What you Need to Know About DiRT Rally’s Two Newest Updates – *REVISED*

drt 2015-06-29 15-50-15-15DiRT 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.

drt 2015-06-29 15-42-23-59The 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.

drt 2015-06-29 15-51-00-60Graphical 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.

drt 2015-06-29 16-06-53-68The 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.

drt 2015-06-29 15-49-37-90Tire 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.

drt 2015-06-29 15-55-13-98We 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.

DiRT-Rally-Pikes-Peak-Peugeot-405-T16-PPPikes 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 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 . 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.

drt 2015-06-29 15-30-33-92The 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.

DiRT-Rally_Seat-Ibiza_1With 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.


Why Haven’t I Been On DiRT Rally Lately? The Answer is Simple…

Some of you may have noticed that the PretendRaceCars.net DiRT Rally League hasn’t been updated in quite a while. In fact, the tab at the top linking to information about the league has also mysteriously gone missing.

This is why:1435446038343

Steam says I’ve put 43 hours into DiRT Rally. That’s more than enough time to drive all seven stages to the point of exhaustion. Codemasters have done the classic Ridge Racer trick and chopped up each large stage into several smaller portions, giving the illusion of variety when in fact there is next to none.

While Codemasters have given routine updates on the development of the title and promised a steady stream of content throughout the Early Access period, aside from a Force Feedback update that seemed to receive unanimous praise and a Pikes Peak add-on that was basically three cars and one track, people like myself haven’t touched the game in a while.

Winning the Monaco Grand Prix in my Jammies – F1 2014 is a mixed bag

The dangerous combination of boredom and a rain-shortened NASCAR race meant I found myself scrolling through Steam to check out what was being sold at a discount for their much anticipated Summer Sales event. Eventually I saw that F1 2015 was available for pre-order, and wanting to try out last year’s game to know what to expect in early July when F1 2015 drops, I began Googling F1 2014 to learn more about how the title was received.

Turns out, people hated it.

f1 1F1 2Pushed out as a contractual obligation with genuinely neat features like the historic content from F1 2013 removed, F1 2014 was seen by fans as totally underwhelming. Unexciting cars and a season which saw Mercedes walk away from the rest of the competiton made everyone but the most diehard of Formula One fans skip out on the release, holding out for the next-generation offering that’ll land on store shelves in a month or so. Heck, the only time we’ve covered this game previously is when Team VVV discovered an exploit that turned on a hidden traction control setting – negating any effects of the insane turbochargers that were supposed to make the cars hard to drive.

I torrented it, downloaded all of the essential mods from RaceDepartment, cranked it up to the highest difficulty, and won a full length Monaco Grand Prix in my jammies. It’s alright.

F1_2014 2015-06-15 15-55-20-89There are a couple mods everyone needs to check out before getting into F1 2014. First of all, the Seven Additional Tracks mod is basically unofficial DLC – all tracks found in previous Codemasters F1 titles are fully compatible with the game’s EGO engine, and some guy made all the necessary adjustments to import them into F1 2014. Istanbul, the Nurburgring, Valencia, Korea, Brands Hatch, Jerez, and Buddh are nice additions to the track roster and there’s no reason not to have them – they all retain roughly the same graphical fidelity as the default tracks.

Another useful mod is the 2014 Updated Database. Despite the huge changelog and list of features, the overall explanation for what the mod does is pretty simple – it fixes a bunch of AI issues that have plagued the Codemasters F1 games since F1 2010 – and gives Red Bull, Ferrari, and Williams a fighting chance against Mercedes.

Lastly, with the Ryder BXML Converter, I made my own cockpit camera adjustments. The default cockpit view sucks, and I prefer to be able to adjust my seat position as if I’m playing a traditional ISI sim. I’m one of those annoying dudes who swears by correct FOV and seat position settings, but compared to the original cockpit view the game ships with, it’s easy to see why. I raised my seat position and increased the FOV for a better sense of speed.

F1_2014 2015-06-15 16-07-39-49 This was the biggest shocker for me since one look at the name of the developer and you’re preparing for the worst. Once I’d gotten everything set up, my camera position where I wanted it, and all of the random mods configured properly, clicking off laps wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. The cars in F1 2014 weren’t as lightning quick as the FRR cars in Race07, but they had a lot of the same basic properties. They were twitchy, responsive, and generally responded well to whatever you asked it to do. The game engine didn’t let you do the crazy braking that ISI sims let you get away with, and running test laps at Brands Hatch and Interlagos were strangely satisfying. It wasn’t on the level of Assetto Corsa or Stock Car Extreme in terms of physics engine depth, but I was having fun, and I don’t even follow Formula One.

The turbos are a game changer. Team VVV ragged on Codemasters for the secret traction control feature, and I did the same when we ran the article linking to them, but actually making laps, it’s easy to see why this was included for console players. Nobody with a controller would be able to manage the throttle on exit in an efficient manner if you totally removed this assist for the casual players. If you’ve got your shit together and have gotten used to some of the 80’s cars with turbos that are found in Assetto Corsa, rolling on the throttle is a skill you’ve already acquired. It’s satisfying and feels natural when you do it right.

