Dirt 5 is the latest installment in the racing franchise, and is once again developed by Codemasters. With some new bells and whistles added to the off-road racer, Dirt 5 looks to put a confident foot forward as it ushers the series into the next generation of consoles. While it’s not a knockout showcase for what next-gen racers can be, it’s more than enough to not be considered a stick in the mud.

Feeling muddy

Dirt 5’s Career mode touts itself as a narrative-driven choose-your-own-adventure, but I can’t say it ever felt that unique. It stars VO veterans Nolan North and Troy Baker as a couple of podcasters that frequently pop up throughout the story, and it was pretty cool to have them involved. Other than that Career mode felt like a bunch of unnecessary bits strung between the stuff that you really want to get to – the races.

What Career mode is good for is showing you the various aspects of Dirt 5. Traveling the world to compete in different events, players will get to see the majority of vehicles, terrain, and weather that Dirt 5 has to offer. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with the world and everything you can get into in this racer.

Next-gen style

Dirt 5 is the first AAA racing title properly optimized on the PS5, as the next Gran Turismo is still a ways away. Because of this, the game had the opportunity to really be the showpiece for how excellent racing games can look on the new hardware, as they so often are. The game allows you to play in modes that either prioritize visual quality or framerate. When playing with graphics prioritized, Dirt 5 is quite pretty. This is particularly the case with lighting and weather effects.

Dirt 5 is the franchise going full-arcade mode, with no shame about it. There’s less depth in the vehicles themselves and their specs, thus limited customization options. Races are exciting and chaotic at times, delivering on the high-octane action of the best arcade racers. While the arcade vibe is fun, it may alienate fans of past franchise entries.

Where Dirt 5 shines the brightest is in its Playgrounds mode. Here, players can create, test and share their own tracks. There’s a wide variety of tools consisting of terrain, ramps, checkpoints, and obstacles that players can craft to make their own unique race track. It’s easy to do, as most pieces will automatically connect and snap together like LEGO bricks.

The only issue I had with the Playgrounds mode is that the adaptive trigger effects on the DualSense are still fully active, even when creating/editing a track. It felt awkward to simply be sorting and placing checkpoints and to feel the pull of the triggers.

Getting down and dirty

While playing on PS5, I was really impressed with how Codemasters integrates the DualSense controller into gameplay. Thanks to the adaptive triggers, I could feel the pull of the vehicle whenever I tried to put the pedal to the metal. When pushing my car to its limits, the vibrations made me feel like an engine was rumbling within my controller. I could even feel the central focus of the vibration shift from side to side as I made sharp turns during a race.

That said, there wasn’t much variety amongst vehicles when it comes to the way they felt and controlled. As far as the DualSense goes, the adaptive trigger tech and vibrations felt the same regardless of the vehicle I was driving, or even the weather. It would’ve blown me away if there was a more nuanced feel to the different cars in Dirt 5.

Photo finish

Dirt 5 is a departure from earlier entries in the series, as it goes full arcade racer. That’s to its credit though, as the actual racing is satisfying and exciting. This means that the vehicles and their customization options feel a bit shallow, which could disappoint some fans. Thanks to an incredible Playgrounds mode and some pretty next-gen visuals, Dirt 5 is a solid offering from Developer Codemasters.

This review is based on a digital download code provided by the publisher. Dirt 5 is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X for $59.99.