DiRT Rally 2.0 is almost here, and it's fair to say that we're up for whatever brutal challenges it has in store for us. The follow-up to the brilliantly difficult racer promises plenty of new tracks, features, and mechanics for us to sink our teeth into. We spoke with Jon Armstrong, real life rally driver and developer Codemasters' in-house Rally Consultant, who gave us the rundown on how get to grips with the game and have challengers eating our dust.
1. With handling, get back to basics
For anyone who played the first DiRT Rally game, you'll be unsurprised to learn that realism is once again front and centre. This is very much reflected in the handling, which has once again been tweaked to closely resemble the real thing.
"With DiRT Rally 2.0 we've really focused on bringing the most authentic rally driving experience ever, so much like the real thing, your driving needs to be precise," Armstrong explains. "Starting off, the best thing to do is to try and learn the basic manoeuvres that are required to drive a rally car. These skills include acceleration and throttle control, straight line braking, handbrake turns, and weight transfer, to name a few."
2. Take it slow on loose surfaces
A new addition to DiRT Rally 2.0 is loose surface handling. It's only fair to expect a dirt road to become worn after tons of metal and rubber chew it up, so Codemasters have now included a feature in which the ground becomes looser and more difficult to maneuver as the race goes on. How should you tackle this brand new feature?
"At first, slow is fast," Armstrong says. "It's easy to be over-committed with the gravel surfaces in DiRT Rally 2.0, but I'd recommend to start off driving slowly, and within your limits. Increase your speed gradually as you start to learn the grip levels, and balance the car with your throttle and brake inputs."
3. Be prepared to make mistakes in Career Mode
Practice makes perfect, and this is especially the case when beginning life as a rally driver. DiRT Rally 2.0's comprehensive new Career Mode offers a chance to make this journey yourself, but first, you should be prepared (and willing) to fail.
"You'll begin your career with two starter cars: one for rally, and one for rallycross. These cars are great, because the repairs for them are free, which means you should use them to get used to the handling – mistakes in these cars are not going to cost you anything but time," Armstrong explains. "You should aim to use these as much as you can at the start of your career to earn credits and upgrades. Then, once you've gotten the majority of mistakes out of the way, and you're more comfortable behind the wheel, you can look to expand your garage.”
4. If you're using a rig, hit the settings
A racing rig can be a great way to bring a game to life, and with DiRT Rally 2.0's emphasis on realism, it can be an even better way to experience the game's nuances. To get the most of it however, you should be prepared to tinker.
"Focus on tuning the force feedback settings and wheel settings to suit your driving style. A racing rig will enhance your experience with DiRT Rally 2.0, as it gives the sensation of sitting in a real cockpit, and allows you to be more precise," Armstrong suggests. "Particularly with pedals, it's a lot easier to feather the throttle and have more nuanced inputs on the acceleration and brakes."
5. Low powered cars can help you learn
When you first dive into a racing game, it's always tempting to opt for the most powerful vehicle straight off the mark. The lure of a vehicle with enough horsepower to turn any track to dust is a strong one, but it's not the most sensible choice if you're hoping to get good. Armstrong suggests a more pared back approach.
"I recommend beginning with a low powered front wheel drive car, such as the R2 class. The Ford Fiesta R2 is a great place to start. It's very easy to get to grips with, and it's a great car to learn the basics of rally driving with. If you want to start improving your times, patience is a virtue. It sounds simple, but to get better and good at DiRT Rally 2.0, you just have to practice and enjoy the process of learning. This will require patience, but it's totally worth it."
6. Suss out the competition in rallycross
DiRT Rally 2.0 now boasts a glut of rallycross content, including eight tracks from the 2018 FIA World Rallycross Championship. This requires a different set of tactics from regular races however, so how can you come out on top?
"When you begin racing in rallycross, you need to be aware of your competitors. Rallycross is a contact sport, and you need to be ready to react to their behaviour," Armstrong says. "Also look out for the Joker lap, which is a slightly longer lap that needs to be taken once per race. It's important tactically to take it at the right time, because when you take it can make or break your race."
7. Keep your ears open
In DiRT Rally 2.0, racing isn't a solo pursuit. Sure, you'll need reactions of a cat, and an impeccable sense of timing, but you'll also need to be willing to take advice if you're going to get the most from the game.
"Listen to your co-driver. They're there for a reason, and that's to describe the road ahead of you in as much detail as possible, including where you should slow down and speed up. This will make it much easier to make it through each stage in one piece," Armstrong advises.
DiRT Rally 2.0 will be released for PC, Xbox One, and PS4 on February 26.