There are a lot of racing games out there tailored to the hardcore racing crowd, Dirt 5 isn’t one of them. It’s obviously going to be nothing like Dirt Rally, but in many ways it’s even more of an arcade racer than Dirt 4 was as well.
If you want a complex racing game that’ll put your racing skills to the test, Dirt 5 isn’t it. If you want a mellow, forgiving, stripped-down racing game, then Dirt 5 will appeal to you.
As for why I’m going to be reviewing the game positively for the most part, I don’t see it as a negative for a game to be simple, forgettable fun when it’s done correctly like it is in Dirt 5.
Dirt 5 Review | Simple, Yet Effective
I was genuinely surprised by just how much I loved playing Dirt 5, and how I kept wanting to return to the game on a daily basis to play more of the campaign. I was also surprised by how long I’d end up playing the game for.
“A few more races” quickly turned into me playing for several hours. Dirt 5 is a game that can quickly become an addiction, again, because of its simplicity. The races are also less about you doing everything perfectly and more about you bodying other cars to victory.
It’s cruel and hilarious at the same time. For example, there were a number of races where I was able to push virtual AI opponents off cliffs, into walls, or into other AI opponents in order to get ahead. “You’re certainly not making any friends out there,” as the game would say.
The AI opponents aren’t the only ones who can go off cliffs, though. The first time I encountered a map where you could actually drive off a cliff, my clumsy self put that map feature to the ultimate test. RIP to all the cars I sent off cliffs in Dirt 5.
Unlike other racing games, mistakes like this aren’t exactly punishing because the game will simply reset you to the track, kind of like in Mario Kart. You end up losing your lead if you were in first place, but you can also restart a race from the beginning and try again.
I played Dirt 5 on the Xbox Series X and it was extremely quick to restart a race and apply what I learned about the track to my next attempt. It creates this cool effect where you get to see yourself improve in real time.
People who aren’t the best at racing games will really appreciate the way Dirt 5 is not only approachable to play from the beginning, but also great at subtly teaching you how to be better in ways that you can apply to other racing games later on.
Dirt 5 avoids falling into “boring” territory by changing things up. You may end up racing the same map more than once in the campaign, but the second time you encounter the map the road conditions will change from gravel to snow. The third time you encounter the same map, it’ll be at night in the rain.
You can’t approach the map the same way you raced it the first time, or the second time, or the third time. It’s a little disappointing to see the same maps pop up over and over again. Changing the road conditions helps and the game often lets you pick the map you’d like to race on.
Not a fan of maps that make you race on ice? Skip it and race the other option you’re given, or do both. It’s entirely up to you. When playing Dirt 5 on the Series X, the rumble in the controller is wonderful.
It’s not as immersive as it is when playing Forza Horizon 4 where you can really feel the differences in road conditions. However, you can really feel the rev of the engine in the controller, and in the trigger as you’re holding it down.
The game also has a cool feature where it’ll lock up the trigger when you lose control and then come back once you gain traction again. It’s hard to explain, it just feels really good. It’s obviously not going to be as immersive as a steering wheel would be (Dirt 5 doesn’t have wheel support which is a huge dealbreaker to many) but it’s fun enough to play when using the Series X controller.
That said, I will dock points from Dirt 5 for not having steering wheel support at launch. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a game like Dirt 5 to not have wheel support from the start, especially with its $59.99 price tag.
Another potential negative is how the campaign basically forces you to purchase new cars using the virtual money you rack up during the campaign. The better the car, the better you’ll do each race (obviously).
At times it’s a little ridiculous how much faster the best car in each category is in comparison to the cars the AI opponents are driving. People who know me know that I’m extremely biased in my love for the Mitsubishi Lancer.
However, I will say that after I bought and unlocked the 1999 Mitsubishi Lancer in Dirt 5, I absolutely demolished the AI opponents. Every race I used the Lancer in, I won by a large margin, even on the game’s hardest difficulty setting.
It made me sit there and wonder whether I was racing so well based on my own internal bias given the Lancer is my car of choice, or if the car is legitimately overpowered when used in the Rally Stages in Dirt 5.
If it’s the latter, it feels a little unbalanced. Although, to be fair, the Subaru WRX STi keeps up with the Lancer in rally stages like Ultra Cross and Rally Raid without issue.
