing on the touchpad is great in theory but falls down in practice as you watch your teammate hit a tree for the 10th time. The inputs needed are too precise, with the touchpad drawing being the worst offender because aside from having to match shapes nearly perfectly, it’s never particularly clear how you’re meant to draw the shape in the first place. Tracing your finger just takes too much time and before you know it the action has failed. If you’re in the VR car then get used to seeing a red circle with a cross through it as your next instruction. A tweak to the input would make this work really well, but it’s currently not enjoyable enough to use regularly.
However, most of us aren’t playing DiRT Rally VR for the co-driver experience, it’s all about the seat of your pants thrill, and that’s there in spades. What the upgrade gives you (for only £10 too) is an entirely fresh feeling take on the rally genre. There are a couple of things need tuning, like the cockpit drift that means you need to reset the view mid-stage, but at least that’s only a matter of holding the options button for a second or two; and the fact that motion sickness sufferers are not going to last long with this. I don’t get too affected by VR games, but this one I’ve had to come out of the simulation early after a particularly nauseating sequence of bends, crests and jumps. Even that isn’t enough to take away how good this makes you feel when it all comes together. Codemasters have brought us the first fully fledged VR racing title on PS4, and one that makes the 2D version feel tame.
A PSVR review copy of the DiRT Rally VR upgrade was provided by the Codemasters PR team and the game is available now on PSVR and Oculus Rift.