Mud in your eye!
People are seriously going to start saying that thereís a conspiracy, if Codemasters keep on producing quality racing titles like Dirt 3. Seriously, Iím not a massive rally fan but I have had a fun racing experience from this one right from the moment that I was able to sink my teeth into it. The bottom line, so you donít have to read this particular diatribe all the way to the end if you donít want to is: Dirt 3 is a worthy addition to the rally genre, knocks spots off Dirt 1 and 2 and whilst itís not a huge leap forwards, itís like one of those high performance cars where everything is tuned to near perfection and works better than before.
This is a high-scoring game and like many of our peers on Metacritic, it deserves every high mark it gets. Whether youíre a hardcore rally racer, Dirt fan or just a casual gamer, this one offers something for everyone.Gameplay
One of the biggest changes is in the menu system, right there and then, things have been juggled around and itís got one of those Ďin your faceí menu systems that could leave some fans wondering just what Codemasters were doing when they invented it. Dirt 2 always struck me as some kind of crazy radical thing when it came to the menus; Dirt 3 eschews this and basically looks like they took a trip to the Ikea School of Design, except you know what...I actually quite like this aesthetic. It makes things a lot easier to navigate and the menu system doesnít seem as off-putting as Dirt 2ís.
Thereís another big change which struck a chord with me right away, gone is the money made from each race, no more cash ca-ching payouts and so on. Itís all down to Reputation and Driver Sponsorships from the various racing teams that are on offer in the game. They give you the cars and you give them the talent. It works pretty well and is a welcome change from the old style racing ethos of cash equals cars. The more Rep you earn the more rewards that you can walk away with in the end. Pick a sponsor you like, with the kind of Rep bonus youíre looking for and away you go.
You can compete in Single Player mode, where you can pick from various races and modes but the meat of the game is in Dirt Tour and thatís what we jumped right into. You can expect to compete in familiar modes such as:
Rally: staggered point to point races through a variety of tracks and locations.
Rallycross: a little like motorcross only with cars instead.
Land Rush: An intense form of rallycross, more aggressive and using trucks and buggies.
Trailblazer: Imagine a rally mode but with highly tuned and extremely fast cars.
Head-2-Head: A single circuit where you race another driver in the opposite direction, in a one on one race to the finish.
New to the series though is Gymkhana, a stunt based mode that takes quite a lot of skill to get the best out of. We predict some angry controller throwing until the basics are learned and then the mode offers a lot of fun and some of the best skill-based driving yet in a game.
Each mode is placed into Dirt Tour and is featured in a triangular style multi-race menu, spread across several series. You gain Rep points to unlock these and once theyíre unlocked you can pick/choose the events that you want to enter as long as you have the Rep to do so. You get Rep by not using Flashbacks (similar to Gridís use of these which is basically a rewind feature) and placing well, completing optional objectives like reaching a high top speed or beating a certain time. A huge amount of points can be garnered this way, especially if you have managed to score one of the special unlock cards that lets you get access to the Dirt 3 super-teams.
As a point of note regarding Flashbacks, you get 5 of these per race no matter the difficulty and so on. This may seem like things have been dumbed down, but remember Ė you donít HAVE to use them. They are an adequate tool though for casual gamers and help you if you manage to mess up and donít want to restart the race over again.
Dirt 3 has 8 environments and it puts the various modes across all of these, the environments are (in no particular order): The Smelter Industrial site, Norway, Michigan, Monoco, Aspen (snowy paradise), Finland, Kenya (really amazing sunsets) and the L.A. Coliseum.
Dirt 3 has twice the number of tracks in these environments and adds weather, time of day and other features to these. The gameplay is radically different as well, especially at night which has probably been the most fun since it can be nearly impossible to see a turn until itís too late. Snow is excellent fun to drive on and requires a different skill compared to the other surfaces, wet tracks likewise handle totally differently to the dry versions and you have to seriously drive a rally car at night on Dirt 3 for some truly fantastic hair-raising moments, especially in the cockpit view.
With such a sheer amount of driving craziness on offer, the game fortunately gives a wealth of driver assists to cater for hardcore and casual gamers alike. Rather akin to Forza 3 this game offers some serious assists to make a casual gamer feel right at home. This is the bottom line with Dirt 3ís gameplay, if thereís one thing you take from this review Ė itís that the game has been tuned for all kinds of gamers and playing it for someone who isnít a hardcore racing fan who likes to tinker with all kinds of options is frankly a cinch. If youíre familiar with Forza 3 as well, youíll love Dirt 3ís racing line which is just as good, changing dynamically with the need to speed up, brake and slow down.
Difficulty only affects how good your opponents are so if youíre a casual gamer, you can still unlock all the cool stuff without having to worry about being hardcore and getting the best toys because youíre awesome at the game with your eyes closed.
Briefly touched on earlier is Gymkhana Mode. This is stunt based and requires some serious driving skill. There are tricks galore similar to many Skater games to perform and always take place in big open areas where you have a variety of disciplines to play with. There are a few event types like sprint, where you have to do tricks in a particular order, smash attack, smashing cut-outs of robots and so on. Thereís a lot of challenge here and to help you hone your skills you can play around in the Battersea Compound where you can free roam and do all sorts of cool jumps and tricks.
If youíre also worried about losing some of your hard-won replay, you can upload directly to Youtube if you want. However itís not in HD and itís going to take about 10 minutes for a 30 second clip to upload even on a high bandwidth. This is also the only way to share and save your favourite crashes and racing moments, you canít save on the HDD and thatís a shame. All you need to do is provide your Youtube user name and password, then youíre all set.