Part of the fun with Early Access titles is that developers actively monitor the community surrounding their game for suggestions, opinions, and complaints regarding their title that’s still deep in development. DiRT Rally is no exception, as Codemasters have created their own subreddit for feedback, as well as the obligatory Steam discussion forums for the game that have exploded in popularity since the title’s surprise launch.
Unfortunately, many of the complaints and suggestions at the time of this writing revolve around bugs that Codemasters is well aware of, such as the audio bug that prevents the co-driver from being turned on at all, a few different FFB bugs that have existed in many previous Codemasters releases, and the occasional steering rotation bug that makes the car insanely twitchy at certain input levels. I’ve been lucky enough to only be affected by the audio bug, however the Steam forums are currently a mess with multiple users reporting the exact same issues over and over again. The ones that aren’t, complain that DiRT Rally is too hard – the majority of which come from keyboard and/or gamepad users who despite numerous press clippings and community feedback that blatantly state this is a hardcore racing sim, are stuck in 1999 thinking this is V-Rally or something. Hopefully Codemasters ignores the braindead idiots crying they can’t play the game with ASDF controls, as what they’ve built for wheel users is probably the most realistic rally simulation ever.
That being said, there are still five things I feel they could do to push DiRT Rally over the top, none of which have anything to do with the current set of bugs in the Early Access release.
1. Codemasters needs to call it Colin McRae Rally
If I Google search “dirt rally”, I get a bunch of generic mid-2000’s WRC photos as if I was on a stockphoto site, whereas “Colin McRae Rally” warrants thousands of pictures from the beloved Codemasters franchise of a decade ago. People identify and associate the Colin McRae branding with an enjoyable line of rally simulators from the late 90’s/early 2000’s, and associate the DiRT branding with shoe salesmen, modern rock, scheduled DLC, and Monster Energy logos. It can’t be DiRT anymore. Sorry guys.
2. The garage area needs to be re-worked
For those who are too scared to head over there, or haven’t played DiRT 4 yet, above is a shot of the garage menu – analog sliders with absolutely no value. While people will eventually figure out what points on the sliders correspond to what, and what the difference is between large incremental adjustments and small incremental adjustments, finding a starting point with this menu is absolutely infuriating to the point where I don’t even want to try. Even worse, if I want to share a setup to my friend, or give him a good gearing value for a certain stage once I’ve gotten my own set figured out, what do I tell him? Am I awkwardly supposed to bust out my cell phone, take a picture of my monitor, and fire it to him on Facebook?
People will throw bricks at me for suggesting this, but DiRT 3’s setup menu was perfect. If you didn’t understand this setup screen, it’s probably because this was the first racing game you’ve ever played. From a gameplay aspect, people are already going to struggle with the driving aspect anyways, because rally driving is the most difficult form of auto racing in the world. At least throw them a bone and make it easier for them to get the car handling the way they want it to.
Suggesting a hardcore simulation to dumb down the garage menu is highly hypocritical of me, but making the userbase guess at car setups while also demanding them to master a ruthless set of physics and the most treacherous tracks ever designed by Codemasters… something’s gotta give. It’s either this, or you give us a proper car setup menu with proper values like rFactor or RBR both have.
3. The game desperately needs the “Open Class” cars seen in DiRT 2 & DiRT 3
It’s a given that rally driving is insanely hard, whether you’re doing it in a simulation or a video game, but DiRT Rally at the moment lacks a good set of starter vehicles. Hopefully this is simply due to licensing and they’ll be added by the time the game is considered “released” in December, but as I skimmed through the project’s content plans, nowhere did I see a mention of the Open Class vehicles seen in the previous two DiRT games.
And that’s a shame, as there really aren’t any cars currently in DiRT Rally that are a good sportsman class. The 60’s cars understeer all the time, the 70’s and 80’s cars slide too much for new guys to handle, the Group B & Modern WRC cars are too fast for anybody but RBR veterans, and the 90’s Group A cars are a bit too finicky – they either understeer or oversteer at a moments notice and are pretty setup reliant. So there is no class, or even single car, that I could recommend to new guys that would help them get comfortable with a hardcore rally simulation, because the Open cars aren’t in the game. That’s precisely what they’re used for.
The Open Class cars are also mighty fun even for a seasoned rally sim veteran. Not quite as fast as the WRC cars, but not quite as sluggish and outdated like the Group A cars, it’s the exact middle ground that this game desperately needs. DiRT 3 had a ton of different Open cars to choose from, and DiRT 2’s entire rally class were Open cars. Not too fast, not too twitchy, tons of different manufacturers to pick from and some really close racing because everyone could make it through the stage without dying.
Please bring ’em back. They were cool.
4. The simulation-style dashboard camera needs to look at the road ahead, not the ground in front of you
The best thing Codemasters has done with DiRT Rally is include a simulation-style dashboard view, a viewpoint I usually have to manually mod in myself when it comes to playing traditional ISI sims. Look, I’m holding a toy steering wheel in my hands,I don’t need to see another one on the screen. Or all the gauges. Or my Xbox Live avatar hanging from the mirror. I need to see the road ahead and that’s what this view accomplishes.
Except no idiot sits all the way forward in a car, head tilted to stare at the piece of road five feet in front of the car.
I’ve already tried using the EGO Engine XML editor to mess with the camera.xml files for each vehicle in DiRT 4, but it doesn’t seem to work. What I’m more comfortable with is a viewpoint like the position above in DiRT 3, which again was accomplished with mods. Not only is my head tilted to see further ahead of me, I can also see directly in my side mirrors, which helps immensely during rallycross races online. Given that DiRT 4 will have a rallycross expansion later this year, a slight adjustment to all dashboard cameras might be needed. The 2011 Fiesta isn’t so bad, but on stuff like the 1960’s Lancia, you’re literally staring at the hood from dashboard view and it’s not cool.
5. We’re on the PC, it needs a livery editor.
When I thought of this point at work, I originally envisioned Codemasters giving us image editing software support and templates for all of the cars in DiRT 4, but that would open the door for penis camo and white supremacist monstrosities that would overshadow all of the historic WRC liveries that would get released on places like RaceDepartment. As an alternative, I’m just going to remind you all that the livery editor in the original Grid, as well as Grid 2, was pretty damn good. Y’all should find a way to implement what was done there, into DiRT 4.
Because at the moment, this game is awesome, and those five things would make it better.