One of the most renowned American racing motorsports, the World of Outlaws hasn’t had video game relevance in more than a decade. While the name has been featured in esports on the iRacing platform in recent years, this top-level dirt racing series hasn’t had a proper official game since way back in 2010.
Yes, you read that right… the popular PC simulation, iRacing, has jumped into the publishing business and now has its name tied with a console-only racing game.
This isn’t iRacing, however, it’s something that more closely resembles the more recent releases from Monster Games, those of which include SRX: The Game, Tony Stewart’s Sprint Car Racing, Tony Stewart’s All American Racing, and before all of that, NASCAR Heat 4.
While it’s got that vibe from all of those games, this is noticeably, and mercifully, different. There are still plenty of hints to the old Monster Games, but it’s like iRacing was able to come in there and polish it up to be something that’s complete and worth spending money on.
“You wanted the best, you got them four abreast! Often imitated, never duplicated, the greatest show on dirt, the World of Outlaws!”
That’s the famous line from the famous World of Outlaws announcer Johnny Gibson, the voice you’ll hear throughout the new game.
The authenticity is present and it contributes to World of Outlaws: Dirt Racing being a huge step forward for racing games based around American motorsports.
Let me tell you why.
IT DOESN’T FEEL LIKE DIRTY ASPHALT ANYMORE
In previous Monster Games titles, it wasn’t, dare I say, “fun” to drive. Well, not as fun. In World of Outlaws: Dirt Racing, they’ve managed to make the way the car handles both more realistic and more fun, and that’s whether you use a controller or a wheel.
I tested the game out with both a PlayStation 5 DualSense Controller and a Logitech G29. While it’s great to be able to wheel it with an actual wheel, this game makes me feel like kicking it back on the couch and having a more relaxing time. The force feedback perhaps isn’t the most nuanced implementation, either.
At the launch, there are three different racecar types – the lone Street Stock, a pair of Late Models, and three classifications of Sprint Cars. They all drive differently, with the Winged Sprints more agile and fidgety, the Late Models planted into the groove, and the Street Stocks, which are absolute perfection, are like battle tanks with no grip.
Maybe it’s because I’m a NASCAR guy, but I find Street Stocks are smile-inducing. No matter what you’re driving, though, they’re all going to race like dirt cars on dirt tracks should. Crucially, there are multiple grooves of racing at each of the tracks.
The shorter may around may look like the faster route, but often rolling the top or the cushion – where the slicked-off dirt meets what’s left of the tacky – gives such a huge run down the straightaway. It’s not dynamic like iRacing‘s out-and-out simulation is, but it is better than anything seen on consoles, no doubt.
The set-ups do affect the handling quite a bit, and players are given the choice between a complex-looking page of numbers and adjustments or a more simple slider from tight to loose. You do need to have the difficulty up to a certain level to be able to mess with any type of set-up screen, however.
The best part of it all, in terms of the on-track experience, are your AI-controlled rivals.. For the most part, the AI will race as fast as the line they take, just like the player. It’s not all single file, rubber band racing. The competition will spread out, try the top, bottom or even middle. They’ll react to the player and be as fast as they’re supposed to be.
It’s a big step up from where the physics used to be, in let’s say either of the prior Tony Stewart games. It no longer feels like racing on a paved track anymore, that was simply designed to look like dirt. Like in the movie ‘Cars’, you’ll need to turn right to go left, and that is a wondrous feeling.
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
I found myself not wanting to put down the controller to write this. Whether I was getting to it in the Career Mode, running against peers online in online multiplayer, or spending time putting together the perfect Traxion.GG-colored racing machine in the Paint Booth.
The Career Mode is your basic, run-of-the-mill, experience you’d find in most racing video games – despite some pre-launch hyperbole from the publishers. Start at the bottom, work your way up the ranks, and be the best World of Outlaws driver you can be.
The key here, however, is it has enough depth to keep players going and surprisingly, it’s not completely linear.
Players start their team up at the Local level, in a race shop based in Indiana. Get enough fans, you’ll be able to expand to the Regional level and run some higher-ranked cars. The top level is the National level, again, based on having the needed number of fans.
To get fans, you’ll need to run well, and to run well, you’ll need funding. Sponsorships, sponsorship goals, hiring crew members, installing part upgrades and repair costs are all factors that players will need to consider when budgeting for the future.
If you wanted to run Street Stocks all the way to the National level, yeah, you might not get there as fast, but it’s an option. As I said, it’s not linear and you can choose whatever path you desire to get the most out of your dirt racing career.
If you didn’t want to deal with the craziness of Career, you could always just do the Championship seasons on your own with no worry of financials or team owning. Just race!
There is an online racing scene, and if you’ve raced on NASCAR Heat 4, either of the Tony Stewart games, or SRX: The Game, you’ll recognize how the multiplayer functions are set up.
