Set in the snow and ice of the Varmland region of Sweden, Winter Wonderland is the latest update for Codemasters rally simulator, Dirt Rally, delivering even more off-road goodness for what is already a finely tuned beast of a game, one that puts all other rally titles to shame – not to mention a few of those more well known tarmac racers out there.

To begin these snow-filled stages are known for their snow banks and by using Codemasters new “soft edge tech” that simulates the density of snow Sweden’s stages are incredibly authentic, so much so that as with the sport proper you can lean on the snow banks when pushing for those all important quick stage times. Yes, this is impressive stuff.

I have to admit that even while now being fully accustomed to the games steep learning curve I was a tad apprehensive as I chose to take the powerful 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI out onto the icy roads of Sweden for the first time, but Codemasters robust handling model continues to deliver the goods no matter what is thrown at it and after a few miss-starts I was soon powering my way around a night-time woodland track leaving plumes of white powdery snow in my wake.

 

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Sweden’s snow and ice stages require absolute concentration and lighting fast reflexes to see success in the field. As it should be.

 

Since my review back in April, (when the game was still in early-access), Codemasters have continued to fine tune and tighten up Dirt Rally to the point that it sets a new bench mark in racing simulators and”Winter Wonderland” is without doubt the finest take on Rally Sweden ever in a video game.

With the twisting, dangerously narrow tarmac stages of Germany and the high flying, woodland roads of Finland being added into the mix a couple of months prior, along with  a few new game modes, (which include a full Rally Cross Championship featuring multiple contenders on a track at one time as opposed to the traditional race against the clock, a Hill Climb Tournament and an online league), Dirt Rally has become the essential rally title for any fan of the sport. Period.

 

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Whether using a control pad or a wheel, head-cam is the only true way to play Dirt Rally.

 

My closing comments in my earlier review stated “if this is what they have to offer so far then the finished article could be simply astonishing” and that is exactly what Dirt Rally has become – astonishing.

Dirt Rally looks great, it plays wonderfully and while unquestionably punishing the sense of achievement it delivers when you “nail it” is simply thrilling. Yes the bench mark has most certainly been raised and even for the team at Codemasters, Dirt Rally will be a hard act to follow.

Dirt Rally is utterly superb and points to a developer that is definitely back to doing what they do best. You’d be a fool to pass it up.

(Original review)