Medium left. Long drawn out right up ahead. Coast until finish. These terms are all directions given in rally racing – a sport that is meticulously recreated in digital form, in Codemasters’ DiRT 3. A racing game for everyone. One that won’t hit you over the head for being an imperfect rally racer if you’re a newcomer to the series.
Though it’s more than willing to turn up the difficulty, remove the assists and make everything as hard, realistic and true to form, if you desire. If those aforementioned descriptors pique your interest and get you excited for some fast-paced vehicular action, then let’s head to the track and examine this vehicle’s set-up, decals and its driver’s racing form. Buckle up, because it’s quite a ride.
Codemasters are well-known for developing great racing titles. Hardcore fans of the genre look to them as a developer they can trust, game in and game out. The DiRT series is no exception to this rule, as it’s been one of this generation’s best racing series – no questions about it. Beautiful visuals that look semi-photo realistic compliment fast-paced racing that walks a great line between arcade and simulation, allowing for it to please both camps.
Rally fans can take their favourite cars out to rugged dirt, snow or asphalt tracks, either by themselves (for true rally racing) or against several rough competitors. As with its predecessors, DiRT 3 has some great traction effects when you’re on dirt and snow, making you fear the slide that may hurt your chances of winning. Luckily, the racing assist line is pretty helpful for letting you know when it’s smart to speed up, brake or coast by briefly letting your foot off the gas.
This iteration does bring more than one new feature to the mix though – the most notable of which is a rewind feature. Instead of having to restart every time that one poorly negotiated corner takes you out, the game now gives you a chance to rewind back about thirty seconds, to restart from a moment where you were (hopefully) in control of your steel warrior. Each race, even if it’s a part of a series, allows you several chances to use this interesting new addition, which can be really helpful in getting you back on track after a nasty crash or spin-out.
Some purists may feel like it’s a cheat, but the nice thing is that they’re not forced to use it. If you manage to get a podium finish without using many of them, the game will award you extra bonus points for your driving profile. It’s a risk and reward type thing, but it helps make you better, without sending you into overly tough competition when you’re not ready. Veterans will most-likely not need to use it very often. Of course, this is only available in single player. If you press select (its trigger button), during an online match, you’ll be reset in a fashion that resembles most racing titles. Nothing fancy. No cheating. It’s all fair.
The other major addition this time around is Gymkhana – a popular and exciting new freestyle rally sport, which turns a methodical racing class into an extreme sport – complete with points, leaderboards and trophies. Choose your favourite car (including event stud Ken Block’s car with its Monster Energy Drink decals and colouring) and head out on the course to impress your fans just like snowboard trick riders and skateboarders do. There’s a small variety of tricks at your disposal, including donuts, jumps, drifting between posts (or under semi trucks) and crashing into obstacles.
It’s a fun minigame/change of pace that adds some fresh juice into an already variety-intense career mode. Though there aren’t enough interesting tricks to keep you coming back for more. It’s also quite difficult compared to other events, meaning some users may turn down the difficulty just for it. You can adjust it for each race, which is great. Gymkhana only shows up periodically in the career mode, so it’s not too prevalent or anything. Fans who love the sport in person will really enjoy it, but it won’t be for everyone.
The game’s career mode is structured into seasons. Four of them, in fact. You select glyphs (four-sided triangles) which reflect individual seasons. Each one has three regular series and one championship set. It’s a cool-looking structure and it works very well. Once you open one of the event series’ panels, it expands with around five events per each.
These events, which take place all over the world, range from traditional rally races to standard lap races and speed runs. There are also the odd drift, sprint and Gymkhana challenges sprinkled in to give it so freshness and arcade flavor. You unlock new events, series and championships (including both Summer and Winter X-Games events) in the same way as the last two titles in the series: by earning points based on your finishes.
Though its career mode is packed with variety, it’s not the longest mode in its class. Still, it’s a decent length with a lot of replayability and challenge, based on easy to adjust difficulty levels, in-depth tuner sliders and adjustable vehicle variations. If you really want to get deep into this game, you can do so by adjusting many different sections of your car, and its performance capabilities.