It’s kind of like how the WRX and EVO kept up with one another in real life before Mitsu made the baffling decision to retire the EVO. If you couldn’t tell, I’m still mad about that. What the hell, Mitsubishi?
While the lineup of vehicles may be somewhat small (though larger than Dirt 4’s lineup), Dirt 5 has a number of interesting options to choose from, all of which are different enough from one another that it’s fun to try and race with most of them.
I loved seeing the 2020 Aston Martin DBX added to Dirt 5 along with some other fun picks like the 2020 Lafitte G-Tec X-Road and the WSC Sprintcar Jupiter Hawk 410.
If you’re uncertain about which car to purchase as you progress through the campaign, you can view their rating in Handling and Performance before you purchase them with S being the best ranking in each category.
The farther you get in the campaign, the harder it becomes to pick a new car to unlock because you’re given more viable options as opposed to the early stages of the campaign where there’s usually one car that’s clearly far better than the rest.
For example, the aforementioned 2020 Lafitte G-Tec X-Road is the best option in its category during the early stages of the campaign. The top AI opponents use it, and when you unlock and race with it, you’ll find it’s much easier to win with it as opposed to the car you’re given to start with.
This is another aspect of Dirt 5 that I didn’t like. I don’t like that purchasing the best car basically seals the deal that you’re going to win (regardless of difficulty setting).
Later on in the campaign when the cars are closer to one another in stats it’s less of an issue, but at the beginning of the game it can cheapen the experience.
Visually, Dirt 5’s graphics are a dream. The game is gorgeous on the Series X and the weather system is implemented extremely well. I love how snow can be blinding, it adds complexity and tension as you worry about messing up a turn by timing things incorrectly.
I also love the addition of the Ice Breaker event where you’re essentially sliding around on ice. It can be a staggering challenge on its own. When weather conditions are added to the mix, things get even crazier. Obviously the races are the most important aspect of the campaign.
The story in the background feels a bit flat and after a while, you start to ignore it. Or at least, I did. I wanted to race, I didn’t want to listen to the game’s story being delivered through verbal narration while hanging out on the map looking at all of the stages I could be racing.
Dirt 5’s multiplayer is a ton of fun and ups the ante as you race against real opponents rather than AI that all tend to follow the same patterns, making them easy to overtake.
You earn in-game currency racing in multiplayer events the same way you earn currency in the campaign which makes it even easier to unlock new cars and cosmetics.
It gives the game longevity past the core campaign, and I feel like most people will end up gravitating towards the multiplayer modes in general.
Another new addition to Dirt 5 is Playgrounds which reminds me a bit of “Create A Park” in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 only with racing tracks. With Playgrounds, you can create your very own racing arenas and add in things like fire rings and loops and make the arena as wild as you like.
If the standard tracks in the campaign aren’t enough to satiate you, Playgrounds lets you make some pretty cool, unique arenas that you’ll love to race on. It works well in Dirt 5 and is surprisingly well executed.
I highly recommend playing around with Playgrounds at least once to get a feel for it. I have a feeling a lot of people will end up liking it as much as I did.
Overall, I feel like Dirt 5 is a huge win despite some of its quirks and flaws. Is it easy? Yes, sometimes almost too much so. It never stops being fun, though.
I didn’t expect to fall in love with Dirt 5 as much as I did, and despite all the hours I’ve already put into the game, I don’t expect to stop playing anytime soon.
Dirt 5 is lighthearted, simple, effective fun that’ll have you racing around again, and again, and again.
- Approachable, simple arcade racing. You’ll have a lot of fun with Dirt 5 even if you aren’t typically a fan of racing games.
- You can navigate through menus and restart a match quickly, especially when playing on a console like the Xbox Series X.
- A solid lineup of vehicles to choose from whether you’re using a classic rally racer like the 1999 Mitsubishi Lancer or a new addition like the 2020 Aston Martin DBX.
- The terrain changes, weather system, and different stages help keep the racing interesting even when maps become repetitive.
- Playgrounds is amazing.
- No steering wheel support at launch.
- The story in the campaign falls flat and ends up feeling pointless.
- Dirt 5 may feel a little too easy for some racing game fans, even when playing on the game’s hardest difficulty setting.