During Gamescom, we were invited by Saber Porto to discover the next Dakar Desert Rally, which is scheduled for release on October 04, 2022 on Xbox One, Xbox Series, PC, PS4 and PS5. Four years after Dakar 18, the Portuguese studio, inhabited by a very great ambition, offers us its new version of the legendary rally-raid event. If in 2018 Dakar offered a very interesting experience in terms of navigation via a roadbook, the title suffered from dated production and chaotic physical driving.
Farewell to Argentina, Peru and Chile featured in Dakar 18, this time it’s time for the magnificent landscapes of Saudi Arabia. Since the 2020 event, the Dakar has set up its bivouac in the Middle East. Saber Porto has therefore created a new open world offering extreme and varied environments, enhanced by the presence of dynamic weather. On the program, more than 30 stages from the 2020, 2021 and 2022 Dakar races with vehicles (cars, motorcycles, trucks, quads and SSVs), teams and drivers under official license, will be playable in multiplayer and solo modes.
Due to limited time, we were only able to play two Dakar Desert Rally events. However, the lived experience won us over and we look forward to being able to test this new opus in depth when it is imminently released. Dakar Desert Rally has everything to become the nice surprise of the year in terms of racing games.
A welcome arcade mode!
Our first race was in the Sport difficulty mode. First level of difficulty of the game, this mode represents a real revolution for the franchise. Indeed, unlike Dakar 18, Sport mode this time offers a fully arcade gaming experience with very simplified navigation and races that compete directly against other drivers and not against time. This choice assumed by the developers offers frenzied races where fun seems omnipresent.
Driving the SSV of former MotoGP rider Carlos Checa, our 8-minute race was intense and full of twists and turns. The latter consisted of joining crossing points marked by yellow halos in our field of vision, to the finish line. In this mode, particularly suitable for neophytes or arcade racing enthusiasts, we were able to rub shoulders with our opponents, push them into error, or suffer their lightning. By not needing to keep an eye on the road book, nor to pay attention to the indications of our co-pilot, we were able to focus all our attention on the physics of the buggy and the quality of the realization.
Excellent news, Dakar Desert Rally seems on these points to be light years away from its predecessor. The SSV responded perfectly to our inputs and the physics of the vehicles seemed consistent. Above all, we remained in control of our car, despite some marked damage following our collisions. Certainly, we were not at the level of a Wreckfest, but the experience was very satisfying for a first discovery. Dakar 18 owners know that driving was its big downside, with vehicles that could stall even in a straight line on a safe road.
On the production side, the test we rode was attractive and convincing, with the presence of a canyon at the start and then a final in a rather desert area. The light and particle effects embellished scenery that was very pleasing to the eye, at high speed. We were also surprised by the possibility of using shortcuts in certain places. We were thus able to take an elevated route compared to the main road, on the side of the mountain, which ended in a dead end… unless we performed a formidable leap of death from a wing of a wrecked plane . In the absence of realism, our pleasure in overtaking a few competitors via this desperate maneuver was intense. This little trip in arcade mode has perfectly fulfilled its role.
The rally-raid: a truly unique experience
Let rally-raid fans be reassured, the Professional and Simulation difficulty modes are still in the game with the same degree of rigor and realism from Dakar 18. In these two modes, we find the spirit and the rules so specific to rally-raids, where a sense of direction and an expert reading of the road book play an essential role (even more so for motorcycles and quads where we don’t have oral help from the co-pilot).
Our second race took place in Professional mode and we found there all the flavor of a rally-raid event. Still at the wheel of Carlos Checa’s SSV, we quickly found ourselves struggling to find our way, amidst the hubbub of Hall 4.2 of the Koelnmesse and our discussion with one of the game’s developers. our co-pilot (in French) allowed us somehow to reach the finish but in a pitiful place in the final classification. In this mode, driving the SSV was intended to be more realistic; the constraints of the environment more intensely influenced the behavior of our vehicle. According to the studio, we will have to practice our skills on other rally-raids before being able to embark on the mythical Dakar event.
Our playing time was nevertheless too short to get a precise idea of the possibilities of Dakar Desert Rally, but knowing well the episode published in 2018, we are already aware of the great leap forward offered by Saber Porto. The title seems really promising and suitable for a wider audience: fans of the franchise with the Professional and Simulation modes and neophytes via the complete overhaul of the Sport mode and its very arcade gameplay. Our flying experience has been very reassuring, to the point that we are eagerly awaiting the final game. We can’t wait to experience the quality of this new open world and the gameplay of the other categories of vehicles.