DiRT 3 is the third addition to the Colin McRae Rally DiRT series developed and published by Codemasters, available for PlayStation 3 (review format), Xbox 360 and PC.
Since the last release in Europe, the “Colin McRae” tag has been dropped from the title. Has the dropping of the legendary rally drivers name resulted in a drop in quality? Has the series drifted further away from its rallying roots? There’s only one way to find out, read on for the full review.
The first thing that you’ll notice when you go into a race in DiRT 3 are the graphics. Hell, you’ll notice them when you’re navigating the menus or selecting a car. This is one great looking game. The cars look amazing and even the scenery stands out, something you’ll really notice as you swerve to avoid said scenery at 100 MPH!
That leads us nicely onto the damage which, again, looks excellent. The way the game is set up, a moment’s lapse in concentration can send your car flying through the air, ending your hopes of victory. When the dust settles, your car will look like a heap of twisted metal, but you’ll still be in awe of how great it all looks.
To round things off, you’ll see plenty of nice visual touches as you race around the numerous tracks the game has to offer. Fans will occasionally run across the road, splashes of water will hit your screen and you’ll even see your car engulfed in dust as you perform donuts. Sure, these visual features like these are expected in this day and age of gaming, but it still doesn’t take away from how great DiRT 3 looks.
As you’d expect from a modern racing game, the engine sounds in DiRT 3 are distinctive from one car to the next. The same can be said of the road surfaces too, they all sound naturally different as you drive and powerslide across them.
During rally events, your co-driver shouts instructions at you quite realistically, but it can be quite hard to hear him over the noise of the engine at times. This is probably quite realistic and something that actually occurs during real rally events, but it is ever so slightly annoying when you miss your co-driver say “keep left” and have your race ended because you smashed into a wall. Saying that though, you can remedy this to a certain degree by adjusting the audio settings, so it’s not a massive issue in the grand scheme of things.
To keep you entertained during menu navigation and replays, DiRT 3 kindly provides you with some in-game music. It fits in well with the style of the game, but it’s music not everyone will enjoy. Without sounding too harsh, let’s just say, it’s an acquired taste.
Single player wise, you have a choice between Time Trial and Single Race. Both are pretty self explanatory really and offer all race types. There are eleven race types to choose from, most of which are brought forward from DiRT 2.
The other race types include Freestyle Gymkhana which is a “trick” based, and will have you doing every from donuts to drifts. The idea here is to get as many points as possible. Repeating tricks leads to the trick going “stale”, resulting in fewer points being obtained. You’re also awarded with score multipliers for holding tricks for as long as humanly possible.
Another points based event which is available is Drift Showcase. This event consists of having to drift up to a certain point on the track, then turning around and returning to the start whilst drifting again to pick up those all important points.
There’s also the Head 2 Head event, which is the equivalent of a “Super Special Stage” event in real life rally. Two cars start off on different parts of the track with the goal being to beat the other driver to the finish line.
Time trial is the same as it is in every racing game that’s ever been released. You just have tp try and beat the “ghost” racer times which are taken from online leaderboards (similar to F1 2010 in that respect). You can turn off the “ghosts”, which is a good thing, particularly if you find yourself trying to pass the ghost whilst (strangley) trying to avoiding contact. This mode is a good place to hone your skills and get to grips with all the tracks the game has to offer.
DiRT Tour is where you will spend the majority of your time though, it’s basically the career mode you would usually find in racers of a similar ilk. The set up is simple, you have four years worth of events to tackle if you want to make it to the top.
To progress through the competitions in DiRT Tour, you have to pick up experience points. For each position in a race you pick up some points. If you pick up enough, you earn a place in the final. To give your progress some weight, after almost every event you will hear your management team congratulating you in some way or another. It’s a nice little addition, but you never see them, so listening to them over and over again can become a bit of nuisance.
Overall, the Tour mode is highly enjoyable and throws a good variety of race types at you to keep you interested. Saying that though, you can’t help feel Codemasters have missed a trick. Rather ironically, the trick they seem to have missed is their own. Whilst playing DiRT 3, you’ll wonder why Codemasters didn’t include a career mode similar to what they offered in F1 2010. As it stands now, the Tour mode feels just like a series of races rather than a proper, immersive career mode. Of course, Codemasters don’t have the WRC license, which may have had a part to play in the structure, but you still feel they could have offered something a little more immersive.
The fact that there are no maps shown when you are choosing a track or when the track appears in Tour mode is another slight annoyance. A minor issue in the grand scheme of things, but racing connoisseurs will know that these maps are quite useful when you’re trying to decide what setup to go for. A track with numerous tight corners would require a shorter gear ratio, but because there’s no map before the race, you could end up with a normal or high gear ratio which wouldn’t exactly be much use. The feature is actually available in multiplayer, which only makes its exclusion in the Tour mode and single player that bit more baffling.
Those negatives aside though, DiRT 3 is one excellent racing game. The cars handle as you’d expect them to, and actually feel like they have weight to them when you’re going through turns. If you spin when power sliding or whilst going around a tight corner, you know it’s your own fault. Also, thanks to DiRT 3 being more simulation oriented than its predecessors, whenever changes are made to the car’s setup (gear ratios or downforce levels), you feel them instantly.
Putting the racing and modes to one side for a moment, Codemaster have introduced YouTube integration into the game this year. That’s right, DiRT 3 allows you to upload videos toYouTube. Unfortunately, you can’t upload in HD and there is a 30 second limit, but it’s still a pretty cool feature. There’s also the slight annoyance of having to pick from preset video titles. It’s a minor annoyance, but you can eventually edit them, so it’s no real problem. An example of what a video uploaded from the game to YouTube looks like can be seen below.
Multiplayer wise, DiRT 3 offers both split screen and online play. In split screen mode, there’s an option to choose whether you want to run a team competition or an individual one. Team competition combines both player times at the end of the run, the AI drivers are also split into teams. Both competitions allow you to choose from all of the race types on offer.
Online play gives you the options of Pro Tour and Jam Session, the former being the place to go to get if you want a ranked match. Matchmaking is available, but it can take over a minute to get into a match sometimes.
Jam Session allows you to create a session with your own rules. It’s done in a similar way to the split screen options with both individual and team competition options. You can also join other sessions in this mode, a feature which is most welcome.
Also, it has to be said, DiRT 3 is one of the few racing games nowadays which offers same sofa multiplayer, and it’s a whole lot of fun. It’s always nice to see a developer offering local multiplayer options to alongside the online ones.
Whether you want to try and beat your record on a Gymkhana run or whether you want to race online against friends. Between the 11 race types, Time Trial, DiRT Tour and multiplayer, this is a game that will keep you entertained for a very, very long time.
If Codemasters spent a little more development time creating a more immersive career mode, DiRT 3 could have been something really special. As it stands though, it’s still easily one of the best and most polished racing games of the year so far. If you’re looking for a top notch racing game with immense variety, DiRT 3 is it.