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‘DiRT Rally VR’ Review: Don’t Cut

by Joe Durbin • July 11th, 2016
Platform: Oculus Rift
Positives

-Fantastic VR integration with several customizable options
-Unique racing gameplay that encourages skilled driving
-Interesting game modes and features
-Brilliant sound design

Negatives

-Underwhelming visuals and a washed out color pallete

Right four over crest. Left jump. 100. Right crest. Don’t cut. 

If these words sound like gibberish to you now, don’t worry, all it will take is a few hours in Codemasters‘ new game – DiRT Rally VR – to unlock this all-important code.

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DiRT is a virtual reality enabled racing game with a significant twist. While most other titles in this genres pit you up against a loaded track of rival drivers, equip you with power ups, and generally encourage mayhem and destruction along the way, DiRT will face you with one completely different primary enemy: the road.

As it’s name implies, DiRT Rally VR focuses on the niche form of automotive competition known as rally racing. Rally races can stretch for dozens, even hundreds of miles and are typically run on tracks that border on the insane. You won’t find any smooth, NASCAR asphalt on these courses. Instead, you’ll discover sudden jumps, hairpin turns, and rough, naturalistic terrain.

The tracks in DiRT will take you across the globe to some of the most beautiful, and most dangerous, racetracks in the world. To tackle these monsters you’ll be suiting up inside a wide selection of small, durable rally cars. The cars are divided into decades stretching back into the 70s making DiRT a true love letter to the spunky little rally racing community.

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DiRT‘s gameplay centers first and foremost around creating an enjoyable VR experience. Codemasters could teach a few other cockpit based VR gaming studios a thing or two when it comes to overall game design. DiRT offers you an absolute deluge of graphical, interface, and VR specific options to toggle and play with.

For example, if you find yourself prone to motion sickness you can tell the camera to remain fixed when your car rolls or flips (which it definitely will at some point), or you can allow your view to be jostled and upended by the motion of your car as it happens for more immersive racing.

Driving in DiRT is a truly unique, and remarkable, racing game experience. Unlike other, similar, games, your goal in a race is simply to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. For the majority of your time with the game, there won’t be any other drivers to accost you as you drive, which is immensely helpful as the tracks themselves are more than enough of an obstacle to begin with. Most of the competitive aspects of the game originated from leaderboards and other stat tracking. Now that it’s released, drivers should be able to enjoy some of the competitive head-to-head racing as well.

Whether you’re timing a jump just right, breaking through a particularly tight turn, or deciding whether or not to risk an off-road jaunt to cut a corner and knock a few seconds off your time, DiRT tracks are constantly throwing some sort of challenge in your face to overcome. Luckily, you won’t be facing these obstacles alone.

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One of the best, and most memorable features in DiRT is your trusty AI co-pilot. This smooth-voiced co-conspirator is always at your side with a handy notebook full of track notes. As you drive you’ll constantly be hearing him in your ear saying things like, “Left 6 into right hairpin. Don’t cut.”

These word’s can be confusing at first, but after watching one of DiRT‘s quick tutorial videos you’ll be up to speed on the famous rally racer, Colin McRae‘s custom “6 to 1” driver communication system. “Don’t cut,” for example, means not to cut the upcoming corner by going off-road as there is a known obstacle that could prove deadly. This system becomes invaluable to winning races as DiRT features a fairly punishing vehicle damage system that rewards high-level play. Mastering this new language, and using it to your advantage, is one of this game’s most satisfying and memorable features.

There are a handful of decent game modes in DiRT that should keep racing fans busy for quite some time. There is the standard career mode, a few online modes, and a currency progression system that encourages you to keep racing to unlock new cars and tracks. DiRT also includes a delightful “Team Manager” mode that introduces some light RPG elements into the sim by allowing you to recruit engineers and other employees to work on your cars and improve their stats.

Sound design is consistently wonderful in DiRT, but visually the game does suffer from the limited resolution of current-gen VR headsets. This issue is not helped by a fairly dull color pallet in both the cars and the environments that does little to bring the world of the game to life.

dirt rally drifting wet road

That being said, riding roughshot with only your wits, reflexes, and co-pilot to guide you in a fully-immersive VR racing game never really gets old. DiRT is fun, challenging, and provides some of the most realistic speed and collision sensations of any other game in its field.

