I was recently lucky enough to be invited to a reveal of a new Codemasters game. When I agreed to attend the event, I had no idea what the game was. I guessed it would be rally related, as that was the first thing that srpung to mind when thinking of Codemasters as a studio. Some tweets the day before confirmed my suspicions, and I walked into the Red Bull Gaming Sphere in London to be greeted by a massive image of a VW rally car and the text “Dirt Rally 2.0”. I had played rally games many moons ago, but never got super into them. I was open-minded nonetheless, and was optimistic that Codemasters could deliver a genuine rally experience.
Before we were unleashed on the stations, there was a presentation. It was revealed that Dirt Rally 2.0 has been in development since the end of Dirt 4’s development, and is a return to a full simulation experience. Codemasters have teamed up with the World Rally Championship (WRC) to provide players with 50 cars to choose from. The game also boasts 6 rally courses and 8 rally cross courses, each of which has a level of detail that is hard to explain. While playing the game you will feel like you are genuinely driving down a real rally course.
In terms of development, nothing has been missed. Dirt Rally 2.0 has been developed with the help of 3 professional rally drivers. One of these included John Armstrong, who seemed to have the most involvement of the 3 drivers. The drivers’ role is to explain to the devs how the car drives on each surface, how the handling changes as the surface deteriorates, how the car will react in a certain situation. Essentially the handling of the game is based entirely on the notes made by the developers, based upon what pro rally drivers have told them.
There is a massive emphasis on handling in Dirt Rally 2.0. The attention to detail is astounding. Codemasters have even used manufacturers note regarding the tyres to determine how each wheel of each car will react when exposed to different situations. These range from different PSIs to how much of the tyre is touching the floor when turning a corner. Every corner will control differently based on a range of factors, as you would experience if you was driving a rally car in real life.
To help you with your handling there are pace notes for each stage, just like the pros get. These pace notes are read out to you by Phil Mills, and have been gone through with a fine tooth comb so that they are perfect. I can say as someone who doesn’t follow rally, let alone play rally games, the pace notes are extremely helpful. They are very intuitive and easy to grasp, and you soon learn that when Phil says to you that there’s a sharp corner “Don’t cut”, you do not cut that corner. It will end badly.
In terms of gameplay Dirt Rally 2.0 plays like a well oiled and easy to pick up rally simulation. The game is realistic, but also fun enough that I found myself attempting to stay later than I was allocated to play the game I didn’t want to stop playing, I wanted to beat my previous time. To nail that corner I had been having trouble with. It was very hard to put the game down. When you look at the bigger picture it’s easy to see why. Every detail imaginable has been considered when developing this game. Even to the point where the further down the grid you start affects your racing experience. The further down you start, the more worn the track is. Dirt has been shifted, making cornering harder, meaning you need to take that into consideration. AI times were calculated using the 3 pro drivers previously mentioned, and taking their times to determine a range of times for players to attempt to best.
Codemasters have plans to add more content to the game post-release. There are plans to slowly add more rally tracks in the form of DLC. The plan is that one piece of DLC will release and then player feedback will be assessed and a decision regarding future DLC will be made with that in mind. If you want a return to proper rally simulation, with no stage generator, then Dirt Rally 2.0 is the game for you. The game is set to release February 26th on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.