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Plus, five additional cars for more early-access fun, and a new trailer. Thanks DiRT Rally!

The DiRT Rally series from Codemasters, formerly known as Colin McRae Rally and Colin McRae: DiRT before the rally legend’s tragic death in a helicopter accident in 2007, has been a stalwart of the motorsport video game genre. Having been around since 1998 – that’s 17 years; the series is old enough to get a driving license in the UK – is a remarkable achievement in the world of non-EA sporting franchises.

Really only Pro Evolution Soccer (or International Superstar Soccer, to old-timers) and Football Manager (formerly Championship Manager) can be mentioned in the same breath as Colin McRae Rally/DiRT Rally, when we’re talking non-EA sports franchise longevity.

It did at one time appear that the series may have come to an end, following the death of its namesake, but Colin McRae Rally: DiRT 2 was released after his death in 2009 – a fitting tribute to a much-loved sportsman – and the series carries on today as simply DiRT.

The latest title in the franchise, DiRT Rally, is currently available on Steam Early Access.

I know. That doesn’t sound right, does it?

It seems counter-intuitive that a big studio like Codemasters, wheeling out a tried-and-tested formula like DiRT Rally, would need to go to the well of Steam Early Access support rather than ploughing on with a full release.

You’d normally associate Early Access with a lesser-known developer trying to drum up funding and interest for a new franchise, or perhaps wanting to apply some serious burn-in testing to a new concept (DayZ, The Long Dark et al) but here we find Codemasters punting DiRT Rally into the Early Access machine – at a not insignificant £24.99 – all the same.

They seem to be going out of their way to try and make it worth the public’s while though, with a wide range of content and a slew of updates; the latest being a tarmac rally event (the first of its kind in the Early Access release) set in Germany, and five new* cars to have a bash at the slick stages in.

So it’s not all bad, and when you look at the issues that are surrounding MotoGP 2015’s recent release – with hilarious bugs like other riders refusing to leave the qualifying grid on Xbox One – perhaps the extended play-testing and crowd-sourced bug-bashing offered by Early Access programs might prove be a smart move.

* ‘New’ might be a touch generous. One of them is a Lancia 037 Evo 2, the last rear-wheel drive car to win the World Rally Championship in 1983. Just saying…

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