While a ranking system more like iRacing’s multiplayer would have been more engrossing, this system is tried and tested, and perhaps few are likely clamoring for the license system in a console game. In the end, there are derivative lobby options, leaderboards and a Tournament mode.
The racing itself online is pretty good. It doesn’t look to be very popular during the launch week, with only an average of 10 people online on the PlayStation side and only one lobby to choose from. There’s no cross-platform play with Xbox, or vice versa, like several contemporary console titles either to bulk up the numbers.
Regardless, the nine other drivers I drove against were all well-behaved and considered in their actions. We could run into one another and keep it going. Some of the battles were insane, and it looked like different people were winning different races.
If you didn’t want to take on the Career Mode or race online, there is a single-player ‘Race Now’ option or local split screen, allowing players to jump in any of the cars on any of the tracks.
There are real-life tracks, unfortunately not all the real-world tracks, mind you, which is strange for an officially licenced representation. For the most part, it is most, if not all of the real-world tracks that are already on the iRacing service – logical.
There is also a slew of fictional tracks, as one would guess, from the previous Monster Games titles. Durango Park did make the cut and I am beyond happy about that.
These tracks have been given facelifts to match the graphical upgrades. To be fair, some of these fictional tracks are based on real-world tracks that aren’t in the game, perhaps due to licencing challenges.
Not forgetting the Car and Character Creator too. The only thing I’m missing is a duplicate of the opposite side feature, but otherwise, it has a user-friendly interface and the paint schemes that can be made look amazing.
The designs can’t be shared online or downloaded, though, yet there is the option of copying your created design across all vehicle types and those racing online can see your creation. Neat.
Most of the guys who race the real-world series are included, which is fantastic to see. There are a lot of fantasy drivers as well, which I thought were cool Easter eggs to find.
World Championship level iRacers such as Alex Bergeron and Steven Wilson were in the DIRTcar Late Model races I ran, while in a 305 Sprint Car race, I came across Kyle Arnold as an AI opponent, a former NASCAR Heat Pro League driver.
COMPARING TO THE “SOURCE” MATERIAL
This release takes the best parts of the previous Monster Games titles and adds that iRacing touch. You’d be forgiven for thinking that it looks and plays nearly identically to the previous releases.
It’s not even iRacing for consoles, either. In fact, it’s a huge amount away from what you’ll find on a PC with the simulation platform.
This new title is somewhere in the middle of all of that, a challenging dirt piece that is also a great deal of fun and rewarding to master. It’s like Monster Games was finally able to get it right after all of these years.
There’s no dynamic track surface, detailed damage model, iRating or Safety Rating. But it drives pretty similarly to iRacing-ish. Not completely, but it’s a huge step up in the drivability from previous console dirt racing releases.
The tracks that have come over from iRacing look fantastic. The art department was able to take those existing assets and incorporate them correctly here. It’s like they aren’t the exact same laser-scanned tracks that at in the simulation, but the influence is clear.
Areas for improvement
There are some things that are a little disappointing, however. Probably my biggest letdown, as a sim racing photographer, is the lack of a photo mode. All of the great shots you’ll find in this written review are screencaps from the fixed camera angles in the same replay mode.
There are cautions that work properly with a long enough race length enabled, and that’s great. But, there are no options to pit and fix damage or choose the lane that you’d like to start in. There have been a few hiccups with DLC unlocking and new-generation console versions redeeming at launch, but they have been quickly and easily rectified.
Also, an official game of any racing series should have every racetrack in some form or fashion. Granted, we’re talking more than 60 tracks that exist on the World of Outlaws calendar, but fans with a Standard Edition copy of the game will only be able to experience 13 real-world tracks, three of which aren’t even on this year’s schedule. Gold edition owners will get a few more in DLC, but still…
A statement of intent
The most important part is that World of Outlaws: Dirt Racing is enjoyable. Racing on iRacing can be frustrating to master and the cars are hard to get a handle of. SRX and previous titles were mundane and didn’t have a great replayability factor.
The game, however, has a feel that really harkens back to the days of the early 2000s when racing console games were arguably at their peak. This would totally be a game that a young me would find himself playing after school every day.
This is a positive first step for iRacing in the console universe as a publisher, as well as an ode to the work that Monster Games had put into their previous titles, now fully realized.
Sure, World of Outlaws: Dirt Racing has its flaws and shortcomings, no question. But, in terms of reaching its intended goals, to provide gamepad-friendly authentic dirt racing on console, the verdict, in my eyes, is an easy one.
|Developer||Monster Games, iRacing|
|Release date||27th September 2022|
|Available platforms||PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S|
|Versions tested||PlayStation 5|
|Best played with||Controller|
Full disclosure: We purchased this game for review purposes. Here is our review policy.