Racing on tough terrain such as ice and mud can be quite tricky but if that is your kind of racer then here's the very cool DIRT 5.
I'm a big fan of racing games and have spent countless hours playing MotorStorm, Forza, Burnout, and certain Need for Speed titles. However, I've somehow missed the DIRT franchise up until now. The closest series to DIRT is probably MotorStorm, especially considering the makers of DIRT hired a lot of the staff who worked on the MotorStorm games before their studio shut down in 2016.
In DIRT, you race various types of vehicles often with the primary goal of simply staying on the track and not crashing while hoping for a chance at winning gold. You have a collection of over 60 vehicles to race in that range from buggies, trucks, and many varieties of rally cars. It's a solid collection and it also allows for customization of each vehicle's aesthetics. Skins and cars are unlockable along with backgrounds for your player tag when playing online and although there is a good amount of vehicles to unlock, it would have been great to see Codemasters take the variety of vehicles further given the crazy ones that were available in the MotorStorm games.
The variety of courses is where DIRT 5 shines most. With 10 locations, each presenting its own unique visual style and terrain challenges, there's a lot to love about the tracks. Greek ruins, Brazilian jungles, Arizona deserts, and New York's frozen rivers are just a few examples of what's in store for you when you take on challenges in your racing career. Plus, DIRT 5 does a great job of making the most of each setting's unique features by filling the landscape with dilapidated ruins, shanty towns, palm trees, sky scrapers, and such.
The difficulty in completing each course varies on its type, terrain, and weather. The types of courses include Ultra Cross, Rally Raid, and Landrush which are the closest to a standard race while Path Finder adds the challenge of putting the work in to figure out where the track ends and Ice Breaker has you slide around on pure ice. Good luck trying to place in the top 3 on that one! There are also Stampede, Sprint, and Time Trial events. Anyway, weather plays a role and the effects look fantastic. I particularly enjoyed how some tracks would change the weather and time of day as you're racing even if the sun going down completely and the weather changing multiple times within the few minutes of a race doesn't quite match a real-world scenario. I enjoy when developers make these kinds of decisions to take something in the real world but then sprinkle in some outlandish scenarios to make it more fantastical.
Along with these races, there's also Gymkhana which is basically a big gym for cars where you perform stunts to earn points. In addition to the built-in Gymkhana courses, DIRT 5 provides a level editor that allows you to create and share your own. There's a good collection of objects which can be customized and placed around in this mode but it's lacking in anything to make the arenas have personality and I found it a little frustrating that I had to be careful where I placed items. It would be neat to allow items to overlap so you can create a more natural feel like it's implemented in the recently released Planet Coaster game. Whether you have fun with this mode or not depends on how much you prefer the stunt side of driving. Personally, I prefer racing so I spent most of my time out of the gym.
As far as visual appeal, DIRT 5 looks good but doesn't really come across as particularly impressive as it mostly feels like a middle-of-the-road PlayStation 4 game even though I played the PS5 version. It presents an overall appealing visual environment when you're racing at top speeds but lacks detail whenever you slow down to look at the uninspired basic buildings and foliage. The weather effects and lighting are great, however, and really amp up the excitement as you drive through a snow storm while the sun goes down.
Finally, one big checkmark for DIRT 5 is that it includes local split-screen multiplayer for up to 4 players. This is a big win given how rare this option seems to be for racers nowadays. You can also play online which is fun unless someone picks an ice level then you're probably screwed. Did I mention that the Ice Breaker levels are impossible? Anyway, on the flip side, a mark against DIRT 5 is its amount of glitches. On at least 3 occasions and on multiple tracks, I found myself getting stuck in a loop where I was constantly respawning and the game crashed a couple of times. Once, I got stuck in a menu with no way to get out so I had to quit the game. This often makes DIRT 5 seem rushed and being forced to replay races due to bugs definitely doesn't look good for its developers.
DIRT 5's off-road racing with over 60 vehicles in 10 real world settings can be a ton of fun as you go for the gold while slipping and sliding in the rain, snow, ice, and mud. Plus, building your own stunt arenas is great for those who prefer careful maneuvers.
- + Great variety of terrain, weather, and lighting
- + Supports 4 player split-screen multiplayer
- + Gymkhana stunt arenas and editor can be fun for those who enjoy that sort of thing
- - Graphics don't push any boundaries
- - A bit too many severe bugs
- - Gymkhana editor doesn't do enough to allow players to unleash their personality