While members of the global sim racing community now cautiously await the fourth rendition of Codemasters’ high profile rally racer, the pair of individuals at Erased Citizens have uploaded a mammoth fifteen minute video of the 2017 racing simulator in action. Earlier this morning, when news of DiRT 4‘s existence first broke, many of us were unsure as to what exactly we would be receiving when the game finally drops in June – as Codemasters have routinely displayed they are more than comfortable catering to both hardcore and casual audience, seen in 2012’s DiRT Showdown and 2015’s DiRT Rally – the concerns of hardcore rally racing fans can now safely be put to rest. Like Codemasters themselves have claimed in their introductory blog post, DiRT 4 will merely flesh out the underlying experience they’d originally created with DiRT Rally, which now looks like it was designed as more of a “trial run” for a full-blown offering than a quirky offshoot of the series.
DiRT 4 boots up immediately asking you which physics engine you’d prefer to power the experience, meaning the casual audience returning after many years of absensce from DiRT 3 will have something they can pickup and play with a controller, whereas the hardcore sim racers among us can essentially flick a switch and be playing a proper sequel to DiRT Rally.
Progression through the game’s extensive career mode will come easy for the hardcore sim racers among us, as hefty difficulty bonuses will be handed out to those who play DiRT 4 on a higher setting. I’m assuming the Fearless mode will completely disallow restarts and max out the AI driver difficulty for the ultimate challenge, though successful championship runs will undoubtedly open up more of the game in a shorter period of time.
Like Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo, it appears the main portion of DiRT 4 will revolve around your own virtual rally career, in which you purchase cars, sign sponsors, and enter championships of increasingly higher prestige. Though DiRT Rally attempted to include some sort of progression element via hiring crew members and using race winnings to purchase cars, it was admittedly laid out in a clunky manner – constructed in such a basic fashion that the process of partaking in these odds and ends was more of a chore than anything else. Judging by the completely revamped presentation, these miscellaneous text adventures will most likely play a larger role throughout the game’s campaign mode than they did in DiRT Rally.
The list of modes seems fairly predictable for any modern racing game, though there now seems to be a proper rally school mode similar to what we saw in Richard Burns Rally over a decade ago. This time, however, Codemasters have partnered with Dirt Fish Rally School in Washington state, so there’s a chance that the tutorial portion of DiRT 4 will feature an actual rally school location that can be unlocked upon successfully completing each lesson, as opposed to recycling stages from the main campaign with generic text overlays. It’s a very nice inclusion considering even experienced sim racers picked up DiRT Rally back in 2015 and really didn’t know what the hell they were doing.
While it’s too early to talk about the exact cars and tracks which will be available in DiRT 4, it appears everything except hill climb racing and trailblazer events are set to make a return. Codemasters sill have the rights to the official FIA Monster Energy World RallyCross series, meaning we’re getting a host of licensed circuit racing content, but the main bulk of the point to point rally events will be held under a fictional Global Rally Championship moniker. With the World Rally Championship License locked up by Kylotonn Games, it’s highly doubtful we’ll see any of the truly ludicrous 2017-spec WRC entries from the likes of Ford, Hyundai, Citroen, or Toyota, though Codemasters did manage to include a partial selection of modern rally cars provided they steered clear of official liveries.
Super 1600 buggies and two classes of short course off-road trucks (2WD and 4WD) will make up the final portion of the core DiRT 4 experience, again operating under the fictional moniker of Land Rush. Codemasters claim there will be a portion of Land Rush tracks located in Nevada, California, and Mexico, though we’re unsure if they will be using real-world circuits seen in the Lucas Oil Off-Road Series as they did for the original DiRT back in 2007. I believe I saw a glimpse of what appeared to be Chula Vista when the footage above cut to a brief shot of Super 1600 buggy action, but I’m not well-versed in short course off road stuff to make a proper judgement on that.
DiRT 4’s most anticipated feature, dubbed Your Stage, is already in a semi-completed state and can be seen in action during the fifteen minute raw gameplay piece by Erased Citizens. Governed by just two sliders, Length and Complexity, the feature appears to work as advertised – and quite quickly, I must add, spitting out a phenomenal looking stage in mere seconds. This is going to kick all kinds of ass for online leagues – which are now cross-platform – as none of the aliens among us will be able to memorize terrain exploits and ideal lines to earn a leg up on the competition. I’m really looking forward to an online environment that rewards driver skill rather than memorization. The overall presentation has received a much needed facelift, with a shot of your car inside the service area now totally replacing a generic floating cluster of menus with panoramic shots of each environment in the background. One of the main complaints I had with DiRT Rally when I reviewed the title in late 2015 centered around the outright lack of any life in the software, and it appears Codemasters have directly addressed these concerns, giving you a sweet shot of your crew hard at work on your race car in between stages. It’s the little stuff like this that keeps the game from getting stale.
Codemasters have also included their sim setup-oriented cockpit view, allowing users to receive a much clearer shot of the road out their front window, instead of being forced to look at a virtual steering wheel when they’re already holding one in their hands. After playing DiRT Rally earlier this afternoon, I’m hoping Codemasters will implement the ability to adjust this camera in the same manner of a traditional cockpit view, as some of the dash cameras were literally focused on the hood, and some of them – such as the 1999 Ford Focus – weren’t even aligned properly with the steering column. Your head was essentially resting on the side window.
The stages look spectacular, and to everyone’s surprise, the legendary Nicky Grist will be returning as the game’s co-driver, with both the in-house navigator and female co-pilot Jen Horsey (whom I personally preferred) relegated to minor roles. This is something many have wanted over the years, as the casual co-pilots seen in previous DiRT games were often criticized for their lack of detailed instructions.
Sim racers have every right to be cautious about what Codemasters are building in DiRT 4, but judging by what’s been leaked to the public only an hour ago, Codemasters have blended the underlying driving experience and serious atmosphere of DiRT Rally, with the vast array of content that turned 2011’s DiRT 3 into one of the most well-rounded driving games you could purchase for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. While I’m a bit choked that the Trailblazer and Hill Climb disciplines seem to have been neglected – those cars were fucking awesome – Codemasters appear to have figured out that the Monster Energy dude bro crowd won’t stick around for long, and at some point, you have to create something that ticks every last box in the eyes of your loyal fans. DiRT 4 looks seriously awesome, and we can’t wait to play it.