7 Days of Dakar: Day 1

It’s New Year’s Eve, and you know what that means… Time for champagne and new year’s resolutions? Well, yes, but what I was thinking was that it’s only one week until the Dakar! To celebrate, I decided to put together a week’s worth of “Dakar picks” to whet your appetite for this epic event. Each day this week, I’ll throw something up here for your reading and viewing pleasure that will hopefully get you in the mood for the 2019 edition of the Dakar Rally when it begins on January 6th. This one is going to be interesting with the factory Peugeot team pulling out of the event. Can Sebastien Loeb pull it off in a privateer Peugeot? He’ll have the same car as last year, but without the tremendous logistical support of the factory team, he might be at a tremendous disadvantage to the likes of Mini and Toyota. Can’t wait to see how this one will play out!

To kick off our week of Dakar content, I want to have a discussion about the Dakar 18 video game that came out earlier this year. I had my eyes on this all throughout development because it seemed like a super cool concept. However, when it released back in September, the execution appeared to fall flat on it’s face. The reviews were terrible and told stories of controller issues, graphical glitches, coding bugs, and uninspiring physics. With a price of $50 on Steam, I decided to steer clear. Sadly, it appeared, this was not the Dakar game I had been dreaming, hoping, and waiting for. However, since the ill-fated release in September, there has been a steady stream of updates from the developers, and if you filter the reviews on Steam by “most recent”, there is a clear line in the sand (pun intended) where the reviews turn decidedly positive. Coupling this with the fact that Dakar 18 is now on sale for 30% off on Steam this week, I decided to take the leap and see what happened. Boy am I glad I did! With the game on sale until January 3rd, and Steam’s free refund policy if you play the game for less than 2 hours, there really is no reason not to give this game a try to see what you think. That being said, here’s a few things you might want to know that will help you enjoy the game better.

It’s Going To Cost You Some Space:

This game is going to tax your computer in more ways than one. First of all, it weighs in at about 40gb which takes up a TON of space on your hard drive. It also takes a good long time to download. My suggestion: set up the download, and then go off for some last minute New Year’s Eve food and beverage shopping. The first thing I asked myself was, “Is this game really worth all that space on my hard drive”? Once I got into it, the answer was a resounding yes. The game literally recreates on a scale size, the entire route of the rally. Dakar 18 makes you feel like you’re lost in the middle of the desert, and for that reason, it’s worth the space. In addition to hard drive space, it’s also pretty heavy on your graphics card due to the huge viewing distances needed in the desert. I’ve got a weaker PC, so I had to turn down the graphics a bit. It doesn’t look as pretty as the trailers, but in my opinion, it didn’t detract from the authentic Dakar experience the game provided me. If you are getting the game on Xbox One or PS4, then just disregard all of what I just wrote!

Mute The Co-Driver:

This might sound counter-intuitive, but if you listen to the co-driver for more than 5 minutes, you’ll understand what I mean. He’s rather poorly implemented and angrily screams at you incessantly for the entirety of a stage (sometimes up to 90 minutes). He’s just a bit much. My suggestion? Turn down the speech volume in the audio menu, but leave the co-driver option on in the gameplay menu and you’ll get sub-titles that give you all the relevant information without the annoying screaming. Using the sub-titles in conjunction with the roadbook are enough to get you through a stage if you take your time and are methodical. Even better… if you have a friend who is willing, you can download the entire roadbook to a tablet or smartphone and use them as your co-driver. I think this is pretty cool!

Do The Tutorial:

I can’t emphasize this enough… even if you’ve played Dirt Rally, Richard Burns Rally, or any other rally game and think you’re a pro… DO THE TUTORIAL! I made the mistake of jumping right into the 1st stage assuming I knew what I was doing and got very frustrated very quickly. The game didn’t seem very fun. I back-tracked, did the tutorial, and a lot of things became clear. The next time I ran a stage, I understood what I was supposed to do and actually got to the end without getting lost. In addition, there’s other stuff you need to learn about such as towing your car out of the mud, shoveling out of deep sand, or using recovery boards to provide some much needed support and traction when your car is bogged down. That’s right… you need to do all of this stuff in this game. Pretty cool.

DON’T Cheat And Use Rookie Mode:

The roadbooks are confusing with their cryptic tulip diagrams and minimal information limited to distances and compass headings. More than a few times, I was tempted to switch to the rookie mode which gives you a way-point marker for the entirety of a stage to prevent getting lost. Yes, you won’t get lost, but the game loses its soul when you do this. It becomes an arcade “point and shoot” experience that requires no thought or skill. As hard as it is, rely on the roadbook, and if you get lost, back-track your steps to find your way to the last way-point and start over. It is going to give you an unforgettably authentic experience that will make you feel like you are really in the Dakar rally. When you hear riders and drivers talk about getting “lost in the dunes”, you will finally understand what they mean. If you want to experience a taste of what an immense challenge the Dakar is in real-life, please, please, don’t use the cheats. Tough it out with the roadbook and when you get to the end of a stage, you will feel like you truly accomplished something special. Dakar 18 is absolutely a simulation when it comes to navigation, and to sell out and use the cheats really ruins the experience of the game.

You Can Go Slower Than You Think:

This is not a WRC game. You don’t need to commit 100% over every crest, jump, or turn to succeed in this game. In fact, you can stop dead more than a few times within a stage to find your way and still get a good result. Take your time and don’t get lost. Back-tracking or even worse, taking a penalty to return you to the last way-point will cost you much more time than if you run the whole stage in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd gears and concentrate on getting your navigation right. Once I began coming to a near halt at each way-point to reorient my car to the next compass heading, it made the experience so much easier and I found I had a lot more success.

Does Dakar 18 still have a few bugs? Yeah, it does for sure. However, it seems like the developers have been diligently working on getting this game up to snuff, and it appears to be leaps and bounds beyond the state in which it was released. It’s a holiday weekend… you may have a few days off work… I can’t think of a better way to spend the time than trying out this game and getting yourself pumped up for the real Dakar in one week’s time!