"Dirt 4" first play review: dirty, demanding, and damn good fun Page 2

While I'm quite happy to prattle on about Career mode, “Dirt 4” wouldn't be worth the time if the gameplay wasn't enjoyable. And it is, once you get the settings right.

Trial And (Many) Errors

When you first start your driver training at the Dirtfish school, “Dirt 4” prompts you to choose between Gamer or Simulation handling styles. Simulation mode, unsurprisingly, is far more challenging.  

I ran one of the game's short, early stages in Gamer and again in Simulation and I was more than 9 seconds slower in Sim. The car feels far much more sensitive, reacting to bumps and the road surface more dramatically, while steering inputs require a more precise touch.

Simulation is where “Dirt 4's” physics really shine. When your co-driver calls out “over bumps” in Gamer mode or you see a loose gravel course, you can basically ignore it, but in Sim, you do so at your peril. The car dances aimlessly on washboards in Sim, particularly through bends, and it's much more willing to slide. “Dirt 4's” in-game physics are nearly as ruthless as in the real-world. But the dirt is only one element to contend with—snow and tarmac courses pop up in some of the game's other locations, just waiting to force drivers to relearn everything about their car.

Cheers Codemasters: Gamer and Simulation are perfectly balanced between accessibility and challenge.

Once you've hammered out your handling style, you can select from a range of driver assistance settings, but the most important one is how your co-driver reads out pace notes. Codemasters provides a simple slider for pace notes—move left for earlier and right for later. It's the most important setting in the game.

Finding the right setting for your personnel driving style takes a lot of trial and error. My slider, for example, sits almost exactly between the midway point and the Later side of the scale, otherwise I have a difficult time associating the pace notes with the actual features on the track.

A word about inputs: Yup, steering wheel and pedals help. No, "Dirt" doesn't require one—especially in Gamer mode.

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