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I’ve had a certain to connection to rallying games and rallies in general. My Mother was a Rally Driver (not
even kidding) and my Dad was Co-Driver. My first gaming experience was actually watching my Dad playing
Colin McRae Rally 3. I remember playing it for hours on end with my brothers, just trying to see who could get
the fastest time around a stage or an entire rally. Then as my brothers got older, they started playing different
games especially as the Colin McRae series ventured off on a different path, straying from a purely rallying
game, including other disciplines and game modes, and, in the case of Dirt: Showdown, a more arcade racing
approach.

This all changed on the 27th of April 2015, when Codemasters announced, via a series of blogs, that they
would be releasing a brand new rallying game focusing on the quality of the game rather than the amount of
cars or stages. On the same day, they announced the game would be released. Or shall I say, was released.
But only in Early Access. But the full version was released on the 7th of December the same year. For full
disclosure, I had to reinstall this game as I hadn’t played it since December last year and had uninstalled it.
The joys of a 500GB hard drive, 80 Steam games and Battlefield 4.

As soon as the game was installed, I booted it up and the first thing I have to say is the menus are clean and
easy to understand. That is the hallmark of a Codemasters racing game. Easy to navigate. There are 3
different motorsport disciplines: Rally, Rallycross and Hillclimb. Rally is basically a time trial against other
players or AI that have already completed the course or “Stage” as it is known in Rallying. Next up is Hillclimb.
It’s very similar to Rally but with faster cars, on an course which is constantly going uphill and you have a
rolling start, not a standing start. Unfortunately there’s only one course in the game, Pikes Peak in America, but
can it be split up into different sectors.

Last up is Rallycross. In Rallycross, you race on small circuits made up of a mixture of Gravel or dirt sections,
and Tarmac sections. There is also a mandatory “Joker Lap” where you have to go through a longer section of
the track, once each race. This requires some strategy. Do you do the Joker lap at the start and try to catch up
when others take their Joker lap? Or do you stretch out a lead and take the Joker lap on the last lap? Or
somewhere in the middle? It does add some complexity to an otherwise simplistic sport.

There is a career mode where you rise through the ranks of the 3 disciplines but there’s no story mode. You
can access the garage to look at the cars you own and ones you can buy. You can also manage your crew and
give them perks with slots you unlock by driving a certain distance. There’s also online leagues you can join as
well as daily, weekly and monthly events that are still updated even after DiRT 4’s release this June.
Enough about the features, time for the big bits. But before we do, I must just touch on the music. There is
none, you don’t need it cause you need to listen to the pacenotes, or “course notes” as the developers call it.

Now the big bits. The gameplay. You may be asking, “How is it to play?” The answer is simple. Challenging and
rewarding. The limited amount of stages and cars is all worth it for the gameplay. It rewards you for taking
calculated risks but sometimes it’s better to slow down in tricky sections than to go flat out. This is easily
demonstrated in any of the stages in Finland. Finland has, alongside Sweden, the hardest stages in the game.
With sweeping turns and massive jumps, you have to know when go flat out or to pull back a bit. After playing
through about 10 stages in a short span of time, I have to say that DiRT Rally is the best Rallying game I have
ever played, in terms of gameplay. The cars also have very distinctive characteristics. The 1960’s Mini is very
nimble, especially in Monaco, however, during the long straights it maxes out very early. In comparison, the​
Lancia Stratos, is very volatile. At any moment, the back end could snap out at you and you could facing the
wrong way. The 1980’s Group B feel like they look. Fast. Group A cars feel similar but slightly slower. The
2000’s and 2010’s feel easier to drive but still very fast, especially during the fast flowing sections on the
tarmac roads of Germany.

I have to say that the Hillclimb cars are the worst to drive just because of the pure speed and grip of them. You
can’t slide them like you would a normal rally car, as soon as you brake you are locked going straight. Which is
why I don’t really play them as much as the Rally and Rallycross cars. Speaking of Rallycross. The Rallycross
superstar cars feel similar to the 2010’s cars but are so much quicker off the start line. Within about 3 or 4
seconds you are in 3rd or even 4th gear. The S1600 cars are slightly slower but still quicker than your average
production car.

The last thing I will mention is pacenotes. In Rallying, your co-driver are your eyes. If you don’t heed their
advice, you could suddenly be upside down or chopping down a small section of a forest. Unlike earlier games
in the Colin McRae/DiRT Series, Nicky Grist doesn’t give the pacenotes/course notes which does sadden me
about a bit. His voice was one of the highlights of the games but your pacenotes/course notes are in the good
hands of Chief Games Designer on DiRT Rally and actual rally co-driver Paul Coleman. As stated on the
Codies Blog in an article about the pacenotes in the game, they firstly named them course notes because in
rallying, the driver and co-driver are allowed to do a reconnaissance run, or recces for short, and the notes are
very personal to the crews.

Every co-driver will have a different system so calling them course notes are easier. Also the course notes were not recorded in a conventional recording studio. Instead, the team rigged an intercom system with Paul wearing his crash helmet in a D-box simulator while the stage was played and it definitely gives another level of authenticity to the game and the little things like that help the game. If you want to know more about the course notes have a look at this (http://blog.codemasters.com/dirt/04/co-driver-calls-explained/) blog from Paul Coleman on the Codemasters website.

In a little summary, if you want to play a top class Rallying game that isn’t 10+ years old, buy DiRT Rally. The
game was also released on the PS4 and Xbox One with support for the PSVR and the Oculus Rift which puts
you into the cockpit and will probably scare the shit out of you when you inevitably roll the car. If you aren’t a
fan of Rallying, the price tag of £39.99 is a bit steep but if you see it on sale on Steam for around £20 or £25
then you should definitely pick it up. It will even run on an old GPU with the minimum spec being either an
AMD HD5450, an Nvidia GT430 or even Intel’s HD4000 internal GPU, as long as it has 1GB of VRAM. This
game is definitely a must for both Racing and Rallying fans. Oh, and don’t forget. If your co-driver says, “Don’t cut.” Whatever you do, DON’T CUT. Just trust me on this cause otherwise, you’re gonna have a bad time.