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DiRT 4 Review

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Gameplay:

While it is true for any game that gameplay is vital, I think it may be especially true of games like DiRT 4 that do not necessarily have a story to lead progression, but increasing challenge and variety to keep the player interested. While there might be some quirks here and there that irritate me, it is very easy for me to say that I find the gameplay of DiRT 4 fun and enjoyable.

There are four different race types you are eventually able to play in: Rally; Land Rush; Rally Cross; and Historic Rally. They unlock in that order, with Rally being unlocked from the beginning of the game. In Rally races, you make your run alone on the track, but you can watch a ghost on the progress bar on the left of the screen. This bar shows you how far along you are in the race, but also where you are performing with the splits, relative to the ghost. If you complete a split faster than the ghost, that section turns green, but if it was faster, the section is red. You do not need to worry too much about a lot of red being there, because the object is to come in first overall, and not in all of the splits, and just one very good split can make that difference.

Land Rush tracks are much shorter and have you on them with other competitors, all trying to reach first place and stay there for the last lap. This is not always easy, as bumping into the other racers can mess you up and some of the sharper turns can lead you to spin out, costing you your momentum.

Rally Cross has you in rally cars again, but you are no longer alone and the tracks I have played thus far have multiple laps. They also have a Joker Lap, which is an additional section to the track that every racer has to take once during the race. It does not matter when you do this, and if you want you can listen to your team spotter to tell you when is best. I was just taking the Joker Lap immediately because my preference would be to have more time to catch up than potentially risk a lead at the end.

I have not yet done a Historic Rally, but the concept is simple enough. It is like Rally, but with classic vehicles.

 

 

At the beginning of the game, you appear to be driving for other teams, borrowing cars and trying to please their sponsors. Once you form your own team, you can start buying your own vehicles and secure your own sponsors. This will be forced on you, by the way, or at least it was for me as I eventually came up to an event that required a vehicle there was no loaner for (you do not search for a loaner, it is just there or not for you to use). Purchasing my own vehicle was the only way to compete, and in order to purchase a vehicle I also needed to form a team. It is a simple enough process that lets you set team name, driver number, colors and the pattern for your vehicles, and sign up sponsors. Once you have a team you will need to hire engineers for maintaining your vehicle as well as new facilities for various reasons. All of that money you have been collecting from your victories can be easily gone through at this point, but it does not take many victories to amass a new fortune.

The parts to your vehicles can be upgraded, but I am not at the point for this to come up yet. From what the game has told me, the better parts not only perform better (how much better I do not know) but will also last longer. At some point I will try to get all A equipment in my vehicles, but for now I am happy with what I have.

Something else I want to mention before moving on is that there are two ways to acquire vehicles. One is to purchase them, as I mentioned, from either the dealer or the classified ads, where you can find older cars and potentially good deals. The other means of filling your garage is to just keep playing the game as some event rewards include them. Your garage can only hold so many vehicles (though upgrades increase the number) but these awarded cars will still be added. You just will not be able to purchase any more cars, even if they are needed for the next event.

 

 

The actual racing in the game is fun and even on the Gamer setting can be rather challenging. This is a good thing, since you do not want it to be too easy. The one irritation for me is the ease with which I have flipped my vehicle, either rolling it (on the ground or in the air) or more rarely end-over-end. There just is a part of me that doubts the physics is quite right here, but most of these times it is because I should have made the turn better anyway. At most the game is being overly dramatic about my mistake and not actually cheating me. I do find I am less comfortable on the more narrow tracks.

Different cars, especially across different classes, have very different feels to them. Some feel nice and heavy, giving you sure turns, while others feel much more powerful than they should be for their weight. It keeps things interesting, and probably more accurate too. Different tracks can also feel different, especially when dealing with different materials, but what stands out most for me are the vehicle differences.

Something I at times wish I had was a map on the HUD for the Rally races. While the co-driver does provide directions (and you can set how early or late these directions are provided), being able to actually see what the turn is coming up would be nice. Of course that might not be realistic, and encourages you to pay attention, both to the track and the co-driver, so it is hard to voice a complaint.

 

Weather can be a real influencer, especially for one event where I not only came into a fog that obscured my vision but I was also driving into a small town, with tight turns at the same time. Not only could I not see far but would need to make some square turns too.

One option that is in the Difficulty settings I do like is the 'Semi-Automatic' option. I somewhat like being able to directly control the gear I am in, but when I want to reverse, I still want that to happen just when I hold down the brake input. Semi-Automatic allows you to control the gear (though it will change it on you) while also keeping that automatic switch into and out of the reverse gear. In some races reverse can be very valuable, either to correct a mistake or to keep moving after a bump spins you around.

For the most part I played with my Steam Controller, so I was able to use analog triggers for applying the throttle and brakes. At first I would just hold the appropriate trigger down all of the way, but after changing its profile (something you can do via Steam for most controllers) to be Aggressive instead of Linear for the signal sent to the game, I felt like intermediate points were useful. The reason I used my Steam Controller instead of the Xbox 360 or PS4 controllers I also have is because I like the feel/design of the triggers on the Steam Controller best.

I did play a little with the keyboard and mouse, to ensure they are viable, and this input method is, but I do recommend sticking to a controller if you have one. There are just some games out there where a controller layout is more conducive to the game's input design, and DiRT 4 is one.

 

One nice feature in the Input options is an area that provides a readout of what input you are activating. It shows the button or key you are pressing, and if you are instead engaging an analog input (triggers or joysticks) it will tell you the percentage of activation the game is receiving. This might be more targeted at those gamers that will obsessively tune their setups, and with more elaborate setups than I have, but is still nice to see, especially if you do go into the Steam Controller configuration tool and mess around with things. (As a reminder, this tool can work with more than just the Steam Controller.)

Overall, the gameplay is where I would want it to be. I fully admit I am coming at this as a gamer and not a racing sim enthusiast, so forgive me if that is what you are looking for here, but as a gamer, I am very pleased. I am also looking forward to getting behind the wheel some more, especially to dive more deeply into the Your Stage feature. This is the one that allows you to generate tracks to your specifications. I have looked a little at it, but have been largely focused on the Career Mode events, though at some point I would like to try making a super long track and see how that goes.

 




  1. DiRT 4 Review - Introduction
  2. DiRT 4 Review - Graphics
  3. DiRT 4 Review - Gameplay
  4. DiRT 4 Review - Additional Gameplay Media
  5. DiRT 4 Review - Conclusion
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