DiRT 3 ReviewMike Birchall
DiRT 3, the third in the Colin McRae DiRT series, is a prime example of the new generation of game design. The game is prim and polished, crammed with features, and seems to have reached a plateau of controls that we may not rise from until the next generation of hardware (or controllers- though 'kinect-ing' this game was gladly avoided). However, it features DLC and 'social' aspects that might seem unappealing to some.
Firstly, the presentation is impeccable. The biggest leg-up that the DiRT series has on its competition has always been the gritty, detailed environments - whether it's skidding through snow or spraying dirt and mud all over your shiny new cars. Thankfully, this aspect is better than ever - there is a huge range of tracks in several different locales, from scorching Kenya to icy Aspen. Each environment is lovingly rendered and detailed, with a level of vibrancy that has never been seen in a racing game before. The only detraction from this is the default 'racing line' indicator, a colored line indicating where the best racing line is, and where to slam on the brakes. Thankfully, this can be easily turned off, and I strongly advise anyone to do so, lest you miss out on some of gaming's finest environments ever.
The menu system, usually the last thing developers think about, has a flair to it that ensures this level of detail and graphics carries on throughout your DiRT 3 experience- each car is presented in fluid, polished detail and there is no waiting to see a preview of your car (I remember some particularly brutal loading times for this in Motorstorm). In short, the entire presentation of the game is perfect.
The sound in DiRT 3 is the only thing better than the stellar presentation. Engines roar, car doors smash into each other with satisfying crashes- even the surface the car is driving on is accounted for- the sound effects are the best in any game to date. The menu system music is decent, but can become annoying- though this is just more motivation to get racing and hear the glorious sound of snow, dirt and gravel spraying off your tires once more.
The single player is as solid as ever- beginning as a professional rally driver, your agent and racing team (a series of disembodied voices that can get slightly annoying) will accompany you through a diverse, four-season long campaign in a wide variety of events, and no two races will feel the same - especially when the long-anticipated gymkhana mode is unlocked. Created by rally (and YouTube) superstar Ken Block, Gymkhana challenges the player to spin, drift and jump through a series of obstacles in each level, racking up points to beat the competition. For me, this mode isn't as realised as it could be, restricting the player to stadiums in Monaco and the L.A coliseum, especially compared to the range of environments seen elsewhere in the game, and I have an inkling that this is so DiRT 4 has room to improve.
The driving will feel instantly familiar, not only to fans of the DiRT series but also fans of series like Forza and Gran Turismo - braking, drifting and slamming down the gas at the right moment is a true art form, but once the unaccustomed noob learns to ease up on the gas occasionally, the system is quickly mastered to the point where each race is a doddle. The more daring players will then feel the need to ramp up the difficulty, and thankfully this is thoroughly customisable - the player can choose from a variety of assist options to fine-tune their experience - the only problem I found with this is that there is no significant rewards for choosing a more challenging difficulty.
Thankfully this challenge can always be found in the multiplayer, and DiRT 3's multiplayer is the best in the series so far. The party modes are innovative, but can quickly get tiring- the real fun to be had is within time trials, hardcore driver's seat modes, and eight player gymkhana that is, quite simply, fun as hell. Expect to be coming back to the online regularly.
The only let-down of DiRT 3's gameplay is the 'social' features - YouTube clips are limited to 30 seconds and hard to edit (but let's face it, it's unlikely that anyone's going to gain stardom through DiRT 3 anyway), which would be fine if it wasn't shoved in your face. Your team will regularly tell you to put your clips online, which gets tiring very fast. The 'VIP' pass feature and DLC is shoved in your face every time you start the game or select your car. Meanwhile, cars and sponsors are unlocked automatically, which takes some of the fun and sense of accomplishment out of the experience.
DiRT 3 is the most fun I've ever had in a racing game. Both the single-player and multiplayer are solid, the presentation and sound are of the highest quality possible, and the gameplay is familiar and satisfying. The only let-down is some small annoyances, such as the commentary from your team or the 'social' features, but these are easily forgivable in a game this high quality and fun.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.