As with most other sports, the World Rally Championship is on hold, but for the first time since the days of Colin McRae and Richard Burns, we have a championship contender in Elfyn Evans. Yet in these dark times when the forests are quiet, a Game of the Year edition of DiRT Rally 2.0 appears pulling together the content from the four seasons that Codemasters have released since the game first launched in February 2019. This bundle also brings with it the Colin McRae Flat Out pack, a content collection designed to honour McRae’s title winning season 25 years ago and completes Codemasters homage to Colin McRae Rally 2.0, a title which defined my racing days on the PlayStation.
While the DiRT series doesn’t include the official WRC licence (and sadly no Elfyn), it offers an expansive rally experience, and one that has come a long way since launch. The original game came with a bevy of cars, but only a somewhat disappointing six locations to thrash the real rally cars around. If you wanted the Rallycross experience, you’ve been well cared for since launch and since thanks to the official World Rallycross Championship licence. For the purists though, a base game that didn’t include the legendary routes of the Monte Carlo, any Swedish snow or even a pass at representing Great Britain….well, it left things feeling a bit flat.
The action itself has always been great in DiRT Rally 2.0, offering a taste of simulation that the mainline DiRT series lacks, while also being accessible enough to not scare the pants off every poor sod that accidentally steps behind the wheel. Don’t get me wrong though, this will scare even seasoned DiRT racers when you take the assists off and take a Group B rear-wheel drive beast like the Porsche 911 SC/RS onto a stage. You’ll end up with your car wrapped around a tree a la Kris Meeke sooner than your co-drive can make the first call for a flat right. But that’s a nature of the type of car than the overall experience.
You see, I’m somewhat of a masochist and apart automatic gears, I stick to a cockpit view, assists turned off and hardcore damage on. If the AI is turned down to the easier levels, I can quite easily get around and win stages using my old Xbox 360 pad. It does make me wonder what Codemasters think hardcore damage means, as the impacts I take without the car complaining in the slightest would have left a real driver on the side of the road throwing their helmet through their window. If you’re a dedicated simulation racer, then Richard Burns’ Rally might still be the best thing for you.
But it is the McRae focused Flat Out pack that most excites with this Game of the Year package. Along with introducing the classic Subaru Legacy RS that McRae drove in his early years (in addition to a fifth different Imprezza), the pack introduces the Perth and Kinross rally in Scotland. Having tasted a handful of stages from this event, it feels like a perfect blend of Wales and Finland offering fast and very technically challenging stages. Charting the course of DiRT Rally 2.0 from launch to this point, and you really can’t complain about the variety of events on offer, with Perth and Kinross perhaps offering the greatest challenge you’ll come across.
At the heart of the Flat Out pack is a series of forty challenges split into four chapters taken from across McRae’s illustrious career. It is a shame that you will have to complete three challenges from the proceeding chapter to unlock the next one, especially when the Early Years chapter covering his 1984 – 1989 adventures relies heavily on the Ford Sierra Cosworth R500…a rear-wheel drive beast that can take some taming. Fortunately, the challenges themselves are ingeniously crafted taking inspiration from McRae’s trials and tribulations, so they don’t all expect a top three finish. Some just want you to get an already damaged car home in one piece, others to complete a stage within a set time or to make up chunks of time on the rally leaders. They will take you across the rally landscape and into many cars that defined his career complete with real-world liveries. In a nice touch, each chapter is introduced with a short video highlighting what McRae achieved in each time period.
I have some misgivings about the focus that Codemasters, and indeed the wider rally world have when it comes to McRae. A driver like Burns, although maybe not as colourful as the Scotsman deserves some appreciation, and I would love to see Codemasters offer a similar pack in future to honour his legacy. On the McRae front, it must be said that the Top Gear special feature commemorating the 25th anniversary of his title win was a very well-done piece. The interludes Codemasters offer are small fry in comparison, but still well crafted.
All told, DiRT Rally 2.0 has come an extremely long way since launch, but sadly owners of the base game will have been left with a great racer, but one short of content. This Game of the Year edition brings it all together and seems to tie a nice bow on the DiRT Rally 2.0 package. Where Codemasters go from here, we’ll wait and see. I’d be happy for them to keep going and build on what they have here, it’s a wonderful racer.
The Verdict – Headshot