And it really sucks when you get it wrong. Sometimes the car does a perfect burnout in a straight line. Others, it feels like you’re about to loop the car, leading you to start working on the wheel to save yourself from impending doom, and it’s like the game activates a light traction control feature that prevents you from spinning entirely. I think Gran Turismo 6 calls this skid recovery assist – whatever it is, F1 2014 has it and it makes any sort of wheelspin at the rear feel really awkward and unpredictable. Unless you’re a killer driver already, expect to be dealing with this scenario a lot. Where iRacing would send you into a deadly slide, F1 2014 instead activates a temporary set of training wheels, and it makes your efforts to save the car look very strange and unnatural when watching the ordeal in replay mode.

Thankfully, you can avoid these situations altogether by not driving the car like a retard. The game doesn’t require you to drive in a way where you’re constantly sending the tires to the limit and breaking traction, instead rewarding you for smooth inputs and gradual throttle application. Unfortunately the majority of F1 2014’s player base probably can’t get the car into this sort of rhythm, hence the widespread complaints.

I’m sure with the restructuring at Codemasters, this odd tire behavior will be mostly dialed out for F1 2015 given how good DiRT Rally feels.

F1_2014 2015-06-15 15-57-13-94Car setups were handled in a way I really like. I’m decent at making setups for proper racing sims, but when it comes to a title like F1 2014, I want to focus on the racing first, and all of the simulator stuff should take a backseat. F1 2014 offers both simple sliders (above) where you can choose an overall configuration for your car, as well as a more hardcore setup menu for people who want to fine tune.

The Quick Setup option proved it’s worth on-track, which was really nice. Taking Kevin Magnussen’s McLaren out for practice laps, and an eventual short race at Brands Hatch, I was easily able to mix it up with the leaders. The car always felt neutral no matter what I did with the slider, and in the end it let me focus on the racing like I wanted to.

F1_2014 2015-06-15 16-07-59-48As I mentioned in the name of this post, the best way to test the complete F1 2014 package was in a 100% race length Monaco Grand Prix, with all assists turned off and the AI set to Legend. Usually when I write lengthy posts on here I always make sure to use my own screenshots, but I didn’t realize that oh shit I’m doing a full length Monaco race and should probably take pictures until about ten laps in – and by that time I was too involved in the race to start pausing shit and messing with Fraps.

So here’s a screenshot of a loading screen with an astronomically high laps led stat after three hours of play to get the point across.

F1_2014 2015-06-15 15-51-02-02Legend AI with the 2014 Database mod promised killer AI and that’s what I got during qualifying. I opted for the one-shot format because I’m a NASCAR guy from when NASCAR still went to Rockingham, and I put Kevin Magnussen’s McLaren on pole with a 1:16.8xx. Starting on the front row with me would be Lewis Hamilton, with a 1:17.1xx. It’s safe to say that I was flying.

I got an alright jump on the two Mercedes cars and drove away from the field in turn one. I looked back to see the entire pack of cars slowed to a crawl for no apparent reason, and immediately thought did someone wreck? Not two turns later and Hamiltion had made up the five second gap from the AI issues in turn one. I have no idea how he accomplished this – it was the most extreme case of rubberbanding I’ve ever seen. Rosberg was somewhere behind him.

I assume it’s because we were at Monaco, but Hamilton didn’t even bother passing me and seemed totally content to ride behind me for the duration of the first stint. Even with the DRS zone on the front straight providing the #44 car with a gigantic overtaking opportunity, he never took it. As I got more and more comfortable with the car and track, I slowly distanced myself from the two Mercedes cars. With the gap increasing each lap, I dialed back my fuel settings, and this is where I started to get confused. I had no idea how much fuel I started with, no idea what fuel mixture to run, no idea when I’d be pitting, no idea how much fuel I was consuming per lap, and generally no idea what the gameplan was for the long haul. This is sort of important in a 78 lap race.

Out of habit I switched to the lean mix, and after a few laps was told by my race engineer that I was doing a good job of saving fuel. Look, I’ve done rFactor leagues, Stock Car Extreme leagues, I want some numbers so I know what’s going on. I wanted precise info from my race engineer, and I was getting vague info. He seemed more concerned with sounding like a race engineer than being a race engineer.

Adding to the confusion over fuel strategy were the reports I’d been receiving on Hamilton. I was often told by my race engineer that the #44 car was running on full mixture and to expect him to close the gap. This made no sense to me, as I was on full fuel conservation mode, barely topping out fifth gear when I’d usually be hitting sixth, and had increased the gap between myself and Chocolate Senna to 5.3 seconds.

You aren’t supposed to be able to do this in a McLaren.

F1_2014 2015-06-15 16-18-35-47Around lap 28 or 29, one of the Marussia cars blew up in sector three and the Safety Car came out. I was really surprised at how well Codemasters implemented this feature – partial control is given to the player, allowing you to warm your tires, but your speed is limited and you obviously can’t hit the safety car like an ass. The gap between myself and Hamilton had evaporated.

