Tinker 'til you win

In fact, there’s all sorts that you can play with in Dirt 4. Codemasters likes players to get involved, and Dirt 4 delivers involvement in spades. 

Pace note delivery, for example, can be tweaked to be quicker or slower, depending on your preference, reaction times and the car you’re driving. 

As in Dirt Rally, there’s also a seemingly ceaseless array of options for adjusting your motor. From brake bias to damping to ride height, Dirt 4 lets you take it as seriously as you want to.

Better still, those tweaks pair with the realism and reactive game mechanics to actually make a difference, subtly but surely.

In fact, Dirt 4 feels like a game that you might never master. I was only given access to one rally stage and I didn’t get bored playing it for two hours, as I tinkered, adjusted and played with my car’s setup to try and chase those extra seconds. Between car setup and driver difficulty, this is a game that could steal months of your life.

More modes, more fun

As if that wasn’t all enough, Dirt 4 will also come with more vehicles, tracks and race modes than ever before.

The ever-popular Landrush mode will return - in which crazily powerful buggies race around short tracks over huge bumps - with more adherence to the real sport. We gave it a go and it’s the sort of fun that could see an evening disappear. That’s not to say it’s easy, mind.

There’ll be multiplayer, too, though we weren’t able to try it, while new feeder series will make an appearance, with the likes of Cross Karts on offer - alongside historic cars and new courses in Spain, Montenegro, France and elsewhere.

Like the Colin McRae games of old, players will also be able to make use of a rally school to hone their skills before stepping into the big leagues. It wasn’t ready for our hands-on, but it's emblematic of the focus on getting everyone and anyone into the addictiveness of rally - and, seeing how impressive Dirt 4 was even with our limited play time, that’s a worthwhile pursuit.

The early verdict

Yes, there was plenty that we weren’t able to try - in fact, our racing was a mere speck in the dust - and, when it ships in June, the latest Dirt game will have even more on offer to tempt rally fans.

Even at this early stage, though, all of the ingredients are there for Dirt 4 to become a franchise classic.

Gripping graphics. Realistic physics. Gameplay elements that genuinely surprise and feel closer to real than anything before. It feels less like a game and more like Codemasters has built an excellent gaming engine, laid out the elements and let players choose their form of fun. 

Throw in a genuinely immersive progress gradient and the sort of adjustability that keeps both real rally drivers and novices in thrall, and there’s every chance that Dirt 4 will set a new standard for fast-and-sideways fun.