Dirt 5 review – enjoyably old school arcade racing

Dirt has been many things in its lifetime, but here’s a first: a mainline entry developed outside of Codemasters’ Southam campus as its Cheshire studio takes point, giving us the series’ trademark raucous off-roading through an all-new filter. The results are fascinating, if not always entirely convincing. With the Dirt Rally series picking up the more serious and sim-minded point-to-point action, Dirt 5 is a pure arcade racer, packed full of spectacle and a smattering of smart ideas, and while some parts ring a little hollow, others can still leave one hell of an impression.

It’s a multidisciplinary racer, and a patchwork of different influences, but by far the biggest is Dirt 2 – that loudest, most raucous of Dirt games, with its music festival framework that the original Dirt 2 team would go on to develop further with the Forza Horizon series. In Dirt 5, that festival vibe pervades – you’re given a customisable lanyard and access to a lattice of various events split over five chapters, all underscored by a light story headed up by Nolan North and Troy Baker.

Don’t run away just yet, though. If it sounds a little off then it most definitely is, and if you were concerned that Dirt 5’s initial announcement led with this bizarre little inclusion, I totally get it. So I’m pleased to say it’s almost entirely inconsequential, confined to some light babbling in the background hosted by Donut Media’s James Pumphrey and Nolan Sykes, with North and Baker making what amounts to cameos in a series of podcasts (there’s a further cameo from W Series champion Jamie Chadwick, who does a sterling job of pretending to phone in from a festival in Nevada). It all builds to a showdown that can’t help but feel a mite anti-climactic, though I’m more than okay with that.

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