- Released: 2020
- Played on: XSX
- Also available on: PC, PS5, XB1, PS4, Stadia
- Time to get into: 60 Minutes
- Time to complete: 10 Hours for the campaign mode
- Multiplayer: Yes, online and offline
Dirt 5 is the latest in the series of off-road racing games from Codemasters and the first to fully remove any attempt at proper rallying (which now has it’s own ‘Dirt Rally‘ series). In my review of Dirt 4 I noted that the rallying was the best part and all the arcade racing modes placed around it weren’t as good. Sadly, that remains the case here – expect the good bit is entirely absent! Dirt 5 is a lacklustre game that is a slog to get through but it’s saved by one thing on the new consoles: it looks really great. This is the first game on the new-generation hardware that I actually felt that the better graphics made a difference to my enjoyment of the game. That enjoyment was just short-lived.
What’s good about it?
- Dirt 5 looks lush! At last, a next-gen game where the new graphics make a difference. I actually started playing Dirt 5 ages ago on Xbox One, and the difference, once I got my hands on a Series X, was amazing. The screenshots here don’t do justice to how good it looks in action.
- So good, in fact, that I spent a fair bit of the campaign mode playing using the in-car view and no HUD. Like that, Dirt 5 is wild! It’s a fast and intense experience, particularly when racing in the dark or the pouring rain. I really can’t talk about this enough – at the end of the day what is the point in better graphics if they don’t make a difference to the experience of actually playing the game. In Dirt 5, they really do. It’s very exciting.
- There are plenty of disciplines to race in. From short lapped layouts to point-to-point races and from great big trucks to small unique vehicles. The campaign mode does insist that you do a fair amount of each but you can pick and choose to an extent as you go through.
- It’s worth pointing out that the campaign mode in the menus is well laid out. The progress that you are making is clear and well laid out, with all the next events and races easy to see. It’s a simple thing, but not all racing games are great at this, so it’s good to see in Dirt 5.
What’s bad about it?
- Sadly, whilst it looks magic, the gameplay isn’t so good. With a very few exceptions, all the vehicles handle almost the same and that handling is light and floaty. The cars seem to have very little weight and are often unpredictable as a result. It’s a shame, as this specific team at Codemasters recently made one of my favourite racing games in Onrush. There are no such issues there, so it’s like they got to a certain point with Dirt 5 and went, ‘well, that’ll do’. It won’t.
- The campaign is uninspiring. Whilst it is, as I said above, cleanly laid out, in reality it is just a stream of events. The only engagement you can have with it is leaving out the events you don’t like (assuming you are doing well enough in the others to keep your progress going). Otherwise there is essentially no clear difference between the first and the last. For a game with lots of bright colours, a raucous soundtrack and lots of speed, Dirt 5 simply doesn’t engage. It’s racing-by-numbers.
- Outside of the campaign, the other game modes are dull. Online racing is slow to matchmake and a very flat experience when you do get into a race. It even has a track creator called ‘Playgrounds‘ where you can build and share tracks and yet the results are still tied to the uninspiring gameplay.
- One small thing is that Dirt 5‘s menus have a super-annoying voice over. It’s like a podcast about what’s happening in the game but it drones on and on and on. It’s as close as Dirt 5 comes to having any kind of a thread to link everything together and yet all it does is make things worse.
Really, the only way I can recommend Dirt 5 is for a quick jaunt to see what your new Xbox Series X can do. That’s because it’s on Xbox Game Pass! Playstation owners should avoid – it’s not worth spending any money on. But if you do have Game Pass, or you just can’t resist it, you will enjoy the best looking game I’ve played to date on the new consoles. Whilst I did have a little fun as a result, that is no where near enough for Dirt 5 to be anything above average.