Dakar Desert Rally – Review

Let’s start at the beginning…

The Dakar is a rally that consists of stages to be completed based on time, on or off-road. The total distance varies per year but it is thousands of kilometers long and is completed over several days ranging between ten and fifteen in total.

The race involves navigation, which is done via a roadbook provided by the organizers and handed out at the start of each stage, which means that the course remains a secret until the roadbook is handed out to the crews. The starting order is based on the times set in the timed sector of the previous stage, including any sporting penalties (e.g. speeding in link sectors or missing waypoints) incurred during the stage.

Now that we are all up to speed… let’s talk Dakar Desert Rally!

Developed by Saber Porto, Dakar Desert Rally does its best to capture the genuine speed and excitement of the largest rally race on the planet, with several thousand square kilometers of diverse beautiful terrain, added to this is the dynamic weather as you navigate to the finish line.

You can choose from some of the world’s best Dakar rally racing teams, or create your own (which while playing I could not find the option for… but that could just be me!) and build up your garage with cars, bikes, trucks, quads, and SSVs from leading sponsors and manufacturers.

There are two modes to start with namely Career and Online Free mode while testing the Online free mode did not want to work, I suspect that this is because the game was only released on the 4th of October and none of my two friends, had the game.

The understanding is that it allows you and three other friends (more than I have) to have the ultimate competitive challenge.

Initial release date: 

4 October 2022

Publisher: Saber Interactive

Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows

Developers: Bigmoon EntertainmentSaber Interactive Porto

Genres: Racing Video Game, Simulation Video Game, Sports Video Game, Simulation Game, Racing

That being said let us go have some fun!!

Within the career mode, you will find a few options. You have Sport, Professional and Simulation modes “for a true rally experience”.


In races, each waypoint is a giant yellow beacon and arrows are sometimes displayed on the ground similar to a racing-line option in a circuit-based racing title. The navigator is largely superfluous. Head to where you see, like Smuggler’s Run or a Trailblazer in Forza Horizon 5.


The racing line and visible beacons are removed. This is all about you and your navigator who is directing you audibly to the next, invisible, waypoint.


Take the Professional Mode navigation, but remove the mid-stage saves – in other modes you can save your progress at waypoints, as some of the Dakar Experience routes will take up to an hour to complete – enforce speed limit rules just like the real thing and don’t allow resetting or repositioning. If you damage your vehicle badly, it’s game over.

The roadbook is used to deliver a rough direction of travel, the same system as co-drivers on an actual event. There’s also a compass-like arrow at the top of the HUD. This is an authentic, yet not impossible, balance. 

The custom roadbook editor gives you the entire world of Dakar Desert Rally in your hands, this means you get to create your very own rally events and stages – so go on and lay down the gauntlet by sharing them with friends and the community.

Time to ride….Hidalgo!!!

We were lucky enough to get this game before release, and if I was married… I would not be anymore (laughing out loud, maniacally) a special thanks to Sandbox Strategies for this opportunity, now back to our regular programing…

As the game starts you get an introduction to the driving mechanics for 3 out of the 5 vehicles, we suspect that this is due to the similarity between the vehicles and how they are driven in the real world and the game… A good example is a fact that you are alone on a bike and quad while in cars, trucks, and SSV you have a navigator.

Once you have completed the qualifier, where you need to rank in the top 8 or the game won’t let you progress… “Holy wack unlyrical lyrics André…!!!” But once you pass that you get to buy your first team, and off to the races you go!! Personally, I went with the motorbike.

Take the RED PILL!!!

Within the world of Darak Desert Rally, you will discover more than 130 stages of beautifully rendered and stunning full rally racing legs from the legendary Dakar Rally 2022, 2021, and 2020, which in my opinion looks like they took the designs from TRW and just digitized it… which is amazing!!! Not to forget all the officially licensed vehicles, teams, and pilots. As you could imagine, and by what the name implies, you will be taking part in what I can only describe as the real Dakar, but on your PC, Xbox, or PS!!

This Open-World is crammed with details and immense but while taking part in the stages and between all your high-speed driving, is the beautiful calm of the desert and small oasis… That hide rocks… That you don’t see… and then you eat dirt!!! But I digress. One aspect you will find in the game, in any mode, is that you can find your own path to the waypoint. This little detail allows each race to feel different and makes you feel like a real rally driver, so let your Dora the explorer come out and forge your path to victory… Just don’t break down in the wild, with all that sand it gives off DUNE vibes!! I won’t lie I wanted a sandworm to pop up in the distance!!

While you are on your sight-seeing stages you will encounter hazardous weather from every season and with a full day-night cycle. From blistering sandstorms and blazing desert sunlight to grueling rain, snow, and mud. Each weather hazard and environmental change comes with its challenges for you to overcome, and each affects your driving style and how you set up your vehicle at the bivouac.

I did most of my testing with the bike, I preferred it over the other vehicles in the game, there are two reasons for this… firstly I find the bike easier to handle and as it’s nimble I was able to make quick decisions on routes that saved me time and got me the win, secondly when you are in the car, truck or SSV you have a co-pilot (basically the navigator) who gives you directions… Not that I ever listened to him, I mean he is no Chewie!!!

Now, I was playing on Xbox and at the start of the game while learning how it operates it was frustrating!! The driving mechanics are like a stepmother, where if you step one inch over the line she beats you like a red-headed stepchild, but once you get the hang of the mechanics and a feel for the controller you won’t want to put it down. I do feel that this game would best suit a steering wheel set to give you more of an authentic feel, and a list of approved rigs is on their website at

Roadmap to the Kingdom!!

Here are some details about Dakar’s free Saudi Arabia Extended Map DLC.

Soon after launch, this free DLC will be released, letting dedicated simulation players replicate the 2020-2022 Dakar Rally events for a true challenge once they reach later levels. From arid deserts to exotic nature and mountainous terrain, players can experience all the regions of Saudi Arabia while passing ancestral monuments and racing their way to the top.

At the finish line

After playing this game, which was not without its frustrations, I can tell you I’m ready for the real thing! This game takes you on a journey of discovery, planning, and just plain beauty, from dunes to the oases in a 20,000 km2 1:25 scale open world environment of the real thing!

I enjoy a racing game just like the next normal guy, the idea of just sitting down after work and taking a drive with no worries or cares… this is not what happens in the Dakar Desert rally, it keeps you on the edge of your seat with the AI that has been programmed to drive like a real person with stops for repairs, errors in navigation and even what seems like a blatant push of the track. This gives you a little bit of a challenge and can lead to a few “not so nice words coming out” at the AI…who can totally hear me shouting!

This game is not without its little glitches, and honestly the only part of the game I didn’t enjoy was the Co-pilot, which is one of the reasons I chose to go with the bike as…

“I don’t talks about feelings, Alfred (aka Co-pilot). I don’t have any, I’ve never seen one. I’m a night-stalking, crime-fighting vigilante, and a heavy metal rapping machine. I don’t feel anything emotionally, except for rage. 24/7, 365, at a million percent. And if you think that there’s something behind that, then you’re crazy. Good night, Alfred

… but honestly, they were nothing to write home about. The realistic attention to detail makes this game stand out and could make it one of the break-out games of 2022, the Devs over at Saber have outdone themselves.

Entertainment – 4/5

Action – 4/5

Extra – 4/5

EAX score 4/5