DiRT Rally news deserves to be pushed to the top of the queue over autistic man-children fighting about NASCAR Racing 2003 Season. After a day to reflect on the article and do a bit of editing based on some people’s initial reactions, consider this a revised version of the original article.
With DiRT Rally releasing their Tarmac Terrors update, I pretty much have to give some sort of impressions on it, and since I never really talked about the Pikes Peak content either, despite releasing a Camera Pack for it, I’ll just combine my impressions of the two content updates in a really brief, to-the-point entry. DiRT Rally is a game I’ve played the shit out of since launch, but gradually have reduced my time on it in the past few weeks since there aren’t very many tracks, and like Assetto Corsa’s early access period in 2014, I sort of ran out of things to see and do within the game. Despite my own personal gripes, it’s a fantastic, yet understandably shallow rally sim in its current state. Is it better than Richard Burns Rally? Yes.
The default cockpit camera views are still atrocious. Every cockpit view in DiRT Rally has extremely poor positioning and have a field of view that is ten degrees too small for my taste. There is never an adequate sense of speed, and the camera is inexplicably tilted downards towards the bonnet instead of focused on the road ahead. Above is my custom Lancia 037 cockpit view, and I have to do this with every single car in the game I’m interested in driving. It’s not fun to constantly edit XML files to get a cockpit camera that isn’t shit. Codemasters, if you’re listening, I’ll do all the “dash” cameras for you. People at RaceDepartment seem to like them.
Graphical issues still plague my personal install. Take a closer look at my screenshots and you’ll see everything looks like a highly detailed rFactor mod. Since the game’s launch a few months ago, I can’t have Shader Quality on anything other than Ultra Low, otherwise I instantly lose 20-30 FPS. Because of this, I can’t drive at night, as the shader quality set at the minimum setting doesn’t allow my headlights to illuminate trackside objects, and I can’t see. I have no problem running DiRT 3 with everything set to Ultra, and this doesn’t look to be too big of a step up from the 2011 game. With everything else cranked up in DiRT Rally, it runs perfectly. I’ve got a Radeon 7870 with a recent Motherboard/Processor upgrade, and this is the only game my PC currently struggles with.
Chris also has some sort of solid state drive issue, where the game’s physics engine lags momentarily and makes the game completely unplayable for him. His impressions of DiRT Rally are from watching YouTube videos or from me streaming it on Steam.
Fix these bugs, and throw in a photo mode for good measure, since judging by other YouTube videos the game looks amazing and it basically generates free publicity for the game.
The Force Feedback settings have seen a marginal improvement. I’m a scrub who runs minimal force feedback effects, but with the latest update, the fundamental values that DiRT Rally configures your force feedback with have changed. It’s worth venturing into the options menu upon booting up the latest version, as the force feedback screen now has an Assetto Corsa-like list of options instead of three generic FFB values. I set everything to 13% with my Driving Force GT and carried on my merry way, yet those wanting to really fine-tune their expensive toy steering wheels will be able to do so as if they’re in a traditional hardcore racing sim.
To me, it feels much more detailed on dirt, and not smooth enough on tarmac. It’s like the tires chirping is exaggerated on tarmac. Something I can live with, though.
Tire Model adjustments push this fully into sim territory. The keyboard and gamepad players littering the Steam forums are going to want their money back very soon. I didn’t have a problem with the way the game drove in previous updates, but I have to agree that I was able to pull off some really crazy shit I shouldn’t have been able to. The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was running a low 8-minute lap of 1980’s Pikes Peak, when the real life lap record was an 8:47. I’m fully aware that I’m really damn good at driving games, and that’s part of what makes PretendRaceCars.net so successful, but the lap times I was clicking off were far beyond what the real life car could accomplish, even under ideal conditions.
There’s been a slight amount of overall grip reduced on dirt, yet the tires bite more under acceleration. The Tarmac sections of Pikes Peak were pretty fun with the new update and more closely in-line with the various on-boards we’ve seen over the years. Drifting around hairpins also felt much more natural, and losing/regaining traction felt like a gradual process instead of a sudden on/off switch. I’ll have to give it a few more laps, but my initial impressions are that it’s like a mix of DiRT 3 and Assetto Corsa, and Codemasters are starting to mix in more and more Assetto Corsa as they learn more about how tires work.
We still need an Alien difficulty. My third lap ever in the Lancia 037, without so much as a setup or proper gearing, I went over ten seconds quicker than the rest of the field. Master isn’t challenging for guys who have played RBR over the years.
Pikes Peak is worth the price of admission, while the Germany stages are a mixed bag. The Colorado Rockies are a fresh and dangerous challenge compared to the classic Nurburgring Nordschleife, which as appeared in countless racing sims over the past decade and a half. Both versions are included; the modern, fully paved version, as well as the 1980’s climb dance version where the back half of the track is a dusty gravel road. There are people who bought Assetto Corsa for the Nordschleife, and it wouldn’t surprise me if there are people who bought DiRT Rally for Pikes Peak. The level of detail is astounding, and I remember after my first night with the track, I watched Loeb’s on-board and could easily point out where he was at any given time. It’s a really wild creation.
The Germany stages released today, however, aren’t. Even if they’re based off of real-world stages (as are all stages in DiRT Rally), they drive as if you told Herman Tilke to re-design Joux Plane. The dirty trick of chopping up two long stages into twelve variants is also very disappointing as it inflates the track count to a ridiculous degree. Pikes Peak also suffers from this issue, although it’s understandable as the track is so long and hectic that it’s smart to chop the track up into portions – otherwise new guys would never figure it out.
The Hillclimb cars will frustrate you, and the Lancia 037 is the best sim car of all time. The hillclimb cars give me a strange sense of pseudo-nostalgia to last year when the Lotus 98T first came to Assetto Corsa and nobody could drive it. The Hillclimb cars are the same way in DiRT Rally; too much power and 80’s aerodynamics. Only a handful of people will ever figure these cars out compared to the overall userbase of the game, and I think you’ll see a lot of smashed PS4/Xbox One controllers when this game inevitably hits the consoles. The hillclimb cars demand your undivided attention and are pretty much trying to kill you at any given time. The Audi, at least in my experience, was prone to aero stalling – Too little speed through a corner and you’d understeer off the track because the wings weren’t producing enough downforce; too much speed and the rear end would come around. Again, your average person won’t figure out these cars.
But they’re a ton of fun when you get them right.
As for the Tarmac Terrors pack, the Lancia 037 is incredible. Once this game is in a finished state later this year, I have a feeling this will be the car, or even the class, that most serious leagues flock to. Having this much power sent to the rear tires is insane, and each stage becomes a crash course in throttle control. You essentially steer the car with the throttle, and the steering wheel merely suggests which direction the car should be pointed in. It’s an awesome ride and was everything people anticipated it would be, and more.
The rest of the cars in the Tarmac Terrors pack are unexciting 90’s kit cars that you’d see in add-on Richard Burns Rally car packs for the RSRBR mod. I hope at least someone drives them. I can’t comment on them too much as I’m unsure of their historical significance and will avoid them altogether like a casual scrub.
With each new update, the game is going up a small amount in price, so if you’re curious about the title, save yourself $20 and pick it up right now. It’s Richard Burns Rally with better graphics, and even though it still lacks a bit of variety in the stage department, the current road map Codemasters has laid out for the title from now until release in November looks pretty damn promising.