Racing games in general are a pretty niche genre to begin with. When you start to break it down by race type, it becomes even more niche. That’s when publishers and developers have to take chances in order to attract an audience. Dirt 5 is Codemasters’ latest attempt to get rally racing to the main stream masses.

The game moves away from the more simulation-based Dirt Rally entries in favor of a more arcade-like experience akin to the earlier installments of the Dirt series.  Right off the bat, the game greets players with a bright menu system, over the top looking vehicles, and a generally fun atmosphere. It sets the tone immediately that the game wants to welcome players of all types of skill levels.

Racing for Everyone

Controlling each vehicle feels completely different from one another. A Sprint Car feels a lot looser to control than a X Cross Raid while a 90’s rally drifts around corners with ease compared to the Superlite model. While a controller is enjoyable to use, you’ll definitely get a more exciting experience if you have a wheel to use. Even without force feedback, drifting around corners and making tight turns feels satisfying with a wheel and gear shift.

Aside from the control of the vehicles, the tires grip the track differently in various situations. Sometimes you have perfect control with your car’s direction while other situations find you fighting just to keep your car straight. It’s all a part of the nice mix between the game’s weather system and overall gameplay it offers.

Each race event presents its own set of challenges. Sprint races are what you would expect: a quick and chaotic sprint, no pun intended, around an oval where one wrong turn has you careening into a wall. Ultracross takes Rallycross racing and turns the rush and excitement dial up to 11. Stampede makes you worry that mistiming a jump or hitting it at the wrong angle will leave you on your side with your opponents flying by where as Land Rush gives you a feeling that no one can stop you as you power your way through some of the more rigid and rough twists and turns.

Watching the snow fall in the darkness of night, or having your way brightened by the Northern Lights is something that’s hard to truly put into words.

The only real gameplay critique I have is that, because of its arcade nature, it may turn off some purists. However, I don’t see that as a bad thing for this game because it’s not trying to pull in that type of audience like the aforementioned Dirt Rally games look for.

As expected, Codemasters has made the look and feel of each location feel pretty lifelike. Every circuit has something that makes it stand out from the rest. In Arizona for Sprint races, the mountainous desert backdrop looks spectacular while the jungle in Brazil gives you a feeling that one wrong turn can get you lost, even with a restricted track.

The dynamic weather and day/night cycle is where Dirt 5 really shines. Norway has, by far, the coolest weather and time cycle in any of the races. Starting in the late afternoon, you watch as cloudy skies with snow gives way to clear dark skies with the Northern Lights visible from the course. There’s even a scenario where you can experience whiteout conditions with thunder snow, making driving nearly impossible if you don’t have a feel for the circuit. In Brazil, torrential rains cause a muddy track filled with puddles with little-to-no grip available for drivers.

Modes Galore 

Dirt 5 has a number of modes to enjoy, ranging from quick races to a career mode that, although shows promise, ultimately leaves a lot to be desired.

While you do get to make some choices to carve your event and sponsor path, it mostly feels empty. The story — which unfolds via podcasts — just doesn’t pull you in off the course. When you aren’t racing, there’s nothing to truly invest in. The podcast idea is interesting, but needs to be expanded more to be worth sticking with in the future.

Aside from the career mode, Playgrounds is the big new feature in Dirt 5. This mode is a track builder on steroids. If you can imagine it, chances are you can create it. You can even download levels to race both off and online, adding a nice boost to the game’s replay value. Just be ready to soar through countless rings of fire, and maybe even a Rainbow Road or two.

Dirt 5 NorwayDirt 5 also offers fun party modes like Vampire, King, and Transporter that all add a fun mix to the traditional race experience. And playing online is incredibly fun whether it’s with friends or random players across the globe. What’s more is that the servers held up well with no real hiccups.

‘While we reviewed the current-gen version of the game, Dirt 5 looks absolutely stunning. As mentioned before, it presents a fun and enjoyable atmosphere. The feeling is multiplied as you drive across one of the 70 available tracks over 10 different locations.

Watching the snow fall in the darkness of night, or having your way brightened by the Northern Lights is something that’s hard to truly put into words. Even driving through the jungle’s of Brazil make for an incredible journey on the track. Quite often, the game can be so breathtaking visually that may see you lose focus during your race as you try to soak it all in.

Dirt 5 Verdict

Dirt 5 is a fun game no matter what type of racing you’re into. Even though it leans more to the arcade side of things, there’s enough here that should keep all race fans entertained for a while. The game is easy for anyone to pick up and play, and the different vehicles and locations make sure that each race rarely feels the same.

It’s impossible not to get lost in the visuals of Dirt 5 as it’s one of the best looking racing games I’ve ever played. And though it’s not a game that will keep you coming back months from now, it’s, without question, one that you’ll be happy you played.

  • 8.5/10
    Gameplay - 8.5/10
  • 7/10
    Game Modes - 7/10
  • 8/10
    Presentation - 8/10
  • 6.5/10
    Longevity - 6.5/10
Overall
7.5/10

Summary

Dirt 5 is a fun game no matter what type of racing you’re into. Even though it leans more to the arcade side of things, there’s enough here that should keep all race fans entertained for a while.