The final part of my series covering dirt racing. While WRC 8 focuses on recreating the World Rally Championship experience, Dirt Rally 2.0 aspires to be the ultimate dirt sim. Rallying is, of course, the main feature of Dirt Rally 2.0.
The first iteration, Dirt Rally, was a surprise hit. While the Dirt series was taking steps towards the casual userbase, Dirt Rally pointed things in the opposite direction with a hardcore sim experience. Dirt Rally 2.0 expands from its predecessors.
The simulation aspects of Dirt Rally are definitely retained, but 2.0 offers a more customisable experience, and should also appeal to more casual fans of dirt racing. Even so, the pure thrills are still there. Like with WRC 8, there's nothing quite like rally racing up a cliff - you're at the edge of your seat the entire time. One small mistake, and you're off the cliff, either to lose a lot of time, or just ruining the stage completely.
Where Dirt Rally 2.0 shines over WRC 8 is in terms of the finesse and polish. Sure, WRC 8 has pretty neat features, but Dirt Rally 2.0 nails the basics. The driving physics feel "just right", and offers an in-depth simulation at the same time.
Dirt Rally 2.0 is a gorgeous game on any platform. The fact that it runs at 4K/60 fps on an Xbox One X is exceedingly impressive - surely one of the best optimised games of the generation. There's no hitches, stutters, or bugs. It's just a brilliantly refined audiovisual experience. The sound marks a new high water mark for rally racing, with a really granular mix that gives you not just very realistic engine tones, but a feeling of a on-the-edge rally car traversing across different terrains. The differences in sounds across various surfaces is what sells the illusion of immersion in a way I haven't experienced before.
While the environments look brilliant, the career mode is structured in a way that does feel repetitive. The "Your Stage" algorithm is supposed to give you a new stage every time, but really, it's a different combination of the same sections. Think of it like lego - you can arrange it in a variety of ways, but if the bricks stay the same, after a while each brick will be all too familiar. There just isn't enough unique content as WRC 8 - which in itself felt a bit thin at times. Fortunately, there's a formidable roster of vehicles, all impeccably modeled, with no significant omissions.
On the other hand, there's plenty of other content in Dirt Rally 2.0. There's a full blown World Rallycross career which is quite the breath of fresh air. Oddly, while WRC 8 holds the official license for WRC, Dirt Rally 2.0 has the official license for World RX. Essentially, it's the official WRX game. The career mode is perfectly paced, and each of the 8 venues are a challenge in itself. The RX mode could have been its own game - it's that good! Further, there are a whole bunch of online modes and challenges, so there's definitely a lot of content for the avid dirt racer who also likes to dabble in multiplayer.
All of that can't quite make up for the lack of environments, though. Dirt Rally 2.0 is almost perfect, but stumbles in just that one important way. The Your Stage system is cool, but I think I would just like to see finely tuned, manually crafted stages - and enough of them to justify the entire career span.
Dirt Rally 2.0 is 60% off on Steam right now, and available on Xbox Game Pass.
If you feel Dirt Rally 2.0 is perhaps a bit hardcore for your tastes, I'd highly recommend its more casual cousin - Dirt 4.