It is always exciting when a new racing game comes out, more so when it is an entry in a long-running series. Yes, Dirt 5 is finally here! It’s tough to believe, but DIRT has been with us in one form or another since 2007’s Colin McRae. More importantly Dirt 5 does exactly what it sets out to do as a rally racer – and this latest offering is a worthy addition to the franchise.
The premise of Dirt 5 is simple enough: off-road racing with various types of race modes and vehicles. You can also take laps on tracks covered by ice and snow, or – my personal favorite – race your way up a mountain, heading from point A to point B, hopefully leaving your adversaries behind you while eating your dust. Races can be accomplished by playing through Dirt 5’s career mode, hopping into exhibition-style races and time trials in arcade mode, or by playing the game’s multiplayer mode that can be accessed either online or through four-player local split-screen.
DIRT 5 feels like one of those easy-to-learn, hard-to-master arcade racers, which makes it the perfect foil to DIRT Rally 2.0. Career mode is definitely the way to go at first. You’ll run through a slew of various races with different vehicles and race types as you collect money and sponsorships that will allow you to unlock new vehicles that can give you a quite noticeable leg up on your competition. Doing well in races – some of which require top place finishes – also rewards you with variant liveries for your vehicles, allowing you to deck out your race cars and set yourself out from the pack. While Forza Horizon’s creator mode seems to sap hours from you while you attempt the most basic design, Dirt 5’s tools are incredibly quick and easy. From structure to track design to presentation to handling, it’s all exactly what you expect to find in a Dirt game.
Along the way, you’ll get to listen to the voice acting talents of Nolan North and Troy Baker, as they guide you along your racing journey from relative unknown to a world-renowned driver. The narrative focus of Dirt 5 is executed well with its podcast-style discussions between the hosts, the narrative use helps liven things up while moving from race to race during your career.
What sets Dirt 5 apart from other racing titles is its more casual approach to racing. It is pretty easy to pick up once you run through a race or two, Dirt 5 feels more like an arcade racer than a racing sim. Let me be crystal clear, as easy as Dirt 5 may be to pick up and play, becoming a skilled racer is an entirely different story. Doing so is also well worth your time, since that’s what makes each race in Dirt 5 so satisfying. Beyond the game’s career and arcade modes, you can also take part in Dirt 5’s playground mode, which features outlandish tracks created by the Dirt 5 community. Extra tight curves, obstacles, jumps, donuts… everything is fair game in the playground.
I really enjoyed the way in which the soundtrack is built into gameplay. By default, all sound you hear while you’re racing is diegetic — this means you will hear music piped in from specific sources on track dynamically as you drive by, rather than statically at all times. It really immerses you in the atmosphere, though if you’d rather have a more conventional listening experience, you can turn that off in the settings.