Developed by Bigmoon Entertainment and published by Deep Silver for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows, Dakar 18 is a racing game based on the biggest real-world, cross-country rally that takes place every year.
In Dakar 18, players race across distances of up to 6,500 miles through Peru, Bolivia and Argentina on motorcycles, off-road 4X4 trucks, and rally cars. Instead of a normal rally game where you would navigate around a course, in Dakar 18 players need to navigate across a vast landscape in search of checkpoints. Players need to reach the checkpoints in the fastest time possible without wrecking their vehicle.
It’s primarily an endurance race, but it’s also more about careful planning than it is about driving off in any direction as fast as you can possibly go. Depending on what kind of vehicle you choose, you get a co-driver who shouts directions at you, making it just a little bit easier to not get lost.
Opting for realism in regards to something as intense as Dakar, which spans three countries, is over 9000km long, takes two weeks to complete, and features over 300 competitors when it kicks off, there’s a lot to consider. Promising the most authentic experience of that makes for high expectations and not meeting those makes for thousands of disappointed rally fans. Where Bigmoon succeeded in making it as close to the real thing as possible in terms of landscape and navigation, the handling of the vehicles left much to be desired. None of the vehicle classes handled realistically, feeling stiff and oftentimes hard to manoeuvre over or around obstacles but especially around turns.
Elements of the game that made it more enjoyable were things like the immense map, beautiful landscapes and the variety of vehicles available. Even getting lost while trying to navigate was fun when not taking the time detriment into account. As pretty as the landscapes could be, the draw distance was a bit of a letdown when you couldn’t see everything from far away. It’s difficult to prepare for a jump when you can’t see the slope coming.
Your relationship with your co-driver could be a little bit of a love/hate one at times as well. He is very useful if you stay mostly on course, but if you veer off, his directions become few and far between and it gets harder to find your way back the further you go. His shouting also gets annoying after a while of driving, but I suppose it beats getting hopelessly lost and having to start over.
Dakar 18 is a good first time Dakar experience. If you’re not familiar with the race in real life, the game does a good job of explaining its ins and outs. The tutorials explain the checkpoint racing well enough for anyone to understand and the navigational system is easy enough to stick to when you have a co-driver shouting at you.
It might not be the best option for someone looking for a “classic” rally experience, but it will be a fun experience nonetheless. Just resist the urge to go crazy and wreck your car.