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Codemasters driving more people to join the Dirt fight

Dirt 4 has five rally locations - Australia, Spain, the United States, Sweden and Wales - which boast diverse looks and challenges.
Dirt 4 has five rally locations - Australia, Spain, the United States, Sweden and Wales - which boast diverse looks and challenges.PHOTO: CODEMASTERS

Gaming

After the unforgiving Dirt Rally, racing games developer Codemasters seeks to woo a wider audience with Dirt 4, the sixth title in its Dirt rally racing series.

In this new instalment, players can choose from two handling modes - Gamer or Simulation - along with which driving aids to enable.

While waiting for the rest of the game to install on my PS4, I was introduced to my co-drivers, Jen Horsey, returning from Dirt 3, and series old-timer Nicky Grist.

They will take the player through the extensive rally tutorials at the DirtFish driving school. DirtFish is also the setting of one of the game's modes - Joyride, where players can roam freely or play mini-games.

There are four disciplines to master in Career mode: rally, which is point-to-point racing on a series of stages to get the fastest overall time; historic rally, which uses classic vehicles; rally cross, which has all competitors on a closed track at the same time; and land rush, which is like motocross but with trucks and karts.

Throughout your career, you will buy cars from dealerships or classifieds (reminiscent of the eBay rides from Codemasters' Race Driver: Grid), hire staff and woo sponsors to your team. I found having to periodically renew contracts and decide staff salaries a chore, but some might enjoy this micromanagement aspect.

The game's five rally locations - Australia, Spain, the United States, Sweden and Wales - boast diverse looks and challenges.

  • 8/10

    RATING

  • PRICE: $79.90 (PS4, the version tested), US$59.99 or S$84 (Xbox One), $55 (PC)

  • GENRE: Racing

Hurtling through a Michigan redwood forest in dense fog, relying on my co-driver's pace notes, is nothing short of exhilarating. Your car also takes damage that, if auto repair is not turned on, you have to decide whether to fix it in between stages, within a limited amount of time.

While the rally-cross category features licensed FIA World Rallycross Championship circuits and cars, Codemasters does not have the World Rally Championship licence, which has been acquired by Bigben Interactive. In addition, hillclimb course Pikes Peak, which was in Dirt Rally, is now a Gran Turismo exclusive.

Codemasters hopes to make up for these shortcomings with Your Stage, a route and event creation system a bit like Forza Horizon 3's Blueprint feature. Just set two sliders - one for length and the other for complexity - as well as time of day, weather and location, and the game will procedurally generate a track for you to play on and share with your friends. The only downside is that it does not allow for finer track edits, like the camber or angle of specific corners.

For multiplayer, there are community events and ranked matches, but no local split screen. Also, there is no VR support - which eventually came to Dirt Rally - at launch, although Codemasters has not ruled it out.

• Verdict: With its plethora of activities, infinite number of unique stages and friendliness to newcomers, this is an easy recommendation for fans of the franchise as well as anyone curious to try this harrowing genre of motorsport.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2017, with the headline 'Codemasters driving more people to join the Dirt fight'. Print Edition | Subscribe