Developed by Bigmoon Entertainment, Published by Deep Silver, and based around the Dakar Rally. For those that don’t know the Dakar Rally, it is a rally race that is an off-road endurance event. The terrain that the competitors traverse is much tougher than that used in conventional rallying, and the vehicles used are true off-road vehicles rather than modified on-road vehicles. Dakar 18 is available on Playstation 4, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows.
As the game loads in, you are presented with a very quick, very brief training introduction in the form of your “co-navigator” shouting at you. For me, as a variety gamer, I personally struggled with this as the industry jargon was straight over my head. I persevered on, once I’d been through the brief training, into the first “tutorial” – I found the driving to be realistic, for example getting the tires cluttered and ‘stuck’ in the mud, however I found the game and the overall mechanics to be very clunky. For example, as is common in many driving situations on most games, the right stick allows you to view around the car, left, right, up and down. What it didn’t do on Dakar 18, however, was snap back to front and centre. I drove for almost half of the tutorial trying to align the view of the car and road appropriately, only to realise that if I clicked the right stick in, it would re-align to centre. Whilst only a small thing, it summarises how the training felt, there is a lot of information to take in and it is reasonably poorly delivered to a novice, leaving you to muddle your way through it yourself. Given this games attitude to try and be as realistic as possible, it makes sense then that the mechanics and tools you need to use to drive from waypoint to waypoint are complicated. A slowed down, more in depth training package however, would have been appreciated here.
After completing basic training, I was allowed into the main menu of the game. This gave me three gameplay modes, Adventure, Multiplayer and Explore. I dove into Adventure, still a novice with the control mechanism of Dakar 18, I daren’t go online multiplayer just yet. You are greeted with a choice of which vehicle you choose to start your career with, these being; car, bike, truck, quad or SxS, From there you can choose a real driving team from the actual Dakar rally to play as. I opted for the Spanish duo in the Mini of Nani Roma (Driver) and Alex Haro Bravo (Navigator). Finally I chose my difficulty, Rookie to start. The game took a very long time to load in for the first stage (Pisco, Peru) – almost 2 full minutes.
Once in to the actual game though, expecting the worst from the training tutorial, I was pleasantly surprised. Needless to say, the more time you spend with the mechanics, the better it is to understand them and work with them. The experience was good and I managed to complete the first section in a good time, mainly through me using the navigation tools on the in game overlay. You get a “navigator” if you choose Car, Truck or SxS. My navigator, however, just wanted to shout at me for damaging the car, or driving too fast, or politics, or because his wife hates him. I can see why, all he does is shout. It was disappointing however, that despite the fact that I’d picked a real life Spanish duo to race as, my navigator was speaking in American English. Given the attempt at making this game as closely realistic as possible, that was a key area overlooked in my opinion.
Jumping into Multiplayer, then, seemed like the next natural step. I was given the option to create or join a session, so I joined one. There was only one live session, when reviewed, on a Saturday afternoon. I think if I had reviewed this at another time, there may have been none, and as such no ‘multiplayer’. Anyway, I persevered on to the only online session I could find, titled “Noobster Gaming”. The two of us raced a couple of times, given we were the only two on multiplayer. What’s fair to say with Multiplayer, is much improvement is needed. There were a lot of clipping issues and stutters, lag, and general sluggish behaviour from the game. It made it a very frustrating experience.
The graphics, in all honesty, could be a lot better. The 4K ultra HD world we live in nowadays seems light years away when in Dakar 18. It is clear to see that they have prioritised a real life experience over graphics. The sand dunes, and large areas are nice, certainly not ugly on the eye, however some of the other areas, people, close ups, don’t quite cut it in today’s world. It seems like the graphics and surrounding atmosphere were an afterthought to realism in experience. Not necessarily a bad thing for a rallying fanatic, although for an average gamer, graphics would not be one thing keeping me there. Taking a quick flick into the graphics settings, you are disappointingly only left with brightness as a setting to change, therefore no improvised improvements can be made manually.
The audio in Dakar 18 can be described as adequate, with your navigator screaming at you, its almost feel like you are on a trip to the local supermarket for your shopping. Engine sounds and environmental sounds are all spot on, however in this day and age, you would come to expect nothing less than this.
How long are you going to be playing Dakar 18 for? How long is a piece of string? Personally, I can only see me going back to the game if there is a major patch and something needs us to go over the game again. There are going to be some people that absolutely love the game, this reviewer however, is not one of them.
To summarise, I found my time spent with Dakar to be rather frustrating. The attempt by the creators at putting a realistic experience at the forefront of the game impressed me, even if there were key oversights. Because of that though, other areas of the game were clearly deprived of time, graphics, tutorial, interactivity. Dakar 18 was adequate for the time it took me to review, however unless you are a Rally car enthusiast, the game probably doesn’t hold any kind of longevity and you will find yourself switching over to more trusted games, especially given the real lack of any online community or multiplayer.
Disclaimer: We received a digital code to carry out this review