If you’re going to do a next-gen racer right, you’ll want to go all out with it. Don’t just make it a technical masterpiece when it comes to visuals, but make it fun to play, and blisteringly cool when it comes to earning first place victories. Think a game like this doesn’t exist? Think again. DiRT 5 actually got released by Codemasters late last week, so current-gen users could take a test drive with the game before it goes next-generation over the next few days on Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. But no matter where you play, you’ll find this to be a nice step up from the impressive DiRT 4, foregoing the more serious racing approach in favor of something lighthearted, muddy and, most importantly, fun.
Head into the festival with… Troy Baker and Nolan North?
The game’s main story, which doesn’t matter heavily but has more merit than you may think, focuses on A.J. Janicek, a racing expert that’s willing to play all his cards for you to get into the racing world. He’s played by Troy Baker, of Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us fame, doing his thing as a stylish guy that knows a thing or two about acceleration.
For good measure, Nolan North (good ol’ Nathan Drake and gaming Deadpool) is also on board as Bruno Durand, an antagonist that’s ready to give you a run for your money. You’d think that employing these guys for a racing adventure would be a silly idea – but it actually works, and works well.
Throw in a pair of podcast hosts and you have a tale that’s a bit more engaging than the usual campaign. But, really, it’s all about the racing here, which DiRT 5 absolutely crushes.
Once the technicalities are aside, it’s pedal to the metal
One thing you’ll have to accept about DiRT 5 is the loading time. Sure, it’ll be shorter on Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, but on current consoles, you’ll wait a slight bit between events.
However, once you actually hit the tracks, it’s worth it.
That’s because DiRT 5 feels like the most accomplished rally racing game from Codemasters yet – and that’s including the majesty of DiRT 3 from a few years back. You feel every turn and bit of acceleration as you fly across each track, taking on the competition and learning a thing or two about racing tricks. What’s more, there are side goals that help you excel even further in each race, easy to unlock at first but progressively getting more difficult as you go along. It’s good stuff.
On top of that, multiplayer is incredibly well balanced, between online play and local four- player split-screen co-op. It’s a dazzling trip to watch, especially the local races; and it’s great that Codemasters is including cross-gen play at no additional charge. (We’ll talk more about the upgrades coming below.)
And if you’re feeling creative, there’s also an in-depth level creator included here, so you can share creations with other folks. Granted, that doesn’t mean you’re going to create DiRT 5’s next big official track, but with the tools at your fingertips here, it never hurts to give it a try.
A beautiful racer, no matter which options you go with
DiRT 5 has performance and speed options to tweak when it comes to visuals, and I decide to go all in with 60 frames per second running for my tests. Granted, it’s not the 120 FPS that will leave me drooling for more on next-gen machines. But as it stands, DiRT 5 is stunningly beautiful. The car models are highly impressive; the track effects, as minor as they are, are well done; and the track design truly excels at every turn, literally. There are small glitches that pop up with performance mode, but it’s worth it just to feel the oomph of every race.
The music is all right, with some pretty good selections to go along with the voice acting, but most of it is just fluff to play in the background over the authentic, cool engine noises. Feel free to adjust sound levels accordingly.
And as exhilarating as DiRT 5 may be on current-gen consoles, it’ll bump up a notch on Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 this week. We’re talking 120 frames per second (GASP), and even better visual fidelity. And what’s more, you’ll get that absolutely free as an upgrade when you purchase the game. No next-gen-priced ticket needing to be punched here.
Hit the gas and don’t look back
I’ve been impressed with the DiRT series over the years, particularly DiRT 3 and the challenging DiRT Rally games. But DiRT 5 has easily eclipsed those as one of the best damn racing games right now. It’s so incredibly balanced across gameplay, challenges, and story content, and backed by jaw-dropping visuals (even in current-gen!) and great audio, particularly with the voice actors. And don’t forget to bring your friends for some of the most loaded multiplayer options out there too.
This is as good as racing will get at the moment – and to think, people will get it at the start of this coming generation. Imagine what DiRT 6 might bring. (Even in 2K’s garage… GASP again.)