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Dirt 5 Review: A Nostalgic Comeback (XB1)

The all new Colin McRae's Dirt 5 delivers an exceptional rally arcade with beautiful sceneries and hardcore racing across 5 different continents. The new Dirt 5, a successful successor to Dirt 4, gives a nostalgic experience from Dirt 3. However, it may be lacking of certain features to make the game fully enjoyable.

Dirt 5 Review: A Nostalgic Comeback (Xbox One)

Codemasters’ newly released Dirt 5 is the first rally arcade released for the new-generation consoles, bringing 63 unique cars and 70 unique routes at 10 different locations. Hit the road in one of the most iconic vehicles and progress through an extensive career mode. Unlock new liveries, decals, in-game money and customise your favorite rally monsters. The game offers plenty of great features, both offline and online, and is an entertaining way to spend your time. This year has definitely been the year for racers and this is another addition to the arcade racing collection. However, the game’s realism is adjustable, thus giving the best of both worlds! 

Dirt 5 is available on the Xbox store, Playstation store and Steam. You can also buy it on Green Man Gaming to support our website financially. 

DIRT 5 | Official Launch Trailer | Out Now

Story – Simple and Nostalgic

Dirt 3 and Dirt 5 have significant similarities, as if the game has been inspired by previous titles. It offers a long-lasting career mode that reminds of how you progressed through the third game. The more progress you make through the career, the more special events will be unlocked. Along your journey, you will also be able to receive credits and unlock certain liveries to obtain on your vehicles. When starting the journey, you won’t go through a phase where they guide you on how to play each game modes. Instead, you’ll be thrown directly into a car and race against the AI, and so the rest of the career won’t be any different. But you have the option to change and apply new sponsors for your driver. By that way, you can earn more in-game money. 

However, the game clearly has a different focus apart from previous titles. It’s more multiplayer based than previously and that’s understandable considering online gaming has become so popular recently. But also, playing career mode in local multiplayer is a great feature that other racing game developers should take inspiration from. In case you’re bored of playing alone, you can hand a second controller to a friend or a sibling and still progress through your career. That was the childhood dream for many players. This is one of the very few racing games where it’s possible. 

Gameplay – Plenty of smiles per miles

Not realistic handling but you'll have blast around the circuits

Not realistic handling but you’ll have blast around the circuits

The game gives a nostalgic feeling which is highly appreciated. The franchise has gone back to its roots, providing more of an arcade style in terms of handling and visuals. It feels like we’re back in the Dirt 3 days because it’s structured the same way. The way you progress and the features are similar. The developers have given players the opportunity to explore different locations around the globe in rough terrain. Unlike the older rally games, this one has involved more culture by adding typical buildings or objects that define each location. Norway has blizzards and the stunning aurora borealis, while Brazil features the statue of Christ of Redeemer with colorful buildings from the slums next to the track. It’s pure eye candy.

Whilst career mode races are mostly set in real-world locations, Codemaster came up with this brilliant idea to add the “playground” feature. It allows players to build their own tracks and share with other people so that we’re not stuck with the same tracks made by the developers. Similar to what Forza Horizon 4’s blueprint is, but it’s more in-depth. You may add objects and create the ultimate obstacle course.

Rally buggies in a head-to-head battle

Rally buggies in a head-to-head battle

The difficulty of handling the cars depends on your assists, but generally, it’s somewhat difficult. Playing on a gamepad with no assists whatsoever is tricky, neither is it very realistic. But realism isn’t the focus here since it’s an arcade racer. Adding assists is necessary because some vehicles such as sprint cars are rather hard to operate around corners. Otherwise, you’ll spin out. What makes racing even more difficult is the AI’s awareness. Racing against AI is quite funny and makes the game even more challenging because they’re not trying to avoid other cars. It’s almost a demolition derby out on the tracks. They will, without a single doubt, randomly smash into your rear, but that’s just a part of racing. They tend to crash into the same corners every lap as well. Nevertheless, turning up the AI difficulty will actually provide some epic battles on track, despite them crashing into you every now and then. 


After 3 hours of gameplay, I have experienced different bugs that caused the game to crash. The game crashed three times, whereof two of the times the whole console shut down on its own. Whether it’s the game causing these crashes or the console, I have never experienced such frequent crashes with other games. The whole console crashing seems strange, as with both times, I was playing the ice breaker races. There seems to be something special about these races which causes the crashing.

