Dirt 3 Review

At a glance

Twitchy controls and floating car handling slightly detract from what is otherwise an outstanding driving game.

Good points
Rich detailed graphics – slick presentation – A wealth of content

Bad points
Some handling issues – VIP pass – DLC pimping

Veterans of Codemasters rally games may be a little surprised with what they find under the bonnet of this latest entry.  Along with dropping the Colin McRae prefix, the series has also decided to move away from the classic rally season setup, in favour of the Dirt 3 tour. This tour is essentially a series of short events based around each of the games various driving disciplines  These still include your standard point to point timed rally stages, but also include a whole host of other event types.  For starters you have “trailblazer”, which is standard rally but in faster cars, going at breakneck speeds. You have drift events, that score you on your ability to power-slide down a rally section, around a cone and then back again. You’ve got your Rally X events which have you circuit racing against a pack of rivals.  However the biggest new addition is the inclusion of Gym Khana events. For those of you that have never heard of Gym Khana, it can be best described as professional joyriding. Events take place in closed off arena’s and points are awarded for pulling off tricks like drifts, spins and doughnuts. It adds a dynamic rarely seen in driving games and its freestyle trick nature is actually more in-line with what you find in a Tony Hawks game.

Gym Khana:  Drive it like you stole it

Winning events awards you both points and reputation XP.  Points are used to unlock new events to progress you in the tour and gained reputation unlocks new teams to race for.  The unlocked teams come with additional xp boosts, encouraging you to race with them.  Its a system that promotes change and experimentation of the cars and teams on offer, but it also leads to you picking teams based on XP rewards rather than the teams you want to race for.  Not so cool are the events and teams listed in game that need to be purchased via the market place.  In fact I’ve yet to see a game that pushes additional content as actively as Dirt 3.  The game features a VIP pass system for online play and some additional cars.  Every single time you start up the game you’ll be reminded to enter you code or buy one from the market place. The latest DLC packs are advertised at the title screen via not only text prompts but even audio commentary from the games narrators.  This constant in your face up-selling is a shame because the game actually does boast an impressive number and variety of tracks and cars, out of the box.  The game features over 50 different vehicles which you’ll find yourself racing on beautifully recreated rally stages from across Europe, Africa and the US.  These stages blend a great mix of gravel, tarmac, dirt and snow to test your metal.  They also feature a mix of weather effects and day/night circles.  Not only do these create an added challenge but also help bolster track variety as racing on the exact same stage at night feels very different from racing in the day.

Carpe noctem

Graphically the game is amongst the finest seen in the racing genre.  Tracks and cars are richly detailed and well modelled.  Plumes of dust are thrown up as you thunder across the desert stages of Kenya and on wet stages,  mud splats stick to your car as satisfyingly as jizz on a hookers tits.  By the end of an intense rally stage, your pristine ride will be caked in a layer of dust, dirt or snow and will no doubt have all manner of dents and missing parts.  Whether you pick realistic or purely cosmetic damage is no matter, a mistimed turn into a tree will have you wincing as you take in the authentic damage modelling and hear the bone jarring crunch.  Panels dent, crumple and come off completely.  Doors get wrenched open and glass smashes.  All of which are accompanied by audio scrapes, crashes, crunches and smashes.  In fact the audio in general does a respectable job of reproducing all the sounds you’d expect to hear in off road racing.  From red lining engines, to wheels spinning on gravel as they struggle to retain purchase, its all there, it all sounds authentic and further enhances the overall feel to the game.  If anything negative is to be said about the audio, its the in game narrators.  They help to guide you though the different events, keeping you informed with what is going on, but their lines are overly cheesy and in some cases highly repetitive.

Jaw dropping visuals

The gameplay is largely a fast and frantic affair, leaning more towards arcade than simulation.  Breaking, for example, although still required, is by no means the delicate balance of the earlier Codemasters rally games.  Vehicles also tend to feel a little floaty as you powerslide around the twists and turns, and the controls are a little over sensitive and twitchy.  Its by no means broken, but it does take a little getting used to and could of been easily avoided by a simple stick sensitivity slider in the control options.  Difficulty on the default setting is a little too easy, but thanks to an array of gameplay options and assists, can be customised to your individual skill level.  Once on the track, should you have a high speed encounter with a tree, you can take advantage of the games flashback system.  Hitting the flashback button lets you rewind time to before the accident and carry on racing but with added hindsight.  These flashbacks are limited use though and also reduce your over all rep bonus at the end of a race.  It helps make it a balanced system.

Overall Dirt 3 is a game that anyone interested in off road racing can’t afford to miss out on.  Its lengthy tour mode may have sacrificed some of its depth in favour for shorter sharper action packed events, but the trade off was a fair one and the added variety is a welcome addition.

8.5 Great