11th June 2011 - Colin McRae was one of the world’s finest drivers. An icon in the racing community and a global idol to many. His name was once stapled to Codemasters’ Rally and Dirt franchises, leaving many to ponder as to the future of the acclaimed series after his unfortunate and untimely death in 2007. To the pleasure of the gaming community, the series continued with Colin McRae: Dirt 2 and now Dirt 3, the first game since the series 1998 Debut to not include the rally legends name in the title. Dirt 3 continues to push the boundaries of the series and stretch into new territory previously unattempted in the Rally and Racing genres.
Whereas the franchise was original praised and renowned for its strict realism and discipline, Dirt games have since ventured into more arcady territory while still retaining some degree of the realism that the series was built upon. Dirt 3 doesn’t try to distance itself from either spectrum of discipline though, rather sitting comfortably between the two, catering its gameplay to almost every racing fan who could pick up a controller. From the most skilled racing enthusiast to the young, casual racing fans, Dirt 3 can be played and enjoyed by anyone and everyone.
The game manages this with highly customisable Assist options and also the plain racing gameplay it presents. With the Assists, you can change everything from automatic braking and even automatic steering (yes, you read that right!) to the much more intimidating Hardcore Mode. This see’s you limited the extremely detailed cockpit view of the car and turns all Assists off, giving you an experience as close to the real deal as you’ll probably ever get.
The driving itself though is the main attraction here, for any fan. Dirt 3 is one of the fastest driving games on the serious side of things I have ever played. That is to say, forget the speed in games like Blur or Split/Second, Dirt 3 gives you faster cars and speedier driving in a far more realistic environment, and it’s great! The feeling of speeding and drifting around Rally tracks and tarmac in such detail is unlike anything else. It’s very easy to pick up and play, too, allowing for very accessible enjoyment for gamers of any age.
Just when the game may be sounding like simply a rehash of Dirt 2, allow me to introduce the new Gymkhana mode. Codemasters have put a lot of faith in this game mode, essentially resting the success of the title on its reception. Faith well put, I say – Gymkhana mode is a particularly unique mode for a racing game, turning the highly popular Motorsport (made famous by Rally poster boy Ken Block via YouTube videos) into a fully fledged game addition. In this mode, players are given challenges to complete, stunts to pull off and all manners of things to do. The fun here is limitless, and can be played for hours as you hone your skills and simply have a good time with it. The area and style is also made into a few Dirt-Tour missions, too, having you compete with other racers for the highest points – gained by keeping your stunts and tricks fresh and consistent. A great idea executed perfectly, definitely something that needs to stay.
Gymkhana isn’t the only new surprise hidden in this Dirt instalment though. No, now Codies have also thrown in some very unorthodox multiplayer modes. The aptly titled ‘Party Modes’ take have up to 8 players competing in strange activities like a car-centred Capture the Flag mode, as well as the highly unlikely Zombie-style mode that has one car ‘infected’ and must ‘infect’ the others by running into them. Think of it just like a game of Tag, only with highly powerful road machines. Its everyones childhood dream come true as they get to hit their friends in overly-speedy racing cars.
One of my main squabbles with the previous instalment was the lack of Split-Screen play, as the game almost called for it with its driving. Im happy to say then, that Dirt 3 now has full inclusion of Split-Screen multiplayer. On top of the already great Party Modes, playing with a friend in Split-Screen completes the package for me.
Call me strange, but I find solace and impression in a games menu system. In fact, I get hyped at a good looking Menu screenshot pre-release. I find it’s an overlooked aspect integral to a game’s presentation and style. Dirt 2 had a style and look second to none, which in a racing games, follows over to almost every other aspect bar the final racing product. Dirt 3’s new system is far more of stone throw away from the smooth presentation of its predecessor though.
The new look of the game fancies triangles and meaningless presentation over sleek design and fails to capture any immediate sense of individuality in itself. This may seem minor, but it flows into the rest of the game too. Selecting cars, liveries, even races is now unexciting and limits to the amount of time you want to spend with the title as a whole.
In-game though, Codemasters have delivered yet another visual masterpiece. Car models are essentially perfect, only limited by the generally ugly livery designed you are forced upon. I still think the Dirt franchise could benefit from light customisability, perhaps car ownership that allows upgradability. But with this system, you simply only miss full appreciation of the detail in game.
Environments and tracks look better than ever, too. With the new inclusion of night time and also snow racing, there is more to show off the visual beauty of the title. These additions also give leverage to more longevity and diversity in the main single player mode, too.
Among its handful of Guinness Book of World Records Records, Dirt lays claim to the “Most Complex Audio in a Racing Game”. This alone speaks volumes – pun intended – about what Dirt 3 offers in this aspect. The game’s engine and driving sounds are highly detailed and realistic – sounding brilliant on a high end sound system.
A range of individuals talks you through the game as you play new race types and enter different stages of the career. It’s informative for less knowledgeable gamers, but I found the constant attempt to be humorous and drag things on is highly annoying, especially since you can’t skip most of it. This hardly matters though, as once it’s over it’s over, and you can get back to racing.
Whether you’re after a racing game to be enjoyed alone or with friends online or split-screen, Dirt 3 has something for you. With modes of every type, and gameplay anyone can enjoy, it’s a game that really has a lot to offer. The new Gymkhana is the pick of the litter for the game, but it’s a shame there isn’t more of it. Still, with split-screen to thin out the longevity of the title, Dirt 3 will have you racing for weeks and months to come no matter how big of a racing fan you are.
With so many racing games on the market all catering to different needs and desires of the fans, Dirt 3 makes its stand by catering to everyone. The game is a perfect example of a title that successfully pleases both casual and hardcore fans. With enough new modes to warrant a purchase by Dirt 2 fans and still enough of the classic Dirt magic that makes the series so simple and fun, there is plenty to be had and at a fantastic quality too.
AAG SCORE: 8.8/10
+ Brilliant Gymkhana representation
+ Polished racing mechanics
+ Split Screen
+ Large array of modes
- Not enough Gymkhana!
- New style
Reviewed and Written By John Elliott