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Dakar: Desert Rally Review – I’m In Me Mum’s Dakar, Vroom, Vroom (PS5)

Dakar: desert rally review

Dakar: Desert Rally is an interesting beast. Rather than leaning into the convention of either being a simulation of the real life Dakar event, or being more of a user-friendly arcade racer, Dakar: Desert Rally offers both options. It balances the two persuasions pretty well and that balance results in a game that is something of a jack of all trades if its rough edges can be ignored.

Dakar: Desert Rally is out now and is available on Steam, PlayStation and Xbox.

Don’t get me wrong, by rough edges, I am not referring to the way that the game looks. Dakar: Desert Rally is a visually stunning game across the board. Its vehicular models, destruction animations, particle effects and lighting are all stellar sights to behold. There are certain moments in Dakar which are nothing short of visually breathtaking.

Although, the star of the show is undoubtedly the vast desert environment which players find themselves racing across in Dakar: Desert Rally. Not only does it provide a unique sense of scale for a driving game, not only is it thrilling to race across, but it looks damn good whilst satisfying those other parameters.

Dakar: Desert Rally is a gorgeous game to look at.
Dakar: Desert Rally is a gorgeous game to look at.

In terms of Dakar’s ability to exist concurrently as both a realistic simulation game and an accessible arcade racer, it pulls this off by including a range of racing modes which also double up as difficulty settings. Sport is the ideal mode for beginners to get acquainted with Dakar and includes yellow checkpoints within the environment and non-player AI that is beatable whilst the player gets a feel for the five different vehicle classes and their respective control schemes.

Professional and Simulation are the other two modes which players can graduate to after getting comfortable with the game via Sport mode. The two advanced modes feature a more aggressive AI and less HUD features, with Simulation mode feeling more like an orienteering expedition at times than a high-speed race. Although that may initially sound like a negative aspect for a rally game, I actually enjoyed the fresh feel that the added challenge of finding your way towards the end of the race brought with it.

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The previously mentioned five vehicle classes consist of motorbikes, quads, cars, lightweight vehicles and trucks. All of these feel good to drive and have their own unique feel to them. My personal favourite was the motorbike class. Another thing which I appreciated about Dakar: Desert Rally were the generous amount of winnings earned upon each victory. This meant that new advanced cars could be unlocked and tested out with minimal tedium.

The bikes in Dakar: Desert Rally feel great to drive.
The bikes in Dakar: Desert Rally feel great to drive.

The game has received a recent stability patch which has fine-tuned the virtual Dakar experience. The vast majority of the bugs and frame rate drops which plagued the game at launch are now completely gone. Playing in both Performance and Resolution modes on PS5 yielded stable results. I never noticed any major drops in FPS and the only bug that I encountered was the odd minor visual glitch.

Dakar: Desert Rally

The areas in which Dakar: Desert Rally is lacking only really become abundantly clear when you compare it to the other premium virtual rally experience which was released this year; WRC Generations. The area in which Dakar is lacking the most is in its co-driver callouts. The vagueness of these commands can lead to a great deal of frustration when moving at high speeds.

Also read: WRC Generations Review – Generational Rally (PS5)

The other major downside of Dakar: Desert Rally is how contradictory its open world sensibilities are. Even though the game shows you the next checkpoint to race towards and offers you multiple different paths to get there, more often than not, it turns out that there is only one path which isn’t littered with small rocks which when hit immediately cause you to crash and either come off your bike or spin out in your car.

If there is only one safe path which doesn’t involve a reset and a time penalty, then why even offer any of those other paths? It is as if the developers created these multiple pathways to the objective and then decided against the idea, but instead of removing the optional paths, they just littered them with rocks to discourage players from using them. It feels extremely counter-intuitive.

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Overall, Dakar: Desert Rally is a fun virtual racing experience. It manages to adequately feel like both a hardcore simulation game and an accessibly fun time for racing novices. The visuals are also impressive. Given that patches have already dropped improving the game, it is likely that Dakar: Desert Rally will only continually improve as time goes on. Whilst this may not be the perfect rally game at the time of writing, there is every chance that it could be this time next year.

7/10

Dakar: Desert Rally was reviewed on PS5 with a code provided by Sandbox Strategies.

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Written by Daniel Boyd

Daniel is a 27-year-old writer from Glasgow. He graduated from university with an honours degree in 3D Animation, before pivoting to pursue his love for critical writing. He has also written freelance pieces for other sites such as KeenGamer.com and The Big Glasgow Comic Page. He loves movies, video games and comic books.