Dirt 3, along with its predecessor, pushed off-road racing to new heights when it came out in 2011. six years later, Dirt 4 has finally been released but it’s a sequel in name only. It’s a very different game from the main series, as it takes cues from last year’s Dirt Rally in order to appease both sets of fans.
Modes such as Trailblazer are completely absent while Rally Cross and Landrush are limited to an embarrassingly low number of tracks. There is no mini-map and the slick presentation has also been replaced with plain menus. Gymkhana makes a return although that too exists in an extremely basic form. The biggest talking point however is the removal of the rewind feature. Make a mistake or get hit by the opponent and you might as well restart since winning is close to impossible. This results in endless frustration, as the rewind feature was a big part of the casual appeal of the previous games. This is not to say Dirt 4 is made primarily for the hardcore audience. The game has two settings, Gamer and Simulation that cater to the different audiences. In addition, you can fully customise the difficulty to suit your needs.
Even if Dirt 4 doesn’t feel like a sequel to Dirt 3, it’s still a great racing game. The handling in particular is fantastic throughout all of its modes and the sound design is a marvel. There is no game on the market that gives you a similar sense of speed and thrill. Career mode has an added layer of depth which lets you invest in facilities and staff, and they all have a role to play in your success. For example the PR agent will be tasked with getting better sponsorship deals while the chief engineer will handle repairs in between races.
As there is no mini-map, the game rewards players for paying attention to their co-drivers. Tracks often have weather effects that will limit visibility which adds to the tension. While the locations available in the full game are not many, it comes with a track generator that creates a Rally event based on your preferences. It’s a neat idea, but is not a good enough replacement for fully developed tracks with a lot of variety. Missing features and modes aside, there is a lack of coherence in the design of Dirt 4. If you enjoy racing games, it is well worth the asking price. But do not purchase it expecting a sequel to Dirt 3 or that perfect combination of the Dirt series and Dirt Rally....