Dirt Rally

Codemasters goes hardcore with this no-frills, punishing off-road sim, resulting in its best game in years.


Key events

Dirt 4 announced, and it's out this year

Dirt 4 announced, and it's out this year

Buggies and procedurally generated tracks feature in Codemasters' latest.

Dirt 4 is finally official, and it's coming out this June for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Codemasters' off-road game is the first proper Dirt sequel since 2011's Dirt 3, though of course since then we've had the brilliant Dirt Rally and the not quite so brilliant Dirt Showdown.

Dirt 4 seems to be building on the success of 2015's Dirt Rally, with a focus on realism as well as a little extra accessibility thrown in to boot. It'll carry the official FIA World Rallycross Championship license, including settings such as Lohéac Bretagne, Hell, Holjes & Lydden Hill, while it'll also introduce dirt track racing in buggies, trucks and crosskarts.

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Not so many years ago, the Dirt series was all about a certain interpretation of the word sick - the one used by snowboarders and purveyors of extreme sports as they did all sorts of radical tricks. Now, thanks to an advance in the hardcore spin-off, it's going back to a more traditional meaning - to the green sloppy stuff that burns your nostrils as it comes jetting out all over the bespoke carpet of your local Wetherspoons.

Quantum Break UK's best-selling boxed game

UPDATE: Best-selling new Microsoft Studios IP this generation, too.

UPDATE: Microsoft has said Quantum Break is now the best-selling new Microsoft Studios IP this generation, as well as being the best-selling boxed game in the UK this week.

Face-Off: Dirt Rally

Digital FoundryFace-Off: Dirt Rally

The spirit of McRae is back - along with 60fps gameplay.

Several months after arriving on PC, Dirt Rally comes to PS4 and Xbox One aiming for a 60fps experience and featuring a handling model that goes back to the series' simulation roots. The game's intricate mechanics appear more advanced than ever before, with accessibility replaced by a heavy learning curve that rewards players that really put the hours in. It's a great comeback for a series that seemed to lose its way during the last generation, with perhaps too much emphasis on arcade-like showmanship and gimmicks. But what we really appreciate here is the return to 60Hz-driven gameplay, something that we could only experience on PC during the last-gen era.

Hitting 60fps on console hardware is no easy task, often requiring developers to make compromises in graphical quality. And as you'd expect, Dirt Rally sees several graphical settings reduced from their maximum PC values in order to deliver this experience. Texture detail is lowered from ultra to high, shadows, particles, and ambient occlusion are knocked down to medium, and draw distances are also dialled back slightly. Smoke shadows and advanced ambient occlusion are also absent entirely.

The impact of these changes varies throughout the game. For example, the reduction in particles sees less dust and debris thrown up by the cars, while the use of lower resolution shadows results in these elements appearing quite rough during pre-race sequences. The lack of ambient occlusion also provides less depth around objects, mainly standing out across roadside barriers and buildings. On the other hand, changes in draw distance, LOD streaming and crowd detail are less dramatic, and aren't so noticeable while playing. Texture quality on consoles doesn't quite match up to the PC release either, so the artwork appears a little softer on close inspection, but there's not a massive gulf in asset quality across the entire game.

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Dirt Rally console review

To understand rally and, by association, Dirt Rally, a British video game that conjures all of the long-form drama and complexity of the sport with unmatched brilliance, you must first disavow yourself of the notion that it's simply a case of reaching the finish line first. That's like saying a war is won merely by defeating the enemy -- a technical truth, but one that implies nothing of the tapestry of skirmishes, manoeuvres and machinations that comprise a final victory. No, to truly understand Dirt Rally, you must understand that this is a challenge broken into ten thousand discrete, interrelated trials, the stakes of which build into a glorious crescendo.

First, there are the corners, those moment-to-moment swipes and swivels that come at you at an elastic tempo and in varying degrees of severity. Your long-suffering, stoic-voiced co-driver offers a premonition of each, stating the direction (left, or right) followed by the speed at which you should make the approach. A six is the gentlest kind of turn, one that can be taken at something close to top speed. A one should be approached with extreme sloth. (Beyond that, a 'square' is a 90 degree angle, a 'hairpin' is a corner that requires a handbrake turn, while an 'acute' should be tackled with a stiff drink). In Dirt Rally every corner has the potential to, if not upend your car, then at least to send you skittering into a ditch, from which you must be recovered with a 30 second penalty. You soon learn to heed your co-driver's calls. If he barks 'don't cut', then you cut at your peril.