Ten laps later, we cycled through pit stops. Again, the process was handled surprisingly well. You’re allowed to fly balls out into pit lane and the game magically slows you down without a penalty, but for this kind of game, I prefer this simplistic approach. By the time the front runners had all finished their stops, I was 2.3 seconds ahead of Hamilton. And I thought it would be another process of steadily pulling away from Mercedes.

Codemasters didn’t want me to win.

Like all long races, you eventually catch lapped traffic, and you’re supposed to use these guys as rolling picks on the opposition like we’re playing basketball or something. I’d strategically get around the Caterham and Lotus cars right at the end of sector one, leaving the two Mercedes cars to navigate the backmarkers through the Casino Hairpin. Codemasters didn’t like when I did that. Both Hamilton and Rosberg would gain superhuman-like speed after I left them to deal with the backmarkers, and in some cases, close the gap between us. As the race wore on, I’d look back to see Hamilton almost come to a stop to get around the lone Marussia limping around, only to see him gain an entire second on me a few turns later and be right on my ass.

This wasn’t cool.

The rubberbanding knew no bounds. During the first stint, I was utterly destroying the field, Hamilton included. I was literally babying the car around the track and still pulling away while my race engineer told me Hamilton was pushing as hard as he could. Somehow, without any warning, Mercedes found unexplainable speed. With 60 of 78 laps completed, both Hamilton and Rosberg, who at one point had been 27 seconds behind, were now on my bumper. I was destroying these kids in the first two sectors, only for them to magically appear underneath my rear wing going into the final set of corners. I just didn’t understand what was happening.

F1_2014 2015-06-15 16-18-55-46The only way to win was to block. I didn’t waste two hours of my time to get screwed over by the rubber band AI, so I threw some dirty ass blocks and made sure I took home the win. I’m still not sure where Mercedes gained their speed from, although there’s some serious sorcery going on with the AI, even after installing an AI mod that supposedly made things a million times better. 103 minutes later, 17 of 22 cars finished the race, and my legs hurt.

It drives pretty good when you aren’t roasting the tires and looks even better, but there’s some shady shit going on with the AI. There’s your review of F1 2014. Hopefully F1 2015 improves on it and stuff.

Reader Submission #7 – Red Flags popping up about F1 2015

A crazy amount of reader submissions today, this one comes to us from Ben, warning us about F1 2015. We’ve flip-flopped on our opinions about the game several times, both praising the steps taken by Codemasters to ensure this is the best F1 game to date, but worried at how lackluster the leaked preview appeared to be.

Ben attempts to fill us in on what’s been happening on the official forums:

I don’t quite have your style of writing, I either end up in full 4Chan mode including words like faggot in every sentence, or just end up rambling on and on.

Anyway, this is more of a vent, I guess, regarding Codemasters and F1 2015. On the official forums, pretty much everyone is slagging it off, and for good reason. From what we can see, the game has been delayed, all we got was a 20-something second shitty video and barely any interaction with the staff. At least when Steve hood was about he would pop in now and again, albeit in an extremely defensive, Ian Bell sort of way.

The game cover is terrible, Massa looks like he’s in full rape mode, Lewis has his “Still I Rise” hairstyle and Ricciardo does not respond well to Photoshop.  We already know the game is lacking a lot of features, and from the screenshots we’ve seen of the drivers it looks like the game will be full of cut-scenes which once you’ve seen once or twice, you’ll just be skipping anyway. Kind of like Madden.

There has been no news regarding multiplayer mode, which means league racing will most likely suffer. I hope I’m wrong.

1432749886703The graphics aren’t looking too great either, check out this shot which I took from the teaser video, I don’t need to explain to you how shit it looks and I won’t even go into another rant about how many duplicate boats are in the image. Next generation graphics right here!

It seems for us console guys, at the moment we’re fucked. Project CARS isn’t great at the moment, and it looks like we’re in for a disappointing F1 game and I know AC is in the pipeline but from what I’ve seen, it won’t be much different than what’s on PC and I want something more than a bland driving simulator.

I agree, the game needs higher detailed boats and a more diverse cast of hoes before it can truly be considered next generation.

But for real, at this point with the huge lack of games coming out for next generation consoles, do yourself a favor and look into PC gaming. I’m not saying this as a fanboy, but this has been a horrid year for racing games and like you said, the future isn’t improving.

DiRT Rally ProCam Mod for Hillclimb Update Released

The default dashboard view for all three hillclimb cars in the brand new Hillclimb Update for DiRT Rally are beyond horrible.

I fixed that. I’d love to do a ProCam update for all the cars if there’s enough of a demand, maybe Codemasters will take notice at some point and it’ll be baked into the vanilla game. This isn’t an ISI sim, downloading mods is annoying.

FOV is set to 65 instead of 55 for an increased sense of speed, and it basically gives you a triple screen viewpoint, condensed into a single monitor, where only the top of the dash is visible. Tried to keep things uniform throughout the three cars, with the exact same percent of your screen obstructed by the car’s dash and hood.


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