Advocate for Sega. Fan of the 90s.
Xbox One, PS4, PC, PS5, Xbox Series X
November 6, 2020
DIRT 5 is the latest by legendary UK developers Codemasters and is technically the eighth game to carry the ‘DIRT’ title. I hadn’t played any of the previous mainline games but I DID give DIRT Rally 2.0 a crack a while back and absolutely loved it. It had awesome graphics and controls. I am not usually much of a rally guy, but I did sink hours of my life tearing around the world’s rally stages and loved every minute of it.
So, with my shiny new PlayStation 5 FINALLY arriving, it was perfect timing to take the PS5 version of DIRT 5 out for a test drive. Given that the previous titles looked and played great, I was expecting this to be a solid title and was excited to find out how Codemasters managed the haptic feedback feature on the new-fangled DualSense controller. Let’s get muddy!
DIRT 5 sits firmly in the arcade racer category. The controls and gameplay style are second nature to anyone with even the slightest experience with racing games. The vehicles all slide around as you would imagine they should and the drifts are easily controllable with gentle use of the accelerator and brake. There are no penalties here for pushing your way to the front. With 12 AI cars on the track, all bunching up in corners, the game allows you to go old school – late brake, ram your way through to the front, and floor it once you have made it through the carnage. Sure, this tried and true method may not make you many friends online, but hey, this ain’t Gran Turismo.
Racing aggressively in DIRT 5 may mean you end up with a bit of visual damage along the way, but that’s just the collateral damage required to win. There is no mechanical damage as far as I could tell and once I had moved the other cars out of the way, I was gone. As long as you don’t mind looking a bit banged up on the winner’s podium, aggression is definitely the way to go. DIRT 5 is a pretty game as well, it features dynamic weather so throughout the course of a race it may turn from evening to night, from early morning to day, and you will encounter torrential downpours, thunderstorms, and even dust storms as you make your way through the various tracks and competitions.
Gameplay in DIRT 5 is solid – which is to be expected – and the PS5 version also features use of the Adaptive Triggers on the fancy new controller. This means that using the shoulder buttons to accelerate and brake has a nice amount of resistance and you can really feel the brakes push back and judder as you try and slow down on the bumpy terrain. This is a feature I didn’t know I was missing in my life and future PS5 racers should definitely make use of it. I wondered if after hours of play my hand would get tired, but it was fine, so thumbs up from me.
The meat and potatoes of DIRT 5 is its career mode where you’ll race your way through tiers of races whilst a VERY basic story is told via a ‘podcast’ type show playing in the background in between races. The narrative places you as a rookie, getting attention as you work your way through the various races and challenges. There isn’t an overall points table or ranking that I could see, so the narrative is a bit of a side note that you can follow if you are interested, or just skip and keep on racing. Basically, it doesn’t matter either way.
With the tracks constantly changing during various races, there are plenty of experiences on offer. Make sure you have your brightness settings just right, because the radical difference in lighting and weather during the same races sometimes resulted in moments where I just couldn’t see where I was going, trying to navigate at high speed with the minimap wasn’t as fun as you would think, and the ‘headlights’ were useless. That said, the weather effects and night time action really show off the vibrant colours of the game, featuring lots of pyro explosions and even lasers at points on various tracks. Everybody loves lasers.
Aside from being set in various global locales, there is also a multitude of racing options on the DIRT 5 menu. The game contains lap races, point to point races (a personal fave), and a couple of novelties such as Pathfinder, where the goal is merely to make it across some nasty terrain within a time limit, and Gymkhana, which plonks you in an arena to do tricks for points.
The game’s multiple tracks and racing options are certainly a win, but what about the cars? Well, again, there’s plenty of variety here including standard rally cars from across the decades to more hardcore 4×4’s and stadium truck type vehicles. DIRT 5 even features sprint cars so you can slide your way around an oval if that’s what floats your boat. They all have their own nuances – as you would expect – that add further variety to the experience.
Along with vehicle choices, customisation options, including both visual customisation and car set up, are pretty much obligatory in modern racers. To be honest, I found the vehicles fast enough even when unaltered, straight out of the garage, so I didn’t bother messing around with suspension and the like, not that I would know what I was doing anyway.
Visual customisation is typically something I skip in racing games. It is usually complicated and I just can’t be bothered. DIRT 5 is an exception though because it makes it really straight forward and simple. Progressing through the career mode will unlock sponsorship options and colour scheme options. Before I knew it I had ended up with my Pepsi fleet of vehicles. It only took a few minutes to customise. Some may find the system a bit basic but it gets the job done.
Outside of career mode, the standard options are here such as arcade (single race basically), split-screen racing which is always welcome, as well as online races. There is also an option to build a playground track and upload it for others to race on. I played a couple and for the most part, they are just stunt courses. Of course, because they are created by other players, they do vary in quality. Although if you ever get sick of the official tracks, jump your way around an arena.
Unfortunately, as of the time of my review, DIRT 5 was crashing on me unacceptably frequently. I need extra feet and hands to count the number of times this happened during my journey. In my experience, it ONLY happened right after races in career mode but BEFORE my progress was saved, the worst possible time. After some gruelling races in career mode, I had to go back and do it again – and again, and again. I don’t mind the odd crash, it happens, but this was happening far too often. After this happened a few times in one afternoon, it was time to play something else for a bit.
So, DIRT 5 has the rides, the tracks, some fancy visual effects, and some solid gameplay. It does get the job done but I can’t help but feel that this is a game on cruise control. It feels a bit like the developers are going through the motions of what they know how to do. It is what you would expect from a big-budget racer. Sure, the Adaptive Triggers are a nifty trick, but other than that and some visual flourishes, it doesn’t look or play THAT much better than other big-budget racers on the previous generation of console.
On the PS5 it is a no brainer though, it’s pretty much the only new racing game on the system for now and it does make use of the new controller features so its definitely worth taking for a spin. But with previous-gen, there is a lot of stiff competition out there released this year alone which could beat it to the finish the line. Codemasters are a legendary developer and have made these sorts of titles for decades. DIRT 5 is a perfectly playable game, but I do feel that they had the capability to make a truly benchmark-setting racing game, and instead we have a game that meets expectation but does not exceed.
DIRT 5 is a fun off-road racer with plenty of variety. It features loads of cars, locations, and customisation options for the dirt racer in all of us. The graphics are solid and at times impressive, especially as you witness variable weather and lighting within the same race. It makes use of the PS5 controller’s Adaptive Triggers which definitely adds a little something to the experience. Unfortunately, it crashed for me frequently, so Codemasters really need to get on top of that because it’s just not fun when that happens so often.
Whilst the game does feel a little by the book, I have to admit that the experience was well worth it on the PS5.