When accessing photo mode, the graphics may sometimes be very bugged. Sometimes it does not display text which prevents me from seeing what I’m actually doing. But when that happens, black boxes get stuck on the screen (luckily it’s only temporary). As soon as it happens, I have to restart the game.

Bugged photo mode in Dirt 5, causing black boxes to appear

Bugged photo mode in Dirt 5, causing black boxes to appear

Apart from these bugs, the game is generally entertaining but you may spot weird bugs such as sand dust occurring in snowy weathers. Perhaps you might find cars twitching on the podium but it’s nothing that affects the driving experience. 

Multiplayer update is a must

The multiplayer function has lost its purpose. It’s always fun playing with your pals and getting into an intense head-to-head battle. The less fun part comes when you cross the finish line. There’s no desirable reward for the winner which did not attract me to continue playing online. I’ve been playing this franchise for years, almost a decade now. By far, Dirt 3 is the most entertaining game when it comes to online as it featured great game courses, but also exclusive and fun rewards. The game modes were more extended and you would have the opportunity to operate as a team. As much as we love racing against other players around the globe, there’s just no meaning in entering online. Exclusive online rewards could attract us to continue playing. The same thing goes for the playground feature (races created by the community), except you don’t earn anything by completing these kinds of races. There’s a lot of potential in this game, but it’s just missing some content.

Legendary Peugeot 205 in an ice breaker race

Legendary Peugeot 205 in an ice breaker race

Audio – Slight downgrade, still great

One highly requested feature in racing games are realistic sounds. It’s like music to most car nerds and makes the racing experience much greater. Codemasters never let us down when it comes to sound. Every title developed by the studio has high-quality audio that is very accurate. In Dirt 5’s case, it might be a slight downgrade as the engine sounds are less aggressive, but also less accurate. Nonetheless, the studio nailed the roaring V8 engines. It’s always nice having a realistic-sounding car. It’s a great part of the driving pleasure.

The music has changed beat! It’s more intense music than previously. The soundtrack contains around 50 songs and it’s a mix of rock/pop with a higher beat and some other songs are calm, indie-like songs. Nothing famous or anything that I’ve heard before. Not much to say about the music since we all have different tastes in that. Some people will like the music, some others won’t.

Graphics – Astonishing and attractive

The graphics are wild and exciting. Thunderstorm is a game changer.

The graphics are wild and exciting. Thunderstorm is a game changer.

The fifth game of the franchise is a fantastic looking game with realistic and dramatic weather options which is one of the biggest positives for this game. Previous titles came with snowstorms and heavy rain, but Dirt 5 is on a completely different level. Even though it may seem a bit more cartoonish than previous games, it’s the level of detail that matters and it’s absolutely insane. Might even be the reason why my console crashed a few times. You just want to stop by the track and watch the storm with a beautiful aurora borealis in the background. Never have I experienced such fantastic graphics in a video game before.

Despite the graphics being absolutely phenomenal, the game comes with an option to lower graphics. It may be there for a reason and should be applied for the Xbox One consoles, perhaps PlayStation 4 consoles as well. As the game isn’t working properly for me but probably for other players, the quality cut is definitely needed in some cases. Especially when playing online, you do not want the game to crash. Otherwise, FPS drops aren’t very frequent, but it may occur at some points. While you’re not experiencing these issues, make sure to enjoy the rallying and, of course, the fantastic view.

Dirt 5 was reviewed on the Xbox One.

All in all, it's playable and enjoyable; however, the game will need some more content and definitely more bug fixes in future updates. In other words, it's not entirely polished. Although it may not be polished, it's highly recommended for arcade racers, no doubt about that. If you've been on Forza Motorsport or Project CARS 3 before, then this might be something for you. Great track layout and astonishing graphics makes the game special. Dirt veterans may also recognise the similarities between this and the older games.
  • Appealing graphics and very detailed
  • Great variety of vehicles
  • Long lasting thanks to the playground and career mode
  • Nostalgic as it somewhat reminds of Dirt 3
  • Overall very buggy
  • Needs more online features and rewards
  • AI are crashing into you often

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