Reviewed for the Xbox One.
Though I’ve been an avid gamer for almost my entire life, the only games I can never seem to get into are racing games. Sure, almost all of them look pretty, but in terms of gameplay there is almost nothing to grab me.
Whenever a racing game takes itself less seriously, however, it has a much better chance of getting my attention. Dirt 5, the latest game in the Colin McRae Rally series, set itself up to be the racing game that could finally hold my attention. In my review of Dirt 5, I explore it’s promises of engaging off-road races, in-depth car customization, a banging soundtrack, and a vibrant color scheme, which all sound up my alley.
Story in a Racing Game?
Surprisingly, Dirt 5 actually has a narrative attached to its career mode. The story is nothing too in-depth, but it is still nice to see some effort put in here. Many games would be content with a bunch of challenges strung together with little rhyme or reason.
In Dirt 5, you are the newest rising star in the world of off-road racing. After succeeding in a few races, you catch the eye of Alex Janiček (aka AJ), an expert driver willing to take you under his wing. All is not sunshine and rainbows however, as fellow racer Bruno Durand has his eyes on taking you down.
As previously mentioned, this story is nothing too serious, but it is a nice addition that gives meaning and weight to the game’s races. AJ and Bruno are voiced by Troy Baker and Nolan North respectively, and to no surprise here they both give stellar performances.
Dirt 5 also features interstitial “Dirt Podcasts” with James Pumphrey and Nolan Sykes from Donut Media. While these podcasts don’t really add anything to the narrative, they do help flesh out Dirt 5’s world and immerse the player in it.
The Premiere Off-Roading Experience
While I’ve played a number of other racing games that dabble in off-road, no game does them better than Dirt 5. The game puts players behind the wheel of tons of different kinds of cars with 13 types to choose from. Each type of car feels incredibly different to play. Depending on your skills or preferences, you could be amazing with one type and absolutely terrible with another.
Dirt 5 features a few different kinds of races and gameplay modes to keep players occupied. Land Rush is a straight forward three lap race. Rally Raid, on the other hand take you down one long path, with the first person making it to the end winning.
Dirt 5 also features some unique game modes that I haven’t really seen in other racing games. One of these modes, Ice Breaker, sees races take place entirely on a frozen body of water. This completely changes races making the cars much more difficult to control, and is a great change of pace from usual races.
Dirt 5’s controls are simple enough for a newbie to pick up, but have enough depth to them that a veteran racer won’t feel like it’s a game for babies. I never felt like any crash or mishap while racing was due to bad controls, they were all simply due to my terrible skills.
Race Across the World
Aside from a few visual glitches I’ll get into later, Dirt 5 is a beautiful game. The game’s 70 plus tracks take place in 10 different locations across the globe, all of which are visually distinct and pleasing. From the deserts of Arizona to the bamboo forests of China, each track has something new and interesting to offer.
Additionally, players can customize just about every track in Arcade mode. Here you can change the weather, car class, and even time of day. With so many options, there are tons of different ways to experience each track.
Crashing, But Not with Cars
What holds Dirt 5 back, at least on Xbox One, is the plethora of glitches present in the game. Most of these don’t really affect gameplay, but still feel incredibly out of place. For instance, in many of the usually beautiful tracks present in Dirt 5, environmental textures would frequently pop in and out. Not game-breaking by any means, but certainly distracting and unpolished.
Additionally, Dirt 5 crashed more than 10 times. As I generally had a good time playing the game, constantly being pushed out and having to reload it from the start was a huge annoyance. Towards the end of my time with the game, it crashed so hard while that I had to restart my entire Xbox One. These glitches are completely unacceptable for a game of Dirt 5’s caliber and hold it back from being worth playing.
Additionally, the game’s load times feel way too long. Waits in between races can get up to two or three minutes long which feels like an eternity.
Tons of Ways to Race
Outside of the aforementioned career mode, there are a plethora of other ways to play Dirt 5. There’s the online mode, which lets players take on races against other real people. The online mode does everything it needs to. In the multiple online races I played, I never ran into any significant lag or connection issues.
Arcade mode is perfect for those looking to customize how they play each track or simply mess around. Its more chill than Career mode, letting you race around without the threat of your racing rival overtaking you. Additionally, challenges aren’t hanging out in the corner of your screen begging to be completed.
Finally, there’s Playground and Garage. Playground lets you either play user created tracks or create your own. My mind thinks more about critiquing than it does creating, thus I’m really terrible at coming up with my own tracks. Luckily, I was able to mess around in the creation mode fairly easily. Additionally, it was a breeze playing other people’s tracks, whether they were good or borderline unplayable.
Garage is pretty much only there for customizing your cars. Luckily, Dirt 5 features a pretty in-depth cosmetic customization system, so making your dream car is a ton of fun.
So Close, Yet so Far: Dirt 5 Verdict
Dirt 5 is almost an amazing racing experience. Without the constant visual glitches and crashes, it would be an instant recommendation to fans of racers. As it stands now, however, Dirt 5 is almost impossible to recommend on Xbox.
Hopefully the developers will get around to fixing the game on Xbox. If they do, we’ll be sure to update our review to accurately represent the way the game will launch.