For as quickly as I fell off from Forza Horizon 4, its strange how much the idea of another racing game was pulling me in. I wanted a reason to put my pedal to the metal and make a name for myself in Dirt 5.
The visuals and sounds were almost on par with Forza Horizon 4 from what I could tell, and that’s big compliment. The cars and tracks looked great, although there were not any character models or as many buildings etc. to compare to Forza. The open world of Forza was definitely more breathtaking than the tracks in Dirt 5, but for what the game is it still looks great.
Much like with Forza, I was impressed with the driving from the start, but was worried pretty quickly what the gameplay loop was going to be that kept me coming back. It seemed that Dirt 5 focused more on working toward obtaining new ascetics, which reminded me more of the classic Need for Speed games I played in my childhood. This decision made sense but it still was not quite what I was looking for and didn’t keep me playing very long.
The driving in Dirt 5 is fun, which it had better be in a racing game, but as I went on I noticed more things that I preferred about Forza Horizon 4’s driving than Dirt 5’s.
The lack of driving line was something that didn’t bother me theoretically, as again it harkened back more toward the classic street racing Need for Speed games than the simulation racing games of Forza and Gran Turismo. However, I forgot how annoying it was to have to constantly be checking the mini map to see how sharp of a turn was coming up. The driving line system would let me focus more on the road and less on the mini map.
I don’t know if this was to make up for the lack of driving line or not, but it seemed that even when I broke late and hit a wall, I was not punished. I could even consistently be the last one to brake and make the turn coming out in first, which left little challenge in the racing even if it felt fun.
Lastly the “rewind” mechanic of Forza Horizon 4 was sorely missed here. Again, the game is not too challenging, but it was the races that I would get deep into before accidentally going off a cliff in a dark segment that would leave me in last place. I seldomly activated the rewind command in Forza, but it was nice knowing it was there for races with tricky segments like that where one wrong turn would leave me stranded. In Dirt, racing the whole event over again was a pain.
The freedom of options doesn’t exist as much in Dirt 5, with only being able to choose from a couple of different races at a time. The payoffs of boss battles aren’t as exciting as in Forza either, as the rival battles are lackluster and unexciting. They are simply one-on-one races that have none of the spectacle that I was hoping for. Working toward beating these faceless, dialogue-less rivals was not exciting. And there was nothing different about those races. Arcady games like Crash Team Racing do a better job of getting me excited about boss battles, and its not like Dirt 5 takes itself too seriously to have given me more cartoonish comical rivals to be excited to beat.
Many modes in Dirt 5’s career all felt the same, aside from some ice and sprint races that added a different challenge.
I spent the most time in career mode, but the options outside of career mode were eventually the most intriguing to me. Time trial mode was more of an interesting challenge, attempting to beat myself, and playgrounds mode is a great addition to add to replayability. I did not dive too deeply into this mode but those with friends online might find a lot more enjoyment out of being able to share their creations and face off in their own home-built arenas.
I was outspoken about how much I felt Forza’s progression system did not reward me how I wanted to be rewarded, and I think Dirt 5 set out on a better, more focused path. Dirt 5 simply gated ascetics behind its progression system, letting me unlock decal options, ID backgrounds, and logos all by leveling up and purchasing them with coins earned in races. Making cars look cooler is a totally fine motivator for many players I am sure, and even if it wasn’t enough to keep me invested, I can see the merit.
My main gripe, however, is that just like in Forza, the cars that I could buy and unlock could only be used in specific races. I could spend 100,000 coins on a car that I might only be able to use once in my next 10 races because there are a dozen different race series requiring different car types. This really disincentivized me to buy new cars, which is really unfun. Even though I did like that new cars had simple grades for performance that made them seem at least like they were worth the money when I could improve my “B” cars to “A” cars.
As I implied the characters in Dirt 5 were all faceless and even though the podcast narrating the story tried to get me excited about the action, it did very little to add to the experience.
Racing in Dirt 5 is exciting, but there is nothing that kept me wanting to race more. I was not challenged often and was not incentivized enough to want to level up. I was not excited to race against the faceless rivals that I worked toward beating in career mode. The game was accessible, though, and easy to pick up.
I heard another reviewer recently say that racing against CPU’s is boring but racing against himself in time trial mode is fun. And I agree. As mostly a single-player gamer I did not spend much time in the online modes but was disappointed in the career mode in Dirt 5. I would recommend to anyone downloading this game to skip the career entirely and go straight to other modes like exploring user-created tracks online.
Exciting racing mechanics
Fun track creation
Unchallenging CPU races
Race modes that blur together