DiRT 5 holds the distinct honour of being the first Optimised for Xbox Series X game Stevivor has previewed actually running on the next-gen console. But it wasn’t our introduction to the game, as hands-on time with the Series X version followed a lengthy look at the racer via our Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 super-powered PC. While we never try to pretend to be Digital Foundry, we are pleased to report that Microsoft’s next-gen console easily holds its own against a rig that cost thousands of dollars.
With our June 2020 preview providing a framework for what to expect, we elected to head straight into career mode to listen to the overly energetic descriptions of race types through the familiar tones of Nolan North and Troy Baker. We started off with a huge dose of déjà vu, thanks to an Ultra Cross race in Norway and Land Rush in China, before heading into new territory with a Stampede race in Italy and Rally Raid in South Africa. Admittedly, we didn’t progress very far in career, instead opting to play a handful of races over and over (and over again) in order to test the various video modes the Series X offers.
First, we played on a 4K monitor capable of 60 frames-per-second (FPS) and HDR, choosing to prioritise image quality, and then jumped in a second time with an emphasis on frame rate instead. Once that was achieved, we swapped to a 1440p, 144Hz, HDR-enabled monitor and tried out those same modes alongside a third focus type: 120 frame mode. While we can certainly show off how DiRT 5 looks on the 4K monitor, we’re sadly not in possession of anything that can capture in more than 60FPS. Even then, our Elgato HD60 S+ device captures the 4K, 60FPS source and then outputs it in 1080p and 60FPS. With that in mind, our efforts are below.
Truthfully, image quality and frame rate prioritisations on the 4K monitor looked extremely similar, to the point where you would be hard-pressed to tell them apart if you didn’t know which one was running at the time. The image quality mode had the occasional bit of tearing and sometimes had a teensy bit more detail – I think? – but you’re zipping around environments so quickly you really can’t appreciate that fact (if I wasn’t making it up in the first place).
Over on the 144Hz monitor, I could obviously see that it was running smoother than races in 60FPS, but not to the point where it seemed to be of any real benefit. In the same vein, while I consciously knew the game was running in 1440p rather than 4K, I couldn’t discern any huge difference in visuals. It needs to be pointed out that my monitor – like many currently on the market – had to sacrifice HDR support when outputting in 120FPS. Ultimately, out of all these options, I preferred playing on my 4K monitor in 60FPS with the frame rate mode selected to take advantage of its smoothness and pretty colours. After all, DiRT 5 is all about neons and flurry.
Because I had already played the game before, I found myself picking up on little details unnoticed on my first pass. I was more aware of how each track varied not only the weather, but the time of day – distractingly so, as some tracks suddenly had torrential downpours and others went from bright, sunny days to the pitch black of night in the blink of an eye. Less illogical was the way mud would slowly accumulate on the back of my car, displaced with streams of water as I screamed through puddles.
Sadly, the issues we encountered in our initial preview remain – races and vehicles go from insanely easy, both in terms of vehicle control and AI challenge, to mind-numbingly difficult. Codemasters says it still has some tweaking to do, but let’s be honest: it comes out in less than a month. Regardless, DiRT 5 provides some really fun racing (for the most part) alongside some beautiful (if not muddy) visuals and a killer soundtrack. I could think of worse ways to spend my time… especially with the Xbox Series X optimised version of the racer on my new powerhouse of a console.
DiRT 5 heads to Windows PC, Xbox One and PS4 on 6 November, followed by releases (and free next-gen upgrades) on Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X on 10 November and 12 November on PS5. A Stadia release is also planned for 2021. Check out our Xbox Series X Preview in progress here.