Dirt 5 offers a veritable smorgasbord of racing for fans of the genre and average gamers alike. There is so much included in Dirt 5, beginning the game can be a little daunting. Thankfully, Codemasters eases you into things with helpful hints and stealth tutorials so you’re up and racing at your best in no time.
Focusing on off-road racing, Dirt 5 looks at a number of racing disciplines and racing types using a range of vehicles across the world. Being an off-road racing game narrows the focus somewhat, but there’s still plenty of scope for variety.
For instance, one race may see you speeding around the frozen, snowy mountains of Norway before heading to New York to race on a frozen river. Elsewhere, you’ll be speeding in and around ancient Roman aquaducts in Italy and flooring it across the deserts of Arizona and South Africa.
There’s just about something for everyone in Dirt 5 and given the variety of content on offer, it’s impressive that it’s all so polished and enjoyable.
Dirt 5 Review
The meat of Dirt 5 is its career mode. Here, under the guidance of AJ (Troy Baker), you’ll compete in a series of events to prove your racing prowess and rise through the ranks of the Dirt series. Each event and race type is introduced and explained by the Donut Media team (a real-life racing podcast) who do a great job of keeping things light, funny but also well-explained and easy to understand.
Each race, regardless of its type, has three sub-objectives to complete which reward you with stickers. Earning stickers is key to unlocking additional races and events and at the end of each chapter, if you don’t have enough, you’ll have to go back and try to earn more.
These additional objectives aren’t too onerous and include things like overtaking a certain number of racers, keeping a certain speed for a time, getting air and the like. If you don’t like the look of the objectives for any given race, you can simply reroll them and try your luck with RNG. Depending on the race type, you’ll sometimes have to reroll the objectives as some of them are just too hard (or even impossible) on some races.
For instance, racing in the Icebreaker challenge under Roosevelt Bridge, I had an objective to hit 90km/h for a set period. Given the track was almost exclusively hairpin turns and the objective of Icebreaker races is to drift, hitting 90 km/h just wasn’t going to happen. Thankfully, rerolling is simple and painless.
Career mode is your entry point into Dirt 5 as it introduces you to each of the race types, vehicle classes and the various tracks (of which there are many) you’ll be racing on. As a racing layman, I was hard-pressed to differentiate some of the different race types, namely the ones where you have a set number of laps, but I’m sure the racing literate amongst you will know the nuances and appreciate them.
That’s part of the beauty of Dirt 5 though. It’s presented in such a way that even players with very little (or no) knowledge of racing and off-road sports will be able to sit down, start racing and enjoy themselves. I first booted up Dirt 5, started my career then looked at my clock only to realise three hours had passed. Dirt 5 is a great time killer and it’s very moreish. Once race just isn’t enough and once you start to get a feel for the vehicles and their handling, you really start to replay races in order to set the best possible time.
Every track has a leaderboard so you can compare yourself globally and to your friends. I was happily sitting atop the leaderboard until I came back a day later to see I’d dropped about 30 places. I tried my damndest to set a time closer to those in the top 10, but alas my skills just weren’t there.
Controlling the different vehicle types feels (mostly) great, though I still for the life of me can’t understand how to drive the Sprint class vehicles, so anytime I could skip those races, I did. As I wrote in my preview, the vehicles all feel very distinct and each race type also benefits from track type, weather, vehicle class and more. You’re never going to find a race that feels identical to another which is really impressive when you consider how many tracks and events are available.
Controlling the vehicles feels very responsive and drifting is fantastic. I’m sure I’m never hitting the ‘right’ racing line, but I love trying to perform extended drifts around corners, kicking up mud or snow or dirt in the process.
There’s also a real sense of speed when you’re racing in Dirt 5, regardless of the vehicle class. This is only accentuated when there are particles in the air like rain or snow, adding a streaking effect to the screen that makes things seem even faster again. Weather plays a huge role in Dirt 5 and dynamic shifts in weather during a race can have huge impacts, especially in the dying stages.
A sharp turn you think you’ve mastered on the first few laps can become a race-ending curveball thanks to the weather, meaning you need to stay on your toes throughout. The more you race, the better you’ll get but there doesn’t seem to be a point in Dirt 5 where you can be sure of what’s coming next, which is an exciting feature of a racing game. Players can choose how difficult or easy they want their racing experience to be through the in-game options. I’m not sure you can make Dirt 5 feel like a sim-racer but you can certainly crank up the difficulty, turn off all assists and make it a much more challenging game.
I opted to stick with the Arcade feel of Medium difficulty with all assists on since I’m not a savage.
Outside of Career mode, you’re able to take part in online and offline multiplayer. These matches can be standard races or the special party games Codemasters has included. I’ve not been able to test multiplayer during the review phase but will do so post-release and update this section.
Freeplay lets players choose any track and any race to tackle solo in time trial or as a standalone race. Playgrounds is Dirt 5’s track creator and is deep, complex but also simple to use and understand. I’m not a great designer so my tracks have all been pretty simple but given the talent which is uncovered whenever user-generated content is published, I’m looking forward to seeing what the community can come up with.
Finally, Dirt 5 features a tonne of customisation. From your player card to each vehicle’s paint job and livery, you’ll be unlocking patterns, stickers, paints and more and you’re able to go to town creating all manner of masterpiece or monstrosity. You’re not able to tinker with the engine of your vehicle, nor other parts, but given Dirt 5 leans far more to the arcade side of things, this makes sense.
Overall, Dirt 5 is a great racing game, packed full of things to do and with so much variety you’re unlikely to get bored quickly or even in the long run. Career mode is extensive and provided online multiplayer works as advertised there’s plenty of racing ahead.
Dirt 5 was reviewed on Xbox One X using a digital code provided by the publisher.