Next, each course is divided into (usually) four sections, separated by invisible dividing lines. There are no other cars around so the time stamp you're presented with when you reach the end of any particular section is the only measure of performance. Pass the divider ahead of the rest of the competition and you 'win' the section -- it turns green on your HUD. Place second or worse and it'll highlight red, baiting you to push still harder on the next section's corners. Damage your car on any of these discrete sections and there's nothing you can do but limp on.

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The latest game in the venerable Dirt series is coming to Xbox One and PS4, and it looks like a worthy conversion from the Steam Early Access version PC players have had for months. The target of 1080p and 60fps on both consoles even seems feasible, judging by what we've played. The best part is that this is a hardcore rally game, the likes of which we rarely see on consoles.

FeatureWhat's different about Dirt Rally on console? Thankfully, not much

60fps on both platforms, no new DLC planned after release. And as for Dirt 4...

The acclaimed off-road simulator Dirt Rally is finally coming to console on April 5th, and - in what's possibly the best possible news for those looking forward to sampling Codemasters' most hardcore outing yet - it's pretty much identical to the PC version.

Dirt Rally review

RecommendedDirt Rally review

Traction and field.

There have likely been better ideas in the history of the human race than this. You're strapped tightly into a Lancia Stratos, some 240BHP being channelled through its rear axle, and ahead of you lay a thin gravel road that winds through thick Finnish forest. As another sharp rise in the road sends you flying, pine leaves and birch branches tickling the airborne undercarriage, you start to question the sanity of it all.

Dirt Rally

Publisher: Codemasters

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Dirt Rally's latest update introduces the sport's spiritual home

Dirt Rally's latest monthly update might be its most significant yet, introducing the Finnish rally alongside a couple of iconic cars from the turn of the century.

Version 0.8 brings 12 new stages around the most hardcore of venues, with tight gravelled roads running through thick forests that have been the proving ground for some of the sport's greatest drivers, with seven world champions hailing from Finland.

There's more! The 2001 Ford Focus RS and the 2001 Subaru Impreza also make their debut in Dirt Rally, though you've likely played with them before - both have been cover stars for the Colin McRae series that preceded Codemasters' latest (and I'd go as far to say greatest) off-road adventure.

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Dirt Rally gets head-to-head multiplayer

While v0.7 introduces a bunch of new features.

Dirt Rally's latest update, which brings Codemasters' Early Access off-roader to v.0.7, introduces head-to-head multiplayer in its officially licensed FIA Rallycross events. It does plenty more besides, too.

The world's greatest hillclimb has just come to Dirt Rally

Dance your way up Pike's Peak in the latest free update for Codemasters' early access sim.

Codemasters' Dirt Rally was something of an unexpected treat when it came out last month, with the off-road sim extension of the long-running series hitting Steam Early Access the day it was announced. Now, true to the studio's word, the first of several free big updates has hit the game, and it's something of a doozy: the Pikes Peak hillclimb, what's widely regarded as one of motorsport's greatest challenges.

FeatureDirt Rally could well be Codemasters' first real sim

What Early Access, PC exclusivity and going hardcore means for the series.

Dirt Rally isn't Dirt 4, in name at least. It's not on console - yet - and even though you can play it today it's no way near finished. Once you've got through the muddle of emotions all of that inspires, it's worth considering this: Dirt's new direction, which goes well beyond what fans have been calling for, is the best thing that's happened to rally games for years.

The next Dirt is PC only, Early Access and out today

Dirt Rally, a hardcore return to off-road driving, hits Steam this afternoon.

Codemasters' next Dirt game is a hardcore off-road simulation of traditional rally, is currently exclusive to PC and is also Early Access. It's also out today, with Dirt Rally - as it's called - available on Steam for £24.99.