Arcade racer the class leader

DIRT 5
For: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, 
Xbox One, PC
From: Codemasters
Rating: (G) ★★★+
 

This is a real milestone game — but not for the reason you might expect.

It is technically the first PlayStation 5 game I have played.

(I’m not counting Astro’s Playroom, the mini-game that comes packaged with the new console, which is nifty but is really more of a demo.)

So, my expectations are high as I download the PS5 version of Dirt 5 — a process that is a little complicated as technically the review code is for the PS4 version, which then gets a free upgrade to the PS5 version, and when the code is keyed in, both versions start downloading and it is not immediately obvious which is which.

Eventually, things are sorted, and I’m quickly into the career mode for the latest title — the fifth Dirt, but the 14th overall in the originally titled Colin McRae Rally roster — in the arcade off-road racing series.

It’s all very familiar, and simple to follow.

Compete in a handful of early races, earn some virtual cash and XP, unlock new events, buy or decorate some vehicles, vroom vroom.

Within the career are various race types — point to point racing, rally raids, rallycross and others — and within each race are challenges, like overtaking a certain number of cars while drifting, and maintaining a certain speed.

That offers some decent variety, along with the chance to compete in "throwdowns" against specific rivals.

It all takes place within an overarching storyline that gives you a mentor and the chance to listen to what seems like hours of a mock podcast discussing the various events.

On the track, the action is brisk and intense and gritty.

The vehicles you drive don’t seem vastly different, but they do give you a decent sense of power and speed.

My first real taste of the PS5 comes through the controller, and its use of haptic technology — really varied vibration to match the action on the screen — and its adaptive triggers, which beef up the resistance to make it seem like you are really battling through the gravel and mud.

Graphically, things are very good, though not so amazing it makes your jaw drop.

Quite a lot of events take place in gloomy, almost dark conditions, which actually becomes more annoying than impressive.

Career mode can be a tad formulaic after a while but there are enough customisation and unlockable options to satisfy most gamers.

I’m also intrigued by the inclusion of Playgrounds, for user-designed tracks.

I am famously useless at doing that sort of thing, but it’s nice to be able to download other people’s extraordinary creations.

Dirt 5 doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t need to. If you like your driving games to focus on arcade over simulation, this is the very early leader for best example of its kind in the new generation.


 

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