DiRT Rally Hands On Preview

By Rich Stone,
DiRT Rally Achievements was released on PC in December and had been available via Early Access eight months prior to that. On the same day that the game had its full PC release, Codemasters announced that the game would be appearing on Xbox One too, marking the DiRT series' first foray onto the latest generation of consoles. Last week, we were invited to Codemasters HQ to try out the new title, which has been in development since 2012, and to capture some exclusive Xbox One gameplay footage.

DiRT Rally

The objective is to provide gamers with an authentic rally experience, much like the original Colin McRae series. The key to a realistic rally game is the surface modeling between the tyre and the road. Nine months into the project, the team realised that their existing physics engine was not quite up to the job, so they were forced to rewrite it from scratch. This allowed them to add far more depth to the modelling, including support for multiple surface types, suspension, differential, engine mapping and weather conditions.

The team's main aim for the console versions is to provide an equally realistic and challenging experience as the one that PC gamers have already been enjoying, without any "dumbing down" of the game. There's a new Tutorial section, which they advise that inexperienced rally drivers should use before delving into the Rally mode itself. After that the only way to become skilled at the game is through good, old-fashioned practice.

It should be said that the game is challenging the first time that you sit down and play it. The temptation with any driving game is to floor the accelerator and brake only when you see a corner approaching, but using that tactic in Rally will, more often than not, leave you in a ditch or wrapped around a tree. The safety net of the Flashback (or rewind) system that was seen in previous games is gone and this is something that has the potential to improve the overall gaming experience. With the ability to continuously re-drive every corner until you've done it perfectly, driving games are far less intense.

Instead, you need to pay close attention to your AI co-driver. He'll shout commands describing the direction and severity of upcoming bends, and your success in the game relies on you heeding his advice. As you can see from our Crashes and Smashes video, if your concentration slips even for a moment, you can find yourself in trouble. As well as being an incredibly true-to-life driving experience, the game cranks up the realism to the next level with its team management system in career mode. This will see you employing a crew of engineers, each of whom have their own skills and expertise, to repair and upgrade the performance of your car. As you race together, they gain experience that will improve their skills and, hopefully, allow you to shave valuable seconds off your stage times.

The 70+ stages, spanning six different rallies, have all been meticulously mapped from the actual World Rally Championship events. They include the legendary hill climb of Pikes Peak, the snowy thrills of Sweden and the dusty trails of Greece. As well as adding a wide variety of locations to the game, they all look stunning. Codemasters is targeting 1080p and 60 frames per second for the Xbox One. The current builds are already very close to achieving those specs and there wasn't any noticeable slow down or frame rate drops while playing. By the time that the game launches in April, Codemasters is definitely on target to achieve this.

As well as the standard Rally mode, which is a solitary experience, the game includes three real-world tracks from the sport of Rallycross. This mode sees you competing directly against other cars around multiple laps of the track and you have a choice of six of the fastest off-road cars in this mode. Due to the lack of cliff edges, this mode is slightly more forgiving if you make mistakes. An element of strategy is also at play as all the cars have to take a detour during the race to include a circuit around the "Joker Lap", a slightly larger lap that is outside of the normal racing area. Choosing the right time to take this lap can have a big impact on the final race standings. The game features extensive multiplayer support with private and public online leagues. The Rallycross mode also has full online support and will, no-doubt, be massively popular given the amount of fun had during the play session.

Racing games are best played with a steering wheel and pedal set and Rally is no exception. Since the start of the game's Early Access period on Steam, the team has spent a lot of time working on force feedback. Some gamers who had wheels and pedals had originally felt that the feedback wasn't quite right, so the developers worked closely with them to rebuild the system and tweak it over the course of several months. The results of all of that effort were apparent. Using the Logitech G920 wheel and pedal set, the feedback was powerful and, at times, somewhat violent. As you drive along the road, you feel every bump and slide and it really adds to the experience. However, if you make a mistake and hit something that is stationary, you will definitely know about it!

One impressive aspect of our visit and chat with Codemasters' team is the amount of post-launch community support that they intend to give the game. They will be running various daily, weekly and monthly challenges that will allow the community to compete against each other and earn in game credits to help improve their teams and cars. This should add more even more longevity to a game that already has a lot of content. Once DiRT Rally releases on Xbox One on April 5th, be prepared to spend many hours at the wheel of a rally car.

All footage was captured by the TrueAchievements team at Codemasters Southam Studio from a preview build of the game running on an Xbox One.

To see more video of from our visit, please visit our YouTube channel.
Rich Stone
Written by Rich Stone
Yo! Rich here - I was the one that created TrueAchievements back in 2008 as I felt the Xbox Gamerscore system could be improved. The site has evolved massively since then and it's now the biggest and best Xbox community on the planet! Racing games and open world shooters are my thing, but I'll give most genres a go. Except RPGs - those things are evil.
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