It’s also worth noting that in a Steam update, Codemasters indicated that not only would the Steam version of the game be VR compatible, but also that the DK2 should work without issues, so you don’t necessarily need a CV1 to play DiRT Rally.

Final Score: 9/10 – Amazing 

DiRT Rally VR is the new high water mark for VR racing games. It never shies away from the challenges of this new medium and consistently offers creative solutions to maintain both its functionality and its sense of fun. DiRT is able to remind you at every turn just how exciting, surprising, and enjoyable racing simulators in VR can truly be.

Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.

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  • xGryfter

    How much worse are the graphics using the Oculus as opposed to a 1080p monitor? What are the specs of the system you were running it on and what were your in game settings at?

    • joesi

      You can’t compare VR graphics with 2D displays because the FoV is different, along with the fact that the eyes see overlapping images. In addition, the biggest advantage of VR is that it feels like you’re actually there. While the pixels per degree in the Rift are much smaller mathematically than a medium sized 1080 px screen, it has other big advantages, as I mentioned.

      The resolution is about the same, the pixel density of the Rift is much much higher, but when wearing it, the pixels per degree of vision is much lower.
      Overall, you’re seeing the same number of pixels as in 2D, but it’s stretched over a much larger field of view.

      • xGryfter

        I understand how 3D and resolution work but you made it sound like texture quality, lighting, model detail etc were somehow worse in the VR version. You also never mentioned anything about performance VS power of your PC which is extremely important in VR reviews. So again, what were your settings, how was the performance and what are the specs of the PC you were running it on?

        • John T

          i run it on an i5 devils [email protected], gtx 1080, ultra high settings, 90FPS lock the whole time.

  • Joe Bazaar

    You have to set the GAMMA darker for Rift use ..otherwise it does looked washed out

    • Joe Durbin

      I played with the GAMMA quite a bit. I could improve the colors but even at the most ideal setting they still looked a bit dull

    • Brett McBurnie

      Agreed. I set my Nvidia gamma to about 70 on my 980Ti and it looks great.

  • Domitjen

    Played it for hours in the Rift, For me the visuals are bloody fantastic. I hated race games until I tried this, now I’m getting a wheel :p

  • yag

    “Underwhelming visuals”
    You should precise here that only the resolution is a problem, the game is gorgeous otherwise.

    “and a washed out color palette”
    I think it’s pretty subjective. Personally I prefer photorealistic (non-saturated) colors : more realism and the game will age better (see Richard Burns Rally or HL² : 12 years old and the visuals are still ok).

  • I liked this game quite a lot on a monitor and with a controller. I then bought a wheel (Logitech G920 in my case) a few months back and was heart broken as I discovered that this already very demanding game became even more difficult and frustrating with the wheel. Now fast forward to three days ago I set up my Vive at my desk, use the Revive injector to load the game without trouble (so thankful for that!) and grip my steering wheel… I’ve been totally addicted to the game for the last three days. At work I count the hours until I can get back home to play more.

    It is the most engaged and excited I’ve been when playing a video game in years. It’s so natural and realistic feeling. Not only is it very exciting to be immersed into a car and the world but everything becomes far more natural and easy. Both minor adjustments and wild whips of the wheel back and forth like a mad man to stay on the track feel totally natural. My lap times are far better than they ever were and I feel like a super hero when I’m able to navigate at speed sections of track with a car that with a controller I would have crashed almost immediately.

    Just as an example when I tried to do Pikes Peak at full speed on a controller I’d fly off the side of the mountain before getting a quarter of the way up. Sure, I still crash with some regularity but Pikes Peak is now possible for me at full speed on a lucky run with VR and a headset. It’s incredible how natural it feels to violently crank the wheel early before a left 4 and power slide the entire length at full throttle.

    Yes, the graphics are a bit chunky on the headset – I sometimes feel that the resolution is below the actual resolution of the HMD but maybe that’s just my imagination. But when you’re running and concentrating on the moment the graphics are perfectly fine. I run on mostly medium settings on a 980 TI and i7 4790K.

    I have not tried this game with a controller and the headset – I don’t think I’d want to anyway. If you’ve got the Vive, get a steering wheel! Yes, they’re not cheap, but they make this amazing.