Dirt 4 Review Part 2: The Cars

Last week, in the first part of my review of Dirt 4, we took a look at how the game feels in terms of delivering a believable rally experience to the player. This time around, I’m going to focus on the cars… not necessarily on how they drive, because that was covered in Part 1, but more on the variety and quality of their recreation in the game.

The best way that I can describe the types and classes of cars included in Dirt 4 is to compare it to the entry list for a higher level regional or national rally. If you’re looking for the brand new high-downforce monsters that are running in the WRC at the moment, you’re not going to find them here. However, if you’re looking for the stalwarts of rallying through the decades, Dirt 4 has you pretty well covered. In the game, you’ll find modern R2, R4, and R5 cars as well as all the historical cars you’d expect to see running at a typical rally show event. In many ways, the car list is very similar to that of Dirt Rally, and that’s generally a good thing. In Dirt 4, tou will recognize many familiar faces, but there are a few notable additions and omissions.

The one that is getting all of the buzz is the addition of the Lancer Evo VI to the Group A category. With this car being added, we now basically have a full compliment of the heavy hitters that were running in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Group A isn’t my favorite class of rally cars, so I haven’t spent a ton of time in the Lancer, but for the sake of this review, I had a few runs and like all of the cars in Dirt 4, it has been well made. It feels much like the other Group A cars, but just a bit slower to change direction, perhaps because of its slightly larger size. Like all of the cars in Dirt 4, the interior is really well done, and the engine sound is nice and aggressive. Even if it isn’t your favorite car to drive, its inclusion makes the Group A class in the game feel more complete.

The next notable change is the introduction of R5 cars as the premier class in the game. I have to be honest, I’m a bit on the fence about this one. If you read this blog often, you’ll know that I’m a pretty big fan of a R5 car with a skilled pair of hands behind the wheel. When I first heard the announcement that R5 cars were going to be in the game, I was pretty excited. After all, R5 has revolutionized the rallying landscape over the last 5 or so years. It makes sense that a modern rally game would mirror this trend. However, now that I’ve played with the 4 cars in the class, they all kind of sound and feel the same. Having seen these cars in real life, they definitely have different exhaust notes… especially the Peugeot 208. However, in the game, they sound very similar, and this takes a lot of the joy out of driving them. In addition, in DIrt 4, they are really easy to drive and don’t require much effort to keep them in the lines. For this reason, after a few stages, I felt like I had seen enough and moved back to the historical cars which had a bit more character. Who knows… maybe the R5 cars aren’t all that exciting to drive in real life either, but I would have hoped for a more memorable experience from the premier class in the game. They’re fine… but that’s as much as I can say.

With the introduction of R5 cars as the top class in the game, the 1.6 Litre WRC cars from Dirt Rally have disappeared from the game. I am guessing that some of this comes down to licensing, but I still miss these cars. Even though they look quite similar to R5 cars, they have a certain “punch” that is missing from their younger siblings in R5. I know that these cars received a lot of criticism over the years for not being spectacular enough, but they weren’t toys either. Sure, they pale in comparison to the snarling beasts that we see on WRC stages in 2017, but they still provided a memorable driving experience in Dirt Rally, and I think that their omission from Dirt 4 is a bit of a let-down.

Most of the historical rally cars have made the transfer from Dirt Rally to Dirt 4, but there have been a few additions as well. Since there is now no hillclimb mode in Dirt 4, the Group B Audi Quattro E2 with the huge splitter, wheel arches, and rear wing is now included in the rally portion of the game. It honestly doesn’t sound or drive all that different from the older generation Group B Quattro modeled in Dirt Rally. However, the E2 is definitely one of those iconic rally cars, so its inclusion in the game is definitely a big plus.

So, how do I feel about the cars included in Dirt 4? As far as variety goes, I’d have to say that it is pretty good. Codemasters got this pretty right in Dirt Rally so it makes sense that they wouldn’t change too much in Dirt 4. However, going back to my points in Part 1 of this review series, the somewhat uninspiring handling featured in Dirt 4 makes all of the cars feel a bit similar. Even though there are plenty of cars to try out, none of them quite stand out like they did in Dirt Rally. I don’t find myself driving an AWD Group B car much differently from a RWD Group 4 car, and I think that is a bit of a shame. In every car in the game, I’m focusing on following the lines and keeping the car as straight as possible. I don’t find that I’m savoring the experience that each car offers nearly as much as I did in Dirt Rally, so I think that this has cheapened the outstanding variety of machinery featured in Dirt 4. The cars in Dirt 4 were lovingly created, but let down by a handling model that isn’t all that exciting.