Dirt Rally 2.0 review: a brutal but rewarding rally simulator

A guide to this year’s biggest racing game

Dirt Rally
Dirt Rally 2.0 launches on 26 February
(Image credit: Codemasters)

Dirt Rally 2.0 officially arrives in the shops today, and it looks set to deliver the most realistic off-road experience to date.

The Dirt Rally series launched to critical acclaim in 2015. Critics praised the game’s realistic handling and detailed rally stages.

Dirt Rally 2.0 picks up on where the previous game left off. Players will be offered more classic rally cars plus a host of tracks and machines from the FIA World Rallycross championship.

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Here’s everything you need to know about it:

The Week reviews Dirt Rally 2.0

We were big fans of the original Dirt Rally when it arrived on consoles back in 2016. An eclectic mix of classic cars, superb stages and incredibly realistic handling, the title was an instant hit with hardcore rally fans.

But the game was let down by a half-baked career mode and a lack of features to help less experienced players get to grips with the handling. Indeed, some fans consider the original Dirt Rally to be a tech demo, used to demonstrate new graphics or physics, rather than a fully fledged rally title.

With Dirt Rally 2.0 launching on consoles today, we’ve been behind the wheel to see whether developer Codemasters has deliver a more polished experience this time around.

We tried out the game on the Xbox One X, which bumps up the graphics to a 4K resolution and 60fps. PlayStation 4 Pro players get the same experience, while those on the Xbox One S and standard PS4 play at 1080p and 60fps.

Judging by the title screen alone, Dirt Rally 2.0 is a slicker experience than its predecessor. The vibrant colours and animate stage maps are far more inviting than the dull tones of the original. And players can watch archive footage of old rally cars before entering a championship, which helps connect the gameplay to the sport’s rich history.

Jumping into time trial mode, which lets players drive any car they want on any stage, we opted for the punishing Argentine rally with the Group A Lancia Delta HF Integrale from the early 1990s.

Phil Mills, co-driver to 2003 WRC champion Petter Solberg, gives the all-clear to start the first stage, and we rev off.

At first, the cars feel much harder to control, largely because Codemasters has reworked the way surfaces alter throughout the stage. Rival rally cars leave deep grooves in the mud, for instance, which can cause your vehicle to understeer and slide on the road.

That means players need to analyse the surface of the stage while barrelling along at more than 100mph - a feat that requires an immense amount of concentration.

At the same time, players have to focus on the co-driver’s calls, the road surface and even tyre wear over the five-mile stage. The slightest error can result in a sudden crash, akin to a “jump scare” in horror movies.

These crashes are particularly horrifying when they involve the Group B machines, a category that was banned in 1986 because the cars were deemed too dangerous.

If that all sounds a bit intimidating, there are a number of assists that can be activated to help you through each stage. These include a feature that can reduce the severity of crash damage, so small mistakes don’t result in cars being written off.

As with the first Dirt Rally, Codemasters’s new rally simulator isn’t for casual players. It takes time and dedication to master the game’s realistic handling, but that makes it all the more rewarding if or when you finally cross the finish line at the top of the leaderboard in a Group B car.

For racing fanatics looking for the closest experience to driving a rally car outside of entering a real event, nothing comes even remotely close to Dirt Rally 2.0.

What’s new?

Lots of things. The Dirt Rally 2.0 package has several new stages and even more cars than its predessor.

Codemasters has created six new stages that gamers can fly through at colossal speeds. These stages include the dusty tracks of New Zealand and the undulating tarmac roads of Spain.

“The six locations have a lot of visual variety to them”, giving each stage its own distinct feel, says the games news site TheSixthAxis.

Unfortunately, none of the stages from the original Dirt Rally have been carried over to the new game, but the new rally locations are strong additions, the website says.

Along with the six traditional stages, players will be able to race across eight circuits from the FIA Rallycross Championship.

Unlike a normal rally, where drivers race from point-to-point, rallycross events take place on small circuits that feature a mixture of tarmac and dirt surfaces.

Codemasters plans to expand on the number of stages and rallycross tracks through downloadable packs, which gamers can purchase with real-world money, says IGN.

Car list

Codemasters has revealed that Dirt Rally 2.0’s will sport 55 different vehicles, ranging from the latest R5 rally cars to monstrous Group B machines.

The standout car is the radical Porsche 911 RGT, which Evo says is a unique 997-generation 911 GT3 RS that was converted to compete in rally events by Porsche specialist Richard Tuthill.

Next is the famous Audi S1 Quattro, a car that revolutionised rallying with its four-wheel drive system and iconic five-cylinder engine.

Other additions include a rally-spec Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk.2 and a host of hi-tech rally machines, including the Peugeot 208 T16 R5 and the Citroen C3 R5.

The full car list can be found on racing game news site GTPlanet.

Where to order it

Amazon is the place to go to order Dirt Rally 2.0.

Prices start at £47.99 for the PS4 and Xbox One versions, while PC copies start at £39.99.

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