DiRT 3 Review (Xbox 360)
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The latest title in Codemasters' Colin McRae Rally series is out in the form of Dirt 3. If you have ever felt the desire to race in the L.A. Coliseum, the Rocky Mountains or the deepest part’s of Kenya, but found you didn’t have the money, time or courage to do so -- no worries. Codemasters is going to give you an opportunity to do so in a much cheaper, safer environment. And the developers will give you that opportunity all while delivering an incredibly realistic and fun experience.
When your tires rip through the gravel for the first time in Dirt 3, you will instantly feel the excitement and realism. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran of the series or a first timer, you will find the experience both thrilling and engaging. Codemasters has decided to go back to the roots of the series and focus on rally racing, as opposed to the X Games theme of its predecessor, Dirt 2. The racing is fun, authentic and incredibly varied.
Dirt 3 allows the user to take control of multiple styles of off-road vehicles on many different types of tracks. You will find yourself racing through the gritty back hill’s of a foreign country to the snowy mountain tops of the Rockies to a wharehouse facility in Michigan.
Each venue and vehicle allows for a different style of racing, and the physics and mechanics of each will change drastically, which forces the user to govern their aggressiveness and change up their approach. Dirt 3’s depth of gameplay, realistic physics and multiple off-road offerings will give the user a chance to try many different styles and see what they like best.
The game will throw true point-to-point racing at you, followed up by Rally-cross events (part dirt, part road) and hit you from the blind-side with its drift-style Gymkhana. In the Gymkhana events, the game forces you to use all of your skill and different driving techniques to master drifts, spins, jumps, and most of all, vehicle control in a controlled environment.
The game also offers up the ability to change the difficulty before each race, as well as the chance to “rewind” a mistake that caused your vehicle to look like it just came out of a car crusher. This feature is a great tool because it allows you to really find out how aggressive you can be on a certain jump, blind corner or S-curve, and still know that there is not any mistake you can make that can’t be undone. This year’s title also offers up the inclusion of weather elements. Try driving in a rainstorm or blinding winter storm, and you will get a true appreciation for what Codemasters has done with this aspect of the game.
While Dirt 3 does so many things right, the presentation can be a bit underwhelming at times. Whether you are in Dirt Tour mode, race now or online, the game provides repetitive views of the outside of your vehicle and limited views of the track. However, the video explanations detailing some of the different racing disciplines with people like Ken Block explaining how Gymkhana works are a nice touch. For someone who has never played the Dirt series, or has no idea what certain styles of racing are, these tutorials can be very helpful.
The sound design is also a strength for the game. Dirt 3 could possibly be the best sounding racer to ever hit a console. Not only do the engines sound incredible, but the atmosphere is just as alive and will suck you in for sure.
I am not a fan of the way the developers approached the liveries and car unlocks this year. In Dirt 2, you got the feeling of accomplishment when you unlocked a vehicle, and it felt like it was yours. Dirt 3 does it in a way that feels like you are just choosing a vehicle from a random list, as opposed to walking into your garage and deciding which of your vehicles you want to drive today. You feel very disconnected from the whole unlocking experience.
The game also gives you the option to upload small clips of your race directly to YouTube. My only complaint with this really cool feature is the allotted time frame that you have to upload. The game allows you to upload 30-second clips at a time, which is nice, but a minute would have allowed gamers to show off tricks and jumps in a little more depth.
While the Dirt 3 single-player experience is really deep, the online experience and multiplayer elements only add to that depth. You can race in one of three multiplayer modes:
Pro Tour is the first of these modes. It allows a driver to jump in and race in ranked matches. These events stick with the rules of the discipline, and they can be very challenging and fun.
Jam Session is about grabbing a bunch of people and having fun online. This mode allows a person to set the rules they want, grab some friends and race how they want to race.
Codemasters has also included a split-screen option this year, which allows two people to jump on the same console and race at the same time. This mode also includes AI cars, which was a great move by Codemasters.
In general, racing online was a very smooth experience with no lag. There are plenty of good times to be had in this area.
Dirt Tour mode is the career mode for Dirt 3, and it’s a very deep and fun experience. It has the driver race through four seasons, and as you progress, so does the race length and difficulty. Tour mode is a blast to play through, and the only real complaint is that it forces you to race certain disciplines that certain players may not enjoy. It would have been nice if Codemasters would have included different types of season options that allowed gamers to only race rally point-to-point -- assuming that’s what they wanted to do.
As you move from race to race, your objective is to finish in the top three and reach the podium. Each season consists of four different forms of racing. Each style has four races and a championship at the end. If you win the championship in all four, you open up the next season. While the mode is very deep, the in-season presentation is very drab and not very immersive. You have a management team that will guide you through it, and even congratulate you on a job well done. However, the voice-over work here is poorly done, repetitive and adds nothing tangible to the experience.
Nevertheless, the career mode is a great time, and it will make you come back to the game more often.
Dirt 3 does not apologize for being “just” an off-road racer, it actually embraces it. It give's gamers a chance to really explore all types of off-road experiences, and it does so with style and substance. You will be hard pressed to find a racing game that does a better job of providing realism, fun and depth all in one package. In a genre that does not see a lot of competition, Codemasters raises the bar to new heights. This is one off-road game that does not get stuck in the mud.
Control Scheme: It handles beautifully with a controller or wheel.
Audio: The sounds are amazing, and the audio will pull you in.
Online: This element is very deep, and the options are plentiful. It is essentially lag-free and runs very smooth.
Learning Curve: Easy to drive, hard to master.
Score: 8.5 (Great)