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​‘Dirt 5’ Struggles To Compete With Its Own Spinoffs

​‘Dirt 5’ Struggles To Compete With Its Own Spinoffs

A return to the generalist style of older Dirt games.

Julian Benson

Julian Benson

From what I've played of the Dirt 5 preview build, I'm torn. I loved Dirt 2 and 3, and Dirt 5 is a return to those colourful arcade racers. It's got the same punchy menus, globetrotting selection of maps, and a career mode that even has that same X Games' tone. But, it feels like the series has moved on since then. The exceptionally good Dirt Rally 1 and 2, stripped the series back to its roots and found something special in that singular focus on simulation. Dirt 5 may be a bigger and better version of the mainline Dirt games but it feels like a step back for the series when compared to its spinoffs.

Where Dirt Rally focused on getting one discipline just right, Dirt 5 is going for variety. There are many race types, some that feel close to traditional rally driving, like Ultra Cross, and others, like Stampede, that feel extremely arcade-y. But, from the demo I've played, they all feel shallow compared to the racing in Dirt Rally. You get more models of car, class of vehicle, and ways to race them in Dirt 5 compared to Dirt Rally, but none of the races I played were as engaging.

In one mode, Stampede, the track is stuffed with different offroad cars and you have to force your way through the pack to try and get to the front. The sheer number of cars on the road makes for a treacherous race as at every corner you could be pushed off the track by the AI. This was even more true of the race in the demo, as the side of the track was often lined with exposed tree roots that would flip and cars that clipped them at speed. But, I still managed to come in first on my first attempt.

Codemasters

I don't think I came first so easily in that event and the others I played because I'm great at racing games, I'm absolutely not, but because Dirt 5's generalist approach might have made for a less challenging game. It could also be the case that the demo build I've been playing collects together very early game examples of the different modes, and so I was racing against novice AI. In either case, I wasn't as absorbed or challenged by Dirt 5 as I was by the early races in Dirt Rally.

What wasn't on show in the preview was the career mode at the heart of Dirt 5. This story-led mode will see you rise from a rookie in the rally world up to being a seasoned pro. You'll be presented with a selection of races to choose from, each a different pairing of mode and location - including places like China, Greece, and the US - and racing in those events will earn you the points you need to open up new, more challenging events. You'll always have a few races to choose from, so you won't be forced to play a particular mode if you aren't keen on it.

Dirt 5 is carrying a lot on its shoulders. Not only is it coming to six platforms - PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PC, and Stadia -, it features nine different modes, more than 100 events spread across tracks set in locations all around the world, and absolutely loads of different cars. But all that variety may be holding it back from being something special.

Featured Image Credit: Codemasters