Codemasters have been bringing us Rally games for over 18 years, while they’ve dabbled between  the McRae name, Dirt and tried their hand with a slightly more arcade approach in Dirt Showdown, there’s no question that the Codemasters Rally franchise has been incredibly successful and built up quite a reputation as a fantastic quality Rally game, without having to rely on arcade thrills.

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Upon launching the game, you’re greeted with a soft melodic soundtrack that never feels to overbearing, there’s some fancy slow motion effects as car’s kick up mud and dirt before you head into the main menu, It feels criminal to start with a negative point, but I occasionally found some of the sub-text a little awkward to decipher, on an otherwise well presented menu system, which seems to fit plenty into simplified menu’s without throwing you in at the deep end.

Stepping into your first race and things are a little different, you’re not just dropped in at the deep end, you’re tied to a boulder and thrown in.

You’ll quickly realize this isn’t an arcade experience, the light handling is hard to get to grips with when you’ve been spending time with the weightier cars of Forza or Project Cars, and if you’re lucky enough to make it round the first few bends, it won’t be long before your rolling down a hillside or smashing into a pedestrian.

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After a few practice runs, I stopped questioning the testicular fortitude of the spectators standing so close when I’m driving past and was able to carry the car through the more difficult bends without having to endure a substantial penalty every time.

Even using the realistic driver view, I was suddenly finding myself able to judge the movement far better, and rather than the road tactics of smashing the accelerator as soon as I’d exited a corner, I was being more mindful of the momentum of the car and the road ahead.

With over 40 cars, there’s a real feel to the differences between them, yes they do feel a little light, but whether it’s a modern car, or a classic from the 80’s, Rear, Front or four wheel-drive, they each have their own personality as you wrestle them around the course.

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I’ve always had a habit with racing games, of watching the replay of my first race, back to early Formula 1 game’s, I’ve been hooked on the broadcast quality some games manage to deliver and Dirt Rally doesn’t just match the best, it beats them, Graphically it looks amazing running at a smooth 1080p and 60fps across the board, you’ll be pushed to find any racing game that delivers so much graphical quality, especially when you take into account the complexity of the surrounding areas.

In total there’s of 70 stages, six rally’s, Hill climb and licensed FIA Rally Cross. While I think a Grid style story could have been implemented in some way, there’s still no complaints at the slightly more simple approach of starting with a basic classic car, winning a few races, then slowly buying newer/alternate vehicles to unlock further events.

Although initially, no matter how quickly you get to grips with how to handle the Rally cars, it’s unlikely you’l be winning straight away, maybe a comfortable 4th or 5th, but you’ll need to hone your skills and maybe fiddle with your bits and shakedown a few times before a race if you plan on aiming for the top spot.

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It’s hard to pin point what I liked the most about Dirt Rally, If I wanted to pick fault, I’d maybe look at the delivery of the career mode, or the sometimes tough to read menu text, But these issues are negligible and really very little off the overall product.

But looking at the positives, there’s firstly some amazing graphics and effects, watching the dust kick up behind your vehicle, or trying to navigate through a night course of Sweden with heavy snow and some bust headlights, and after the majority of race’s I’d watch the replay in full, firstly to see if I did take that corner as fast as I thought, but then until completion because they look so good.

Add to this the sound, Dirt Rally doesn’t leave your ears humming by setting the engine sounds to high, and the default balance between the navigator, effects and engine are perfectly toned.

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Onto longevity,  A great racing game will last a lifetime on quality alone, but there’s more than enough races and events to get through and all 3 disciplines feel varied enough and equally fresh and challenging to make the single player content worth the price of admission alone and that’s before you touch the online races but the real highlight is that Dirt Rally comes the closest to actually learning to drive, it’s not until your in the car and loose on the track when you truly start to learn, and it will take you a while before you start to get to grips with the simulation.

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