Action Audit: The Dirt Show – The First Look At Dirt Rally 2.0

DR 2.0
DR 2.0 Main Image - Credit: http://www.codemasters.com/game/dirt-rally-2-0/

I am taking a short break from my upcoming long-form article (regarding micro-transactions) to write an Action Audit on the first Dirt Rally 2.0 livestream.  For those that don’t know me (and how would you), one of my passions in life is rally style racing.  I don’t personally drive a rally car, but I go to regional events and watch what I can on the internet.  I’m also a big fan of the DiRT series by Codemasters (formerly Colin McRae Rally series [RIP Colin]).  When Dirt Rally (DR) was released onto the Steam early access stage, I bought it immediately and began my journey from newbie to expert.  Yes, I consider myself somewhat of an expert when it comes to Dirt Rally.  I have the highest rated (DR) guide on Steam and while I am not the fastest driver in the world, I often rank in the top 5%-15% of individual stage times (with a controller instead of a wheel).

You can imagine my excitement when Dirt Rally 2.0 (DR2) was announced.  (It’s too long to cover here, but just be aware that I was massively disappointed with Dirt 4.)  Dirt Rally 2.0 is a return to the rally simulation experience that made Dirt Rally so exciting and rewarding to play.  I’ve been waiting for the sequel to Dirt Rally since, well, Dirt Rally.

Codemasters ran a community Q&A session regarding DR2.  You can find it here.  It included community questions and live footage from two different stages.  I pulled out the highlights and added my reactions below (my reaction in italics):

1. There is no VR support at launch but it’s very likely to be developed post launch, IF there is community support for it.

Starting on a bad note, this has to be disappointing for VR users.  One of the big draws to DR1 was that is supported Oculus Rift (I heard mixed things about Vive).  That said, Codemasters did confirm that if the community continues to ask for VR support it is very likely to happen.

2. Tire selection returns in DR2 (it was not a factor in DR1).  Tires selection will matter because different compounds will react differently, depending on the stage condition and road surface. Tires also degrade over time.  A soft tire might be great to start in but will be degrade quickly.

Personally, I’m neutral on this feature.  Being able to choose the best tire for the situation does add an interesting aspect to the game that real rally drivers have to deal with (especially in the rain and snow).  Do I go for a soft compound on the next two stages and risk the tire wearing out, or do I go with a harder compound and go for average grip?  The “problem” with tire selection is that it removes a standard from the game.  In DR1, tire selection wasn’t an issue so there was a baseline standard for everything.  Tire grip was the same regardless of playing single player or running the online challenges against other people.  I am concerned about the removal of that baseline standard.  On the other hand, this might add a really interesting factor to the mix.  I’ll wait and see how it turns out.

3. Simulation Only – No “arcade” handling model.  Everything in the game is built around a simulation model (unlike Dirt 4).

Good. The mixing of two models had a massively negative impact on Dirt 4. Stages (in Dirt 4) were primarily designed around arcade handling (soft banks, long sweeping turns, massive short-cutting)  Simulation handling felt completely out of place.  Additionally, whatever the physics model was in Dirt 4, it was severely broken.  It’s suspected that when trying to make a game for two different physics models, Codemaster wasn’t able to completely separate the two and had to make sacrifices in the simulation department.  [Update – Jon Armstrong, in an interview with The Sixth Axis, confirmed Dirt 4’s handling model was a tweaked to be “safe.”]

4. All stages are all based on their real life counterparts.  They used satellite data AND sent a research team to each location (just like they did in DR1) to map each stage.  The surface on each stage/track will degrade over time.  The best grip is usually between cars 5-10.

First, it is fantastic to see the return of “the real thing.”  Procedural stage generation was one of the most disappointing features of Dirt 4.  There is absolutely no match for the unique and interesting challenge of “real life” locations.  Second, surface degradation sounds interesting and will present new challenges to each stage, depending on car order.  That said, I assume stage degradation is disabled in online mode (or set to some locked factor) because it has to be fair across the board in the daily/weekly/monthly challenges.  Similar to tires, I need to see how this works out in the final release before deciding how I really feel.

5. Daily/Weekly/Monthly events will come back + special challenges.

Good.  This is one of the best online features of DR1.

6. First 6 months of support DLC are planned out.  The next 6 months are planned at a high level but not locked in.

Fine?  This is similar to how Dirt Rally was supported.  If Dirt Rally 2.0 sells well enough, and the player count stays steady, we’ll get a solid year of updates, possibly two.

7. All current model, FIA licensed, rallycross cars will be in the game.  They got the full FIA license for RX, but not world rally.

Codemasters is in a weird place in that FIA sold them a license for rallycross but not world rally.  This means Codemasters can’t use some of the current model WRC cars (or stages) for rally mode.  I am confident a few modern WRC cars will be included (the Polo is on the front cover), but due to licensing some notable cars may be missing.  That said, expect a full range of iconic cars from the last sixty years.  Licensing can be very complex and I am not an expert here, but the lack of a full FIA license will keep some things out of the game.

8. 50 cars in game for launch – 1960s through modern day.

This is good.  A lot of cars means a lot of options for everyone.  Rally fans can be very particular and most have their favorite era & type of car.

In summary, I am optimistic and excited for what is coming in Dirt Rally 2.0.  It really looks like Codemasters is taking all the feedback from Dirt Rally and Dirt 4 into consideration.  Admittedly, a couple of the features are not what I expected but I am not taking a specific position on them until I get to try it.  All things considered, this looks like a complete package.  I also consider the Dirt series excellent games for efficient gaming.  Expect DR2 to be added to the recommended list.

I hope you enjoyed this Action Audit.  What are your thoughts on Dirt Rally 2.0?  Is this what you wanted?  Would you have preferred a different design?  Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.