Dirt 4 – Hands On
The fog is thick, stretching well beyond what my lights are capable of cutting through. The engine is screaming as I flick up through the gears. My co-pilot and I are cutting through the thick fog of Michigan in a 4WD Ford Fiesta at excessive speeds. The visibility is rubbish so I rely heavily on the pace notes read by the co-driver.
“Two-hundred into six right, then six left, over crest. Don’t cut. Rocks outside”. In English, this means a fast, flat-out section for two hundred metres, then a fast right into a fast left as you go over a crest. Also, don’t cut or slide off at the last corner. Easy.
This section is flat out, foot to the floor and don’t back off till just before the crest. At well over 200 kmp/h my car is literally flying through the air over the bumps just before I get to the fast right. Coming off the throttle as I turn into the right hander, the tyres fight for grip before suddenly coming to life, inducing a glorious slide which I controlled with a quick flick of the wrist to the right as it went over the crest. The car swung out. I planted the throttle, demanding the tyres find the grip on the gravel road. As the corner slowly straightens out and the wheel naturally rests itself back into place, I cross the finish line before pulling up to marshall gate.
What a rush.
Codemasters rally games haven’t always given that feeling. Not with a racing wheel, at least, but that all changed with Dirt Rally. And in my short time with a near-final build of Dirt 4, I can see where they’ve taken things one step further with regards to the handling models, amongst a raft of other improvements.
Given the keys to a near-final build of the game, I set myself loose across all four of the games racing types, starting with Rally. Using the game’s new Your Stage feature I was able to quickly whip up some unique point-to-points to test out. The range of changes you can make is impressive; from distance to complexity, as well as the weather and time of day. I could visibly see improvements in this department – track seams were far less noticeable on these created stages helping each environment feel more natural.
Dirt 4 also makes things easier for casual players by offering all manner of assists designed to help you keep it on the circuit as well as a new Gamer handling model if you just want to have some fun flicking a car around in the dirt. Of course, if you’re like me and want the full experience with the racing wheel and a realistic handling model, just flick the handling over to Simulation mode to get something more akin to the feeling of Dirt Rally.
One group of cars to look out for is in the Rallycross mode. These kart-like racers are insanely fast and sound like a Formula 3 car, making them one of my instant favourites to push around a tight and twisty rallycross circuit. I also had a run in the Stadium Super Trucks around Baja in Mexico, which was great fun, though admittedly the big trucks aren’t really my favourite thing in the world. For my last run, I put myself into the seat of a classic Lancia Delta Group B car, promptly driving myself and the car through a tree, flipping through the air and coming to rest in a nearby field.
It’s not long now till Codemasters unleashes its next rally racer on to us all, and after today’s time with the game I’m getting even more of an impression that this will cater to a wider audience than Dirt Rally did, whilst not forgetting about the enthusiasm behind the core rally fans who helped get that game made in the first place.
Dirt 4 will release on PC, PS4 and Xbox One 9th June, 2017
James Swinbanks is a Games Critic currently writing for GameSpot, although you’ll still occasionally see him popping up on Player 2, because frankly, he loves the smell of the place.