In 1998, my world changed forever. Father Christmas delivered a PlayStation bundle that came with TOCA 2 Touring Cars and Colin McRae Rally, something I’d been pining after – read: pestering my parents about – for quite some time.
Playing CMR every day after school, I’d also watch the BBC rally reports, desperately refresh Ceefax 365 to read the latest results and read about Subarus in car magazines. It’s easy to see how important the phlegmatic World Rally Champion of 1995 was to me growing up.
2020 marks the 25th anniversary of that WRC victory, which was eulogised again through special Absolute Rally podcast episodes and a Chris Harris feature on Top Gear.
In a timely fashion, the original developers of the Colin McRae Rally, Codemasters, has released the new ‘Colin McRae: FLAT OUT’ DLC pack for Dirt Rally 2.0. Recreating Colin’s motorsport career, it adds 40 new challenges to the game alongside two new cars and one new stage location in the form of Scotland.
If you own any of the season pass permutations – Year One Pass, Deluxe Content Upgrade or Deluxe Content 2.0 Bundle – or if you have purchased the Dirt Rally 2.0 Game of the Year Edition, Deluxe Edition or Super Deluxe Edition, then this addition is free. On the other hand, if you’ve just grabbed up the standard game for free as part of the PlayStation Plus April offerings, you can buy the Colin McRae content for an extra £7.99. While it’s a generous freebie for most people who’ve bought DLC content, it all feels a bit confusing, which is unfortunate.
Across the tribute events, you will be rallying across the globe in chronological order, split into four distinct eras. Starting in 1984 and ending in 2006, ex-rally driver and current rallycross journalist Andrew Coley voices poignant introductions for each section and how the scenarios represent a moment in the sporting career of Scotland’s most successful rally driver. It’s filled with lovely touches, bringing back memories of valiant wins or, as so often was the case with Colin, a technical problem or crash from pushing the limits.
The brand new stages set in Perth and Kinross are stunning. Narrow, difficult and fast, the environment is strewn with errant logs and deep ditches to catch out the unwary. The quicker sections are through tree-lined roads, really adding to the sense of speed. You can build up a nice rhythm, flowing from one corner to the next.
The new cars you will be playing these rallies with are the Subaru Legacy RS and the Subaru Impreza S4. I believe there is nothing more iconic in rallying than the distinctive sound emanating from a Legacy whilst thundering across the UK moorland. To have the virtual opportunity to drive this car with that unique, bellowing, engine noise is some kind of motorsport nirvana for me. Meanwhile, the Impreza S4 is iconic as the car that adorned the front cover of the original CMR game 22 years ago.
These new vehicles are used alongside existing cars in the game that Colin drove, now with suitable liveries applied. Think the MG Metro 6R4, Ford Focus RS Rally 2001 and Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500 alongside a few others.
As you would expect, the driving is the same as Dirt Rally 2.0. That is to say it’s hard as nails and not for everyone. This is very definitely a rally simulator and will most likely put off those not looking to invest ten hours perfecting a single 5 mile stage. Initially wrought with frustration, putting enough effort in reveals the best vehicle handling in rally game ever. I love it, but then the game is aimed at me. Casual racing fans should look elsewhere.
Clearly, this is coming from a mega rally fan and a Colin McRae disciple. But even so, Flat Out is not without flaws. Chiefly, this is to do with the post-release DLC strategy for Dirt Rally 2.0. After launching with a somewhat paltry number of environments, there have been four seasons of post-release DLC before this latest addition. Codemasters added many new rallycross cars and tracks through this process, which is great, but, on the rally side, all the stages were spruced up re-releases from first 2016 Dirt Rally game.
I would estimate that 80 percent of the events within Flat Out are on stages you’ve already played across the original Dirt Rally, 2.0 and, in the case of the Spanish stages, Dirt 4. Once the sheen of the new cars and Scottish stages has worn off, you are left with a bit of a trudge through well-trodden terrain.
When the new tracks are so great, it makes you realise the missed opportunity to utilise the creative talent at Codemasters for creating better value for game add-ons.
How much you enjoy of Colin McRae: Flat Out depends on how much you’ve been playing Dirt recently. If you’ve just downloaded the game from PS Plus or during a recent sale and you’ve been having fun, then the best way to play through all the stages is by purchasing this new pack. If you’re a loyal Dirt customer getting it for free, you will enjoy the presentation and the new additions, but you may grow weary of stage repetition.
Still, the Subaru Legacy RS, in the rain, on the Newhouse Bridge stage. There’s no other gaming experience like it.