Now that the initial excitement of a new release has worn off, it's time to sit back and take a look at how we think Dirt Rally 2.0 slots into the scale of rally sims and especially how it compares to it's predecessors in the Dirt family.
For the purposes of this article we'll be taking the game in it's release state and talking about the rally content, that is, prior to any of the 'season' content that is coming to the game over the coming months. For our take on RX in Dirt Rally 2.0 check out Sam's article.
Locations & Stages
After the computer generated stages of Dirt 4, we're back to 'handmade' stages this time around. Though they are (as far as I'm aware) entirely fictional.
The locations in the release game aren't bad but they do feel like they are largely recycled assets from Dirt 4. Each location in Dirt Rally 2.0 has a theme that is heavily adhered to for each of the stages, almost to their detriment as they can become repetitive, perhaps predictable, in how stringently they stick to the theme set for said location.
We'll have to wait for DLC to see what they have decided to do with some of the fan favourite locations from Dirt Rally (Monaco, Sweden and Germany are coming in 'Season One'). We're hopeful they will be a return to form and fall more towards their original counterparts.
Overall Dirt Rally 2.0 sits firmly above Dirt 4 in quality of stages but they don't evoke the same emotion and sense of character as the stages in Dirt Rally which were recreations of real stages. And really it would be a tough task for anyone to hand make stages from scratch that are able to compete with some of the great stages of rallying we were treated to in Dirt Rally.
This is where things have become somewhat problematic for Codemasters since the release of Dirt Rally back in 2015. Since then, the WRC have started putting out officially licensed games again and this has meant in both Dirt 4 and Dirt Rally 2.0 the presence of WRC spec(post Group-A) cars is all but non-existent presumably due to licensing issues with the WRC. To be fair we got/are getting some WRC spec cars in DLC down the line for Dirt Rally 2.0 but the base game gets none.
It's a real shame because the two WRC spec cars (released as Season One DLC) in Dirt Rally 2.0 are the most fun to drive by some margin. The Group A machines come in a close second place and are in my opinion the best cars in the base game. The Impreza being my pick of the bunch.
The historic cars have their place but the majority are slow and/or unwieldy (as they should be) which can be fun for the odd stage or event, they aren't something we're likely to do the majority of our driving in. For more modern cars the R2, R4 and R5 categories represent the last 20 years or so of rallying for Dirt Rally 2.0 but they don't come close to being as fun as the plethora of WRC spec cars from the same era that you got in the original Dirt Rally. It's probably worth mentioning the GT4 cars here, the Porsche is reserved for those who pre-ordered the game and whle in reality only the odd one off Aston or Porsche have actually run a rally in real life they are a bit of a laugh to smash around the tarmac stages in particular.
Force Feedback & Physics
The Achilles heel of the Dirt family of games, force feedback has been sub-par in pretty much every installment so far.
We were hoping to see at least some form of improvement going into Dirt Rally 2.0... but unfortunately things haven't really changed. Codemasters are apparently working on / looking into improving it based on the onslaught of negative feedback they have received from the community since the games release, but we're not hopefully for any major changes any time soon. They couldn't improve it with 4 years to work with after all.
On the contrary, the physics and road dynamics (for gravel at least) are brilliant. They have always been good but the stage degradation and loss of grip when the stages are wet add another level to the already difficult task of navigating a stage at speed. Tarmac physics are a similar feeling to Dirt Rally, that is to say it feels like gravel but with the grip levels turned way up. But lets be honest, we didn't buy Dirt Rally 2.0 to race on tarmac, so for us this isn't a deal breaker.
Although it's our understanding the Codemasters had a better tarmac model available and in the game at some point in development, but the AI weren't behaving well on it, so they chose to move forward with what I assume is an older model based on
Dirt Rally 2.0 finds itself in a weird place as a base game. A definite improvement on Dirt 4, upon which it feels heavily based and almost recycled from for the most part. Though technically marketed and sold as a follow up to Dirt Rally, we think the resemblance to Dirt 4 is uncanny. You do feel if Codemasters took Dirt Rally 2.0 onto a reality TV show for a paternity test, Dirt 4 would indeed, be the father.
Jokes aside, with the DLC we know is coming and promises of listening to community feedback, (looking at you FFB) it looks like Dirt Rally 2.0 it's only set to get better with age. But we're still a long way away from the bar set by Dirt Rally and it's going to take home run after home run on the remaining Season One content to get it close to said bar.