Adding three new FIA World Rallycross cars, one new track, and the ability to race online, DiRT Rally’s Multiplayer PvP update dropped today, introducing a whole bunch of issues that frankly shouldn’t be there. Yes, this is an Early Access title, with a few months until the game’s considered released, but this is Codemasters, not a small indie developer.
Before we’ve even gotten into our first race, Codemasters has imposed a soft Region Lock on the new online mode, drastically changing the size of the userbase depending on what your Steam location has been set to. People have been raging at this type of Region Lock since the launch of DiRT 3 in 2011, and an alternative still hasn’t been found. While Steam allows you to choose your own region – a quick workaround for this archaic format – the unfortunate reality is that the community will have to specifically decide which Steam region to race under, and those who play DiRT Rally casually without venturing onto the official forums will be left eternally wondering why online is always a ghost town.
Unfortunately the screenshot below doesn’t entirely display the disparity between the two regions, as Steam went down shortly before this shot was taken and people were just starting to populate the online servers again, but while Edmonton was struggling to attain 10 people, there were easily over 200 people online in the UK region and tons of rooms to scroll through.
There is no need for a soft region lock; it has never been an issue with any other racing sim on the PC. Only in Codemasters games does it become a problem.
Once we’re into a room, we now have to deal with another issue that has been plaguing PC titles released by Codemasters for several years. Voice communication is poorly implemented. By default, everyone’s mic is live, and there is no simple way to mute yourself in-game, which means the room always becomes a jumbled mess of background music, car noises, and unrelated Teamspeak or Skype conversations. Unless you rush to mute every person in the room before the race starts, it quickly turns into the worst aspects of Xbox Live in a hurry.
And even when you mute these people, they can still hear you, leaving you to hope they’ve done the same.
But the biggest issue, one that’s directly affected me, is that any third party modifications made to the game now prevent you from actually getting into a race. Obviously, this has been done in the pursuit of fairness, as games like Race 07 are legendary for kids modding INI files to give WTCC cars eight gears and 700 horsepower, but in DiRT Rally, third party mods are widely used by avid players because the default cameras and force feedback settings suck. Checking RaceDepartment, four of the seven highest rated mods for DiRT Rally change the camera or force feedback, indicating they’re pretty damn useful.
These mods now result in mismatches online and cause your game to hang in an infinite loading screen.
When it works, the netcode has been surprisingly good, and the experience is very reminiscent of DiRT 3 online, with much better physics. But for Codemasters to ignore the same complaints that have been made for years, as well as introduce a mismatch error that is bound to piss the hardcore guys off, man, that’s not a good start to an update that’s been live for less than a day.