by Jeff Gates
reviewed on X360
Gymkhana is similar to autocross with incredibly complex courses and challenges, but there is one major difference: it’s all about style. Well, execution and technical prowess is important too I guess. But when you have a parking lot full of tractor trailers, concrete pipes, and shipping containers; it’s really style (and a good life insurance policy) that you’re concerned with.
In DiRT 3 gymkhana is brought to magnificent light with many distinctive events. From racing as fast as you can through gates in tight – and man do I mean tight – quarters to completing various tasks in a time limit, this mode is ripe for the picking. Every competition series consists of a gymkhana event in the latter majority of the game. The gymkhana events are nice and all, but the breadwinner is the DC Compound, your own personal gymkhana playground to free roam in for as long as your heart desires. If you can’t comprehend how this works, think Tony Hawk Pro Skater but with insane drift cars instead of skateboards.
Built for you…
DiRT 3 gives each and every player the opportunity for a unique racing experience by offering solid gameplay customization. Most racing types offer unique sets of options. For example, in Gymkhana you have the option to decline an assist that helps steer your vehicle into a drift. However,the best of the options affect your racing style. Essentially the racing style offers players a piece of some of the goofy things that were in DiRT 2, like silly horns and your Xbox avatar hanging from the rear-view mirror. More importantly though it gives players the choice of simple or complex pace notes for rally racing.
Allow me to explain. During a rally race you have a co-driver that reads to you the upcoming turns and hazards and what degree of difficulty they are, this information is highly valuable considering you are going 85mph with little time to check a tourist brochure. In DiRT 2 the notes were simple, easy for a turn you could take fast and hard for a turn requiring a slower speed. That is the casual approach. In contrast the first DiRT had complex pace notes, with numbers ranging from 1 to 6 (1 being the most difficult) warning the player of upcoming turns. In keeping with DiRT 3’s focus of letting each player experience the game how they want to, Codemasters allows you to choose between simple and complex notes for this installment. It is the best of a great mix of options that allows DiRT 3 to cater to both casual and hardcore fans.
…but built to succeed?
All of these features and changes would be nothing without good gameplay and solid graphics. DiRT 3 is without a doubt, thanks to turning off all assists, the most realistic of the series. Despite playing practically every racing game that comes out I cannot claim to be an expert on proper vehicle physics. I can however tell you in confidence that DiRT 3 is incredibly life-like. What’s great though, is if you are new to racing games or prefer something a little more on the arcade style, the game can be made as casual as you would like.
If you are a glutton for pretty games, you might be wondering how this title looks? Well I can assure you DiRT 3’s graphics are one of its strong suits. The cars look great and outside of some hazy shading and a jagged line here or there it is easy on the eyes. I’m not sure if it is because you are going a hundred miles an hour and you just can’t see details that well, but the forests in this game are incredibly photorealistic, as is the snow and rain effects. Deserts, snow capped mountains, urban jungles and pitch-black forests; this game has it all, and the beautiful locations aren’t just for show. The different track surfaces and conditions come into play constantly, especially if you’re going for a realistic experience and plan to tune your car.
For DiRT 3 the developers established a more realistic driving experience by introducing snow and seemingly more impactful weather and track conditions. Rally racing at high speeds on icy roads is as difficult as it sounds. In fact, all disciplines see an extra level of difficulty when snow and sleet is introduced, as they should. Due to a bit of programming aptitude, snow builds up on the track and in the treads of your tires during races. A memorable moment is the first trophy truck race in Aspen during a blizzard, not only for the degree of difficulty but also because of the wonderful power sliding conditions - the replay of which I uploaded using the integrated YouTube feature. To the best of my knowledge DiRT 3 is the first AAA video game to boast YouTube integration (editor’s note: it’s not). Uploading a great lap or an awesome drift is as easy as clicking a button while viewing a replay, after signing in of course. This neat feature is one I am sure many folks will get a lot of fun out of, even if it’s just to show friends how much of a noob they are compared to you.
Despite neat features the game is not without flaws, namely drifting challenges, which I was a bit disappointed by. They are not really meant as races, more like a small test between races, though it does not excuse the fact that vehicles just do not drift as realistically as the cars do in the gymkhana events. It feels slightly more arcade-like and unfortunately there is no way to change that. Also, the scoring system makes no sense. You can nearly do donuts, or just drive off the track, and still rack up points. I feel like the drift events were put in place to keep players busy before gymkhana was introduced and that was all. The drift events are not bad, just not on par with the rest of the game, thankfully there’s only a couple.
The most accessible racing game to date, blends DiRT 1 & 2 perfectly, gymkhana is wonderfully executed
Where is the ultra-realistic mechanical damage? Not enough vehicle diversity outside of rally. Colin Mcrae would not be pleased