Dirt Rally 2.0 review: mud, sweat and maybe some tears

Published: 29 April 2019

► Dirt Rally 2.0 reviewed by CAR
► Out on PS4, Xbox One and PC
► Played on PS4 Pro at 4K with controller

I rage quitted too much playing the first Dirt Rally. It was detailed, realistic and as technical as any real motorsport fan would ever want but by God it was cruel if you weren’t bringing your ‘A Game’. Jumping into its successor – Dirt Rally 2.0 – for the first time, I was pumped and ready for another beating.

When the game starts, you’re met with a slick menu system with background music which shifts in tempo depending on which screen you’re on. It’s all big buttons, big graphics, loads of colour and sleek animations.

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There’s a career mode, complete with the ability to hire and upgrade your engineer team and even give your co-driver some buffs like less time penalties for getting your car back on the track after stuffing it in a hedge. The game also charges you credits for any repairs, giving you more incentive to take it easy during these rally events. It does seem a little superfluous when every car and every locale is already unlocked, and you have the very easy ability to just create your own championships or take your racing online via RaceNet.

The inclusion of the WorldRX licence dominates DR2, to the point that it becomes glaringly obvious that there aren’t that many other licences besides it. Most of the rally cars have copies (some very close, others half-arsed) of iconic liveries and there aren’t that many branded bits of paraphernalia on rally stages (not exactly a good or bad thing) either; at one point I actually laughed out loud after crashing into a barrier with an ‘advert’ on it that just said ‘Tools.’

Get DiRT Rally 2.0 from Amazon |  

The scarcity spreads to the environments, too. Each one is painstakingly detailed, gorgeous in 4K whether you’re being blinded by a sunset, catching splats of wet mud fire out of the wheelarches mid-drift or just admiring how the beams of light fall on thick forest laying ahead of you. But there aren’t really that many locales; six for the rally stages and eight for the Rallycross events. This is definitely more of a quality vs quantity situation. It’s also a bit cheeky that Sweden – a snow environment – is on the store for an additional cost, leaving the main game without any winter stages straight out of the box.

Weather and timing changes add more visual drama, with sunsets and sunrises looking particularly striking. However, the rain visuals should have remained the same as DR1; DR2’s rain visualisations just look like a fixed projection ahead of your car – like a rally arcade game from a decade ago.

Dirt Rally 2 rallycross

Still, the landscapes you do get are just a huge playground for you to savour the intense driving physics at work here. The whole tone of every car seems slightly softer-edged to me compared to the first Dirt Rally but still requires precision in your inputs, tremendous foresight of what’s ahead so you don’t biff it into a tree or ditch but, most importantly, patience. Even if you’re a pro racing gamer, you’ll need to put in some serious time if you want to go from good to excellent. DR2 does have a Historic mode that takes you through the ages of rally, starting at near boggo-spec Minis and front-wheel drive Fulvias right up to the latest rally demons.

Probably best to start there to really get you in the mindset, because just jumping into a Group B weapon isn’t going to go well on the first try. The sensation of speed is insane in the higher echelons of cars, with a mere half throttle giving you the feeling you’re warping into a new dimension. On top of the tremendously detailed damage system, there’s even the risk of a sudden, unexpected event from the car throwing a massive spanner in the works of your time like the car developing a fault even if you’re driving cleanly. Taking it easy is almost a requirement on a rally stage event.

Rallycross is a different ballgame altogether, as you’d expect. Along with battling it out with AI (or real players online), the tight circuits in locales like Silverstone and Hell (the Norway one, not the fire and brimstone one) are a challenge on the other end of the driving scale. While the ideals of ‘slow and steady wins the race’ ring true on the rally stages, McRae’s infamous words – ‘if in doubt, flat out’ – should be something to live by on the RX stages, particularly at the wheel of the WorldRX monsters as they pull you out of hairpin bends.

Dirt Rally 2 audi quattro

You get your own spotter feeding you info on other players’ laps and they actively remind you when is best to take the joker lap to add to the realism. But it’s the technicalities of the tight half-asphalt, half-dirt tracks that provide punishing platters of frustration when you get a corner wrong and lose places, or moments of blissful smugness as you get the angle of your slide just right, swooping around corners like you’re better than Loeb. And no one is better than Loeb; FACT.

Get DiRT Rally 2.0 from Amazon |

And then there’s the way it all sounds. Every car’s engine note sounds pitch perfect to the real thing, particularly damaged parts (whether they be engine, drivetrain or body related) all seem to have bespoke sound effects, like a damaged exhaust dragging itself through the mud.

Dirt Rally 2.0 verdict

There are a few flaws with DR2, namely a slightly lacking list of locations and an unnecessary career mode, but it still remains one of the best motorsport games out there for rally physics. Its graphics in full 4K are stunning for the most part, and the addition of a full licence for the WorldRX series will draw plenty of fans of the real motorsport in. You’ll need patience and time to get into DR2 but, when you’re in, it’ll consume you.

By Jake Groves

CAR's deputy news editor, office Geordie, gamer, lover of hot hatches