Review: Dirt 5 – Arcade-Like Racing That Brings Back Old School Fun
Racing games tend to take themselves seriously these days. With simulators such as Gran Turismo and Project Cars, light is rarely shined on arcade-like racing games like Mario Kart anymore. With Dirt 5 from Codemasters Cheshire, gamers can fully immerse themselves in nostalgic, arcade-style action.
Dirt 5 abandons the typical, formal, and realistic simulation and embraces lighthearted gameplay, even starting with a corny joke the moment you press play. Unlike its predecessor, the 2.0, Dirt 5 takes a step back in terms of gameplay. It doesn’t want you to worry about going off course or hitting other vehicles — in fact, it just wants you to speed your way through muddy tracks.
For anyone looking for a visually stunning PC game that brings back the fun of arcade racing, Dirt 5 is a worthy choice.
Dirt 5 sets a carefree tone. That doesn’t mean that it’s comparable to Mario Kart or Crash Team Racing, but it does feel a lot looser than Dirt Rally 2.0. Instead of beating the clock, you have to race against eleven other racers in a circuit, featuring plenty of unrealistic (but highly fun) tactics such as high-flying jumps and drifting.
In realistic racing games, smoothly sliding around corners at high speeds would be impossible. Not getting wrecked after hitting the barrier at 200kph would be unimaginable. Spending time to customize your vehicle would be more important than the actual race itself. Hitting another car would mean redoing the entire run. Dirt 5 is more forgiving and instead lets the player focus on speeding your way to victory through mud-covered tracks.
Dirt 5 is a true pick-up-and-play arcade racing game where even first-time players can easily pick up the basic controls and barrel themselves to first place in no time.
Dirt 5’s Career Mode features five levels. To unlock each level, you will have to complete a certain number of races and tokens. Career Mode is the best way to fully enjoy what Dirt 5 has to offer. It lets you experience it all, from rally races in construction sites to ice races beneath the Roosevelt Bridge.
Career Mode also includes narrations from podcasters AJ and Bruno, where they recap your career progression commentary-style. Although it’s nostalgic to hear the voices of these actors from well-beloved games, we found that the commentaries were a bit unnecessary and awkward.
If you’re not into unlocking tiers, Arcade Mode lets you jump into the action immediately. Arcade Mode offers Free Play and Time Trial, where you are free to choose the race location, car type, weather conditions, number of laps, difficulty, and grid size.
There’s also the Playground Mode which lets you create the course of your dreams. This track creator lets you add every imaginable obstacle, from jumping ramps to rings of fire, to two locations: Arizona or South Africa. You can then choose your track’s difficulty including Gate Crasher (insanely difficult runs), Smash Attack (where racers have to collect objects), and Gymkhana (where players collect points). Once your Playground is done, you can upload your arena for other racers to play.
Dirt 5 offers a variety of racing locations, from deserts to ice lakes, each offering unique challenges. Even if you race on the same track dozens of times, no race will ever be the same. Dynamic weather systems, as well as the time of day, add a level of thrill by affecting your car’s handling and steering. Drifting on muddy tracks during the rain won’t be as easy.
With vibrant colors providing a stark contrast against mud, sand, and snow, you can expect a classic arcade feel that doesn’t hold back when it comes to stunning visuals.
Tracks come to life thanks to the game’s graphics. There are little details that immerse the player in the game, such as screaming crowds, floating balloons, splashing waves, and more. Dirt 5 is the eye-candy of racing games, as every track seems to offer a plethora of visual treats, whether you’re racing in a bamboo forest or a frozen lake.
Dirt 5 lets players adjust the graphics settings, such as resolution, tessellation, global illumination, and geometry quality. It doesn’t offer much in terms of graphics customization, but that shouldn’t be a problem even for lower-end users.
To play Dirt 5, at a minimum your PC needs to be an Intel Core i3 2130 CPU with 8GB of RAM, and 60GB of storage. We played the game on a desktop with an Intel Core i7-4790 CPU and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPU, and the game ran smoothly. Frame rates are between 100 and 120 fps, and we noticed no hiccups even in races with heavy rain and snow.
Any good racing game requires an equally good soundtrack. The good news is that Dirt 5 features a varied soundtrack, with songs from Chaka Khan, The Chemical Brothers, and more. Each vehicle sounds different, as they should, and subtle sound effects, from tires sliding across the mud to splashing on puddles, add to the depth and realism of this otherwise unrealistic game.
Dirt 5 doesn’t have as many cutscenes as GRID Autosport, but it still features award-worthy voice acting from the likes of Troy Baker and Nolan North — whom you might be familiar with if you’ve played The Last of Us and Uncharted.
Is it worth it?
The idea of Dirt 5 is to have fun. With realistic weather effects, vibrant visuals, and a variety of race tracks, Dirt 5 brings back the joy of the arcade games we grew up with. There’s no worrying about hitting other vehicles or going off course — the game lets you complete each race with no fuss.
If you’re looking for realistic gameplay, you’re more likely to enjoy Dirt Rally 2.0. But if you just want to speed across the mud, completely carefree, Dirt 5 is going to be a purchase you won’t regret.