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23 Jan 2024

REVIEW: Dakar Desert Rally (2024 Video Game) - On Xbox

Review by Jon Donnis
Dakar Desert Rally, developed by Saber Interactive, promised to be the ultimate off-road rally racing adventure, and with its expansive open world and diverse vehicle lineup, it certainly has the potential to be a standout title in the genre. However, the road to greatness is currently marred by some significant bumps and potholes.

Let's start with the positives. The game is visually stunning, with impressive graphics that bring the vast, open-world terrain to life. The seasonal and dynamic weather effects add a layer of realism, making each race a unique and challenging experience. The sound effects contribute to the immersive atmosphere, enhancing the overall gameplay, and I quite like the music too.

The inclusion of real-world courses and licensed vehicles from motorcycles to trucks adds authenticity to the Dakar Rally experience. The larger vehicles, particularly the trucks, stand out as the most enjoyable to drive, providing a surprising twist given the rally's historical focus on cars. The tracks, with multiple routes along semi-linear paths, offer variety and excitement.

However, for every high point, there's a corresponding low. Despite a recent bug fix, frame rate problems persist, and the game occasionally crashes, interrupting the overall experience. Vehicle handling varies, with quad bikes receiving particular criticism for being unwieldy. Cars, the presumed focus of the game, fall short of expectations.

Even in Sport (Arcade) mode, navigation can be confusing, and the checkpoint system is not foolproof. Players may find themselves disoriented, leading to frustrating slowdowns at checkpoints. The crash recovery process is far from seamless, with lengthy loading times detracting from the arcade-style gameplay the developers aimed for. I also found myself turning the HUD off completely as it just became distracting and didn't really help me navigate. Why can't we have a simple on screen map, so we at least know the general direction we should always be heading in?

The recently released USA Tour DLC adds a vast new map inspired by iconic American landmarks, but the focus on expanding content raises questions about prioritizing fixes for existing issues. 

"The premium USA Tour DLC introduces a vast, 256-square-kilometer map spanning the Great American West and Southwest, letting drivers explore incredible locations inspired by renowned landmarks like the Grand Canyon, Nevada desert, and Yellowstone National Park! Experience the thrill of 20 new stages in Sport game mode and 12 stages in Professional game mode in competitive rally raids. With 140 new treasures out there to discover, are you up for the challenge?" - Dakar Desert Rally’s USA Tour DLC is available now for Season Pass owners. It can also be purchased separately for 8.99 GBP | 9.99 EUR | 9.99 USD.

The potential for greatness is there, but the current state of the game feels like a missed opportunity.

In conclusion, Dakar Desert Rally is a game with immense potential that is currently hindered by technical issues and gameplay shortcomings. The dedication of the developers to releasing updates and fixes gives hope for improvement over time. If you're willing to be patient and trust in the ongoing support, Dakar Desert Rally could eventually evolve into a fantastic addition to your racing game collection. However, for those seeking a polished experience immediately, it might be wise to wait until the dust settles. In its present form, Dakar Desert Rally earns a generous 7 out of 10, acknowledging its potential while recognizing the hurdles it must overcome to reach it.

Out now on Xbox

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