by Jeff Gates
reviewed on X360
Like many other fans my relationship with the DiRT franchise is one of passion but disappointment, love but disgust. While the first DiRT title was a superb homage to rally racing – and off-road racing in general – the second installment in the series was a misguided attempt to appease the disinterested majority instead of the faithful minority. Even though the driving physics were greatly improved for the sequel, the game’s overall focus left a lot of us shooting disgusted glares towards the Codemasters headquarters in England. Thus it is impossible, as it should be with any sequel, to avoid comparing DiRT 3 to its predecessors.
Back On Track
When DiRT 3 was officially announced its developer Codemasters assured the fanbase that they had heeded their feedback and made positive changes for the third game. They even promised to bring the franchise back to its Colin Mcrae Rally roots. Details emerged depicting a game that possessed the rally emphasis of the first DiRT and the superior physics of DiRT 2 coupled with an atmospheric balance that best suited the genre.
Thankfully they kept their word and removed the silly “block party” style that plagued the second installment. More importantly however is the amount of fantastic rally action packed into this game over the last title. DiRT 3 has twice as many rally events as DiRT 2. What’s more is that the events take you to wonderfully unique locations like the forests of Europe and the deserts of Kenya.
The game does not just scope rallying though, no there is much more to this racing title. The discipline players are faced with nearly as much as rally is rally cross. For those unaware this is a race against 7 opponents on tracks with varying surfaces. Alarm bells may be ringing for fans of the series, but fear not; this is REAL rally cross. DiRT 2, to the chagrin of most, set players in massive arenas and big theatrical stadiums for the races but that has mostly been abolished for DiRT 3. You start in the backwoods of Michigan racing on tracks at abandoned factories and forgotten dirt paths. These locations are much more suited to the DiRT games rather than the constant bombardment of over-the-top courses we saw in the last installment.
Those big events are not gone completely though. The X Games returns for DiRT 3 as does the LA Coliseum along with some races at Monaco, a track more famous for F1 racing. At this point you might catch yourself sighing, but hold on, don’t let me lose you just yet. Codemasters did a superb job of evening out the progression throughout your seasons in DiRT 3. It takes till the end of your second season to reach the summer X Games and into your third for the winter X Games. This means that early on, and most often, you are battling your way through tracks that are mostly unknown to the general public. It is in these locations that you will earn your stripes as a driver and be capable of taking on the primetime driving showcases like the X Games. Winning the crown of X Games Champion is one of great pride in DiRT 3, where as in DiRT 2 it was just another race. This game truly does give players a real sense of accomplishment by making you work for those opportunities.
Additional racing disciplines include Trail Blazer (much like rally racing but at twice the speed and twice the risk), Land Rush (racing primarily with trophy trucks and buggies), Head 2 Head (1v1 tournament style races that usually are the finale to a series) and last but certainly not least Gymkhana.
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