Dirt Rally VR Review – A new mud-stained standard for PSVR racers
On the face of it, PSVR seems ill-suited for the tumultuous and seemingly vomit-friendly style of racing that Codemasters seminal Dirt Rally prescribes. In reality however, the two couldn’t be a better fit as this VR expansion not only lifts Codemasters seminal rally racer to even greater heights, but also provides PSVR with its greatest racer to date. Simply, what Codemasters have crafted here is nothing short of remarkable.
PSVR was made for this
Previously released for Oculus Rift headsets on PC during the middle of last year, Dirt Rally VR was a huge hit with that crowd and happily I can report that some eight months later, its allure hasn’t been dulled any in the leap to PSVR. First let’s make something completely clear; this isn’t just some throwaway, tangential mode that bares little resemblance to the core mechanics of the base game, this IS the base game re-imagined, in its entirety, for VR. All the tracks, all the modes, all the cars; everything has been given the VR treatment.
Because of the wide-ranging ambitions of this latest expansion offering, the question then becomes should you elect to play Dirt Rally in its PSVR form over its regular non-VR, and the answer is, unequivocally, a resounding yes. By transplanting the already stellar handling model into VR space, Dirt Rally VR actually becomes eminently more enjoyable as a result; the ability to leverage depth perception in a way that just isn’t available without VR, adds an extra dimension to Dirt Rally that could actually serve to bring more to its cause who may have found the base game too difficult to handle.
Likewise, when experienced with PSVR, the sense of speed, coupled with the rough and tumble inertia that is intrinsic to racing’s most arguably rugged sport is palpably amplified. When taken in tandem with how flawlessly the handing model transfers to VR, it all adds up to not just elevate Dirt Rally yet further in the pantheon of great PlayStation racing games, but also provide PSVR with the finest racer to date on the platform. Additionally, folk with unsettled stomachs need not have concern for the displacement of their food whilst plating Dirt Rally VR either, since after a good solid hour of play I had experienced no motion sickness whatsoever; a substantial feat when you consider how much sickness the intimately chaotic spectacle of rally racing might otherwise have elicited in VR from another developer.
A special mention too, must also be made of the 3D sound implementation that Codemasters have wrought for this VR update to their 2016 racer. Every drift and power-slide of the car brings with it a veritable cornucopia of sound, as mud, grit and displaced water all spray and grind up through the wheels of your course chewing rally car. Elsewhere, weather is also tremendously represented; the pitter patter of light precipitation that soon gives way to thunderous, windscreen rattling downpours all succeed in deftly immersing the player in their battle against not just the clock, but the elements too.
Further afield, a neat little extra is the new co-pilot mode. Here, a second player can take up a DualShock4 controller and in the manner of a rhythm game, must mimic the controller prompts which appear on the screen, with successful button presses accurately informing the driver of turns and hazards in the road ahead. Of course, it’s by no means an essential addition to either the VR expansion or the base game itself, and it ostensibly veers more towards gimmickry than meaningful, but it still remains a nice bit of throwaway fun nonetheless.
If there is one drawback to Dirt Rally’s otherwise resplendent PSVR update, it’s that the visuals aren’t quite so great. Though the trackside detail is decent enough and the cars themselves are of an acceptable visual standard, the palette looks washed out when compared to the base game and worse still, the lower resolution can make picking out turns in weather adverse tracks more difficult than it would otherwise be.
Likewise, the PSVR update for Dirt Rally does not share Driveclub VR‘s penchant for detailed car interiors, so those looking for intricately car dashboards and internal views will be disappointed. Oh, and don’t turn all the way around while driving either, since the developer’s haven’t modelled the back of the car at all and, well, you really shouldn’t be doing that anyway in the middle of a race to begin with.
In a presently sparse release climate for PSVR titles that try to be more than just soulless applications, Codemasters PSVR update for Dirt Rally couldn’t have come at a better time. Dirt Rally VR has without a doubt managed to unseat Driveclub VR as the PSVR racer of choice. So if you already own Dirt Rally and a PSVR headset, then this is perhaps the biggest no-brainer, gaming purchase you will ever make.