DiRT 5 Preview: Let’s go play in the mud

Stevivor was recently given the chance to attend a COVID-19 friendly DiRT 5 preview opportunity, not only playing through four tracks and game modes but speaking with Codemasters about the title ahead of time.

As Karp detailed, DiRT 5 will offer up multiple tracks and modes in ten main hubs including Arizona, Greece, South Africa, Nepal and more. An enchanced weather system will not only bring changes to the environments around your car, but to surfaces themselves. While it’s hardly the most exciting thing to get excited about with the transition to next-gen consoles, an icy surface should even feel different than a rainy one thanks to the PS5’s haptic-enabled DualSense Controller.

Just like in a recent marketing push, Codemasters focused on DiRT 5‘s career mode, an epic narrative spanning more than 130 events and give chapters and starring The Last of Us‘ Troy Baker as mentor and protagonist AJ alongside Uncharted‘s Nolan North as the villanous Bruno. These big names are joined by slightly smaller celebrities in the form of Donut Media’s James Pumphrey and Nolan Sykes, who will helm an in-game podcast that will help to push the story along. Pumphrey and Skyes will be joined by the current W Series World Champion, Jamie Chadwick, and some YouTuber named SLAPTrain.

While we’ll get into actual racing in a minute, the rest of career mode is standard fare, with players looking to sign sponsorships and improve ratings with said companies in order to improve rewards. Maxing out a relationship will offer up a special bespoke livery for your cars, though DiRT 5 will also boast a customisation area where creative types can make their own.

The most interesting thing about career mode is that it supports four-player co-op. You and three friends can race in split-screen, with your group’s best placement counting as that of the career mode’s character. In fact, Codemasters has confirmed that “this option is available for all multi-car challenges with additional drivers replacing Al-controlled vehicles.”

In terms of online multiplayer and co-op support, DiRT 5 has been confirmed to offer cross-gen cross-play, but not full cross-play; those on Xbox One can play with Xbox Series X, those on PS4 can play with PS5 players and those on Windows PC via Steam are left in a separate playerbase. Codemasters’ Robert Karp chalked the limitations up to “the extra work needed to make it work,” offering some hope by saying that full cross-play is “not going to be in for launch” but that Codemasters also doesn’t “want to split our player base at all.” Maybe later, then?

You can check out our specific gameplay capture direct from a preview code provided to Stevivor above, encompassing an Ultracross race in Norway using 90’s Rally and X Cross Raid classes, a Land Rush race in China using Super Lite and X Cross Raid classes, a Stampede race in Brazil using the same classes as in China and finally a Sprint race in the USA using the Sprint class. While Ultracross and Sprint modes felt quite unique, I’d have to admit that I couldn’t tell you the difference between Land Rush and Stampede as they felt very samey; that could be due to the same recycling of classes though. That said, Stampede was said to offer “extreme terrain and big jumps” and I can’t say I registered any of the latter.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy myself, as the tracks on offer were very fun to zip around. While three pre-built dynamic weather conditions were available, I kept finding myself in overcast and rainy states, and the change in the track conditions and feel was absolutely noticeable when the skies opened up. It was great fun to take my neon pink car and completely cover it with mud as I ripped around a track in China. While game modes may have felt the same, each car used had a personality of its own and look some time to understand, which will also add to variety and replay value.

I’m not the best racer, but DiRT 5 felt comfortable to me — not as technically demanding as a Forza Motorsport or Gran Turismo, but less arcadey (just) than a Forza Horizon. With an ever-expanding set of features and a free upgrade path from Xbox One to Xbox Series X, (Codemasters won’t say anything about PS4 to PS5 yet until Sony is ready), there’s obviously a lot to like about the upcoming release. DiRT 5 heads to Windows PC, Xbox One and PS4 on 9 October.

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About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for the past ten years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.