RACING simulation games have always been close to my heart since playing them as a child.
Feeling the freedom and adrenaline as you speed through fantastic worlds is just the greatest feeling for me as a gamer and as technology has developed, so have my expectations of its performance while playing these games.
When I first launched Dakar Desert Rally on my Xbox Series X, I was in awe of this game’s beauty and excited to play it.
Developers Saber Porto have done a fantastic job with the environment and aesthetics of the game – it’s warm and inviting ,and makes me feel like I am really in Saudi Arabia racing in a real life Dakar Rally competition.
On first glance the experience through the game is pleasurable and exotic, the mountainous dunes and bodies of water make the environment feel vast.
The environment reportedly come in at 20,000sq km– what Saber Porto has described as the biggest racing game open world ever. I am looking forward to getting full scope of the games size when free-roam driving and custom events arrive as updates later this year.
Sadly, the beauty of the game is not enough to distract from the less than ideal gameplay.
I have played many race simulations and the fact that on Xbox Series X, Dakar Desert Rally’s Resolution Mode actually looks smoother than its Performance Mode is concerning.
In Resolution Mode the framerate should maintain a steady 30 frames per second, and that consistency keeps it looking suitably smooth.
Performance Mode, which is means you sacrifice pixels for frames, looks terrible on this console. 60 frames per second may exist when conditions are optimal (no other vehicles around and clear weather) but it definitely does not hold.
Competitor vehicles seem to come from nowhere and when they collide with one another they glitch and stutter. The resulting unevenness is quite dreadful and distracting at times, and creates a less than an ideal rally experience.
Another thing that needs mentioning is the handling mechanics. Dakar Desert Rally includes an impressive assortment of rally vehicles showcasing various classes, and has a very good damage model.
Unfortunately there’s also a massive disproportion between what’s fun to drive and what absolutely isn’t. Quads are difficult to ride and extremely sensitive to directional changes. Bikes are mildly better, but still get out of control by seemingly small disturbances while driving. There’s a slight improvement in cars and side-by-sides, but really those should be the best to handle.
The overall weight distribution while driving in a straight line is acceptable however anything beyond the slightest bit of oversteer is a write off. Some tuning can help, by adding some angle to the steering, however overall the vehicles are incapable of countersteering out of even the slightest of drifts. Once you’re slightly sideways, you will spin out of control.
I also faced a few of the small bugs including the scratches and shattered windscreen on some of my vehicles never completely going away regardless of how many times I pay for repairs, or the music still being audible on 0% volume.
Another large issue which frustrated me to no end was the autosave issue, where progress in the game is disappearing after quitting, despite the autosave icon blinking away throughout. I did think it couldn’t get worse, but then the online playing mode did not function when I tried it and timed out when looking for online drivers.
Outside of aesthetics, there is a lot to like in this game. Car tuning and repairs are a fairly simplified system that you can access between events as well as between races inside of events. Repairing can be annoying at times, as you may simply forget (like it did a few times) and end up racing with an already damaged vehicle. Purchasing different vehicle types also doesn’t take forever like some other games in the genre, so you can start experimenting with different vehicles almost immediately.
My overall feelings of the game are lacklustre. I had high hopes for this game, considering it is made in Unreal Engine 5, and it has fallen short.
In saying this, I do hope they are able to patch the game as it has great potential for a rich and diverse simulation rally racing experience. It’s an ambitious game to get completely perfect straight away and competing with games that are leaders in the market is tough.