Hands-on Dirt 5 Preview – Mud Never Looked So Good

If I learned anything from playing DIRT 5, it’s that Codemasters really knows how to render mud. Seriously, DIRT 5 has the best-looking mud I’ve ever seen in a video game. The way it shines and gleams in the sunlight. The way it flicks up and flies off your tyres and the way it changes and deforms as you drive on it, it’s bloody glorious.

Of course, the mud isn’t the only thing to impress me about DIRT 5 but it goes to show the level at which Codemasters is operating. The amount of effort that’s gone into the mud can be seen in every facet of DIRT 5.

Even at this early stage, with a few months to go before release, DIRT 5 is already incredibly well put together. The racing is fast, the corners are sharp and the mud is gorgeous.

DIRT 5 Preview

This build of DIRT 5 included four tracks and vehicle types. I was legitimately blown away by how different each of the vehicle classes actually felt. So many racing games claim to feature numerous vehicles and vehicle types, but at the end of the day, they all feel pretty much the same. Not so in DIRT 5.

90s Rally Cars felt the most ‘normal,’ if I can say that. They were most like a standard, arcade racing experience and felt the most like an average, everyday racing game. That’s not to say they don’t feel good. They do. It’s just the easiest entry point and simplest comparison I can make.

X Cross Raid vehicles are larger, slower to accelerate and feel more…tanky. Tanky is the word, I’d use. Rather than nimbly speeding around the track, these cars feel as though they’re brute-forcing their way through corners and tearing the track apart as the do so. Super Lite vehicles are basically go-karts with massive engines.

They’re my favourites so far. Not only do you feel like you barely have control of them, as you cling to the track for dear life, you feel like you’re accomplishing something. Especially in the deep, wet mud. Super Lite vehicles are so speedy, so difficult to control and so light, you’ll be flying over gaps almost more often than you’re on the ground. It’s brilliant.

The last vehicle included in this hands-on was the Sprint. I did not like this class. Similar to the Super Lite, the Sprint comes with a massive fin, which pushes it all over the track and makes steering a near impossibility. The East Mitten track, which is a Sprint only race, is a simple loop but I struggled to ever maintain a good line. Sprint is going to take a lot of practice and getting used to and so far, it hasn’t clicked for me.

In general, racing in DIRT 5 feels great. I, of course, kept all driving assists turned on. Without them, I would be utterly hopeless but Codemasters has assured me that turning them off makes DIRT 5 feel more like a simulation game. Not entirely, but enough.

Of the 10 locations set to be in the final build, this hands-on included four. Well, four tracks from four locations. Codemasters explained that the 10 locations will include multiple tracks and races as well as being available during different seasons. However, in Roosevelt Island, the track that races on the frozen Hudson River, won’t be possible outside of winter, for obvious reasons. The tracks and locations I had access to were;

  • Norway – Henningsvaer – Ultra Cross
  • China – Xiamo Run – Land Rush
  • Brazil – Tijuca Forest – Stampede
  • Arizona – East Mitten – Sprint

Each track and race ‘felt’ like a rally yet each felt different enough from one another. Racing in Norway took place across multiple terrain types, in varying weather conditions and was fairly flat, compared to some others. The Henningsvaer track begins on mud, before shifting onto bitumen roads and then shifting back again. The changing terrain and way your car interacts with them really kept me on my toes and it took a few tries before I really got the hang of things.

Once I did, I was drifting around corners like a pro and leaving the AI drivers in my dust mud splatter. On one race, the game shifted between day and night and it started to rain and storm. The relative ease with which I completed the first two laps went straight out the window. With the darkness of night, rain flying towards me in streams and the slippery track, I struggled to see where I was going and to stay on the track.

The best part though, was when the sky would light up for a brief moment with an enormous lightning strike. It was visually stunning and genuinely helped me realign myself. For a game still so early in development, DIRT 5 is visually gorgeous.

China and Brazil shared some similarities, though Xiamo Run was a flatter, wider track and Tijuca Forest was quite narrow with deadly inclines. Both were very, very muddy and slippery and both would see you slide around corners whether you meant to or not. These were my favourite races. Barely in control of my vehicle, just barely managing to keep a tight racing line and very nearly wiping out on every corner made for some pulse-pounding, adrenaline-fuelled races.

What’s more, these two tracks were set in tropical locations. Lush greenery crept along the side of the track, trees hung overhead, casting shadows and dropping water down. Again, the visuals in DIRT 5 are absolutely brilliant and are a showcase of the talent at Codemasters.

What I didn’t get a chance to try in this preview is the much-vaunted career mode that features both Nolan North and Troy Baker. As Codemasters wanted to tie the races together with a narrative, it hired North and Baker to bring that story to life. We’re yet to see anything of that, though Codemasters has said the recording sessions were excellent.

Fingers crossed.

When it comes to racing games, I’m no expert. My knowledge doesn’t extent to the differing makes and models, parts, power and setups or anything like it. All I know is if a racing game feels good or not.

DIRT 5 feels great. Really great.

It’s fast but easy to pick up and play. You can make it more difficult by turning driving assist off and it includes a wide range of racing locations and types. Best of all, the different classes of vehicle feel sufficiently different enough to warrant inclusion.

Although I may not like the Sprint class, it feels like nothing I’ve played in a game before. This dedication to pure, unbridled racing coupled with incredible visuals and the best looking mud I’ve ever seen makes me keen to see more of DIRT 5. There are a few months before the launch on October 9 and, at this point, it looks like Codemasters is onto a winner.

DIRT 5 will be available for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X.

Leo Stevenson
Leo Stevensonhttps://powerup-gaming.com/
I've been playing games for the past 27 years and have been writing for almost as long. Combining two passions in the way I'm able is a true privilege. PowerUp! is a labour of love and one I am so excited to share.

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