Four years ago, I came across Dakar 18. The game was pretty mediocre, and didn’t do too well. Personally, I didn’t like it. Although, it had decent mechanics and large open spaces of South America, the driving model was slightly annoying. One could’ve had the impression that there’s a lot to improve. However, this time the developers did an outstanding job.

First things first, I have to mention the game modes. We have the career mode, multiplayer and… that’s about it. Who, on earth, came up with the idea that removing a quick play mode would be a good move? So, there’s this career option. The gameplay structure itself is rather simple. Using the points we score during races, we purchase another vehicle. There’s a sweet variety to choose from – sports cars, trucks, motorcycles, ATVs and SRVs. The game does not limit the choice; each track can be challenged with every type of vehicle. Surprisingly, the player doesn’t start with Dakar race right away – there are a series of less significant races to overcome. One has to earn one’s stripes to get access to another races. Between the special sections, you can use a service center to maintain the vehicle. The career mode is far from revolutionary, and to be honest, it’s pretty plain as for today’s standards. However, the developers promised many updates, enhancing maps, and allowing more open gameplay. Supposedly, those updates are about to be released this year. I hope we’ll see the so-missed quick game mode.

What frustrated me the most was the simulation mode, which didn’t get unlocked until the 25th level! Why are the authors so much against satisfying the more demanding players? So, one has to complete a lion’s share of the career mode to gain access to it. I see no reason why it can be only unlocked so late in the game.

The driving model is outstanding. However, it happens that a vehicle turns without any clear reason, but, apart from that, I have no major complaints concerning the driving. Nevertheless, I have to admit it’s still an arcade type of racing game. As far as the previous title inefficiently tried to imitate a simulator, this one leaves no illusion. I even managed to hook up a steering wheel, and it works pretty well, despite many players have filled complaints about it. After all, the driving model was designed with a gamepad in mind.

I have to mention the pilot, who sits right next to you. The guy tends to mislead, delay commands, confuse directions, etc. It’s best to take the matter into your own hands, and use the notes to navigate.

Moreover, the maps supported by the developers seem slightly unreal. The surroundings should reflect Saudi Arabia, which is the original place of the Dakar Race. As we know from the footage, the Arabian Peninsula is… a desert. However, the creators did their best to make everything catchy. As a result, we get canyons, rocks, and a decent amount of flora. The roads are often too obvious, as most of the time we get to drive through clearly blazed and busy routes. This results, with the characteristic climate being lost – one of the strongest sides of the previous game – is simply gone. Instead of focusing on the road, and making notes, many times I caught myself driving through a predetermined route. So, it’s clear that the developers focused on a broader group of players. Maybe, some enhancements are going to be introduced along with the open world.

Of course, the game is an officially licensed product. Thanks to that, it includes all the official teams and vehicles, which took part in three editions of the rally! Considering that the last game came out a while ago, here we get the machines from 2020, 2021 and 2022. The models themselves are well-designed, and the engines’ sounds also leave no doubts.

If you’re looking for a racing game with breathtaking views, you’re in the right place. The surroundings catch the eye, and the sunset above the Arabian Desert, just makes you wanna be there.

The game itself runs decently, even in advanced settings. I was getting 80 FPS within the highest resolution on my PC. My buddy, who owns an Xbox One, also hasn’t come across any glitches. His game managed to maintain 30 FPS for most of the time with some sporadic drops.

I noticed that some Steam players complain about the many bugs to be found. In fact, I came across a few. Apart from the aforementioned pilot, my car got stuck on a rock multiple times without any clear reason. Sometimes, when riding on a motorcycle, you fall from the machine, hitting… well it’s hard to say what you do hit.

Another drawback is the AI, which is a far cry from being acceptable. Many times, I passed by the drivers crashing into stones, who didn’t have a clue what to do next, not to mention that the opponents don’t mind your presence at all.

To sum up, if someone were to release a Forza: Dakar game, it would be exactly like it. It’s not a game for a limited circle of players, who happen to be die-hard Dakar Rally fans. It’s a game for the masses, which combines physical driving skills with omnipresent waterfalls. Is it satisfying? Well, it depends on your approach before the purchase. Personally, I had a great time playing it, and must admit it still would be an outstanding racing game, even if it didn’t have a Dakar logo on its cover.

Advantages:

  • A fully licensed Dakar franchise product
  • Breathtaking graphics
  • A decent driving model

Disadvantages:

  • It’s not the Dakar Rally we used to know
  • Limited career mode
  • The lack of a quick game mode
  • Poor AI

The game is available for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Xbox Series X/S. It can be downloaded from Steam