The nice thing is that it isn’t necessary, so casual gamers need not worry about it, though the fanatics will obsess over every little stat. If that’s what interests them, then that’s great. All the power to them. There’s the chance to make it as realistic as you want, with more simulation-like controls and physics. It’ll make the career a lot tougher, but therein lies the fun. Right? This game’s accessibility is outstanding. Time trial modes and single race offerings are also available, and provide some nice replay options to the package.
As you progress through your career as a created driver, by name only, you’ll gain access to new vehicles via your driver level. Success is measure in points, meaning that you’ll progress to the level cap of thirty faster if you do well and make good use of saved rewinds. Adding onto this are bonus objectives, which award you for getting to certain plateaus in categories like speed and drift length. They add a decent amount of points to your score and also help you gain achievements. These objectives take the forefront in another freeplay event, where you can race in three different arenas (including an outdoor parking lot), testing out your skills and Gymkhana tricks for points.
Online multiplayer is another large focus here. You can go online to compete against (or ally with) your friends, family and colleagues in all of the modes from the single player career mode. Freeplay and arcade party modes are also available. Online works like a charm without any major noticeable issues, though there were a couple of times where the reset ability didn’t work, leaving the car stuck somewhere it shouldn’t have been. Perhaps it didn’t register that it was driven out of bounds and had two wheels stuck on columns? Who knows. Hopefully that will be patched though. Other than that, it’s impressive. Stacked with features, fun, competitive and it also features a good community. The latter is key as it means that it’s never very difficult to find a game lobby.
The aforementioned party modes are arguably the highlight of its online offering. There are several different arcade modes which allow you to go in as a solo competitor or as a member of a team. You can try to stop a robot invasion by seeing who can knock down the most robot signs in a time limit, while watching out for building cut outs. You can also play cat and mouse, try to infect your competitors to make them become vehicular zombies, or play capture the flag.
These modes divert from traditonal rally racing and offer a very fun change of pace that the more casual crowd will love. DiRT veterans will also have fun kicking back with their feet up, playing modes that aren’t too demanding in terms of skill or commitment. They usually only last a few minutes each, anyways. It’s a nice pick up and play option for those who only get to sit down and game for short periods of time.
Each individual event allows you to pick from a different set of vehicles. All are beautiful digital renders of real-life vehicles, used in the sport. Rally racers, buggies, trucks and speedsters are all here. So is the Mini Cooper, just for fun and for use as the mouse in cat and mouse games. The vehicle offerings that were mentioned previously, become available to you when you hit certain driver level plateaus. New racing teams will offer you liveries, extra bonus points for completed objectives and different vehicles.
You can choose which team you would like to compete for, which is a nice touch – though it unfortunately isn’t reflected in any sort of story or allegiance elements, throughout the career. Car enthusiasts will be in Heaven with all of the options available, especially the tuning sliders that are there for use on each car. Each class of vehicles drives and behaves differently (in regards to physics) so things change up quite a bit when you alter event types.
Though all of the content offered in DiRT 3 is impressive, fun and generally full of polish, it’s not perfect. The game tends to briefly freeze during events, for a second or two. It’s an issue that only shows up on rare occasions though and is never a huge problem.
Though there is a much more annoying glitch that seems to cause the game to freeze during loading screens – especially when an achievement is unlocked. For some reason, something causes it to do that, which can become really frustrating. It occurred three times during this review session, negating progress made in racing events and forcing a complete reset of the XBOX 360 console. Hopefully Codemasters will patch this problem soon.
In terms of presentation, the DiRT series is next to none. It’s always been known for its beautiful, creative and interactive menu designs, plus outstanding visual fidelity. This sequel continues this tradition with class, featuring realistic looking tracks with great sun and weather effects. The environments look just as good (if not better) than the well-crafted vehicles that plow through them, tearing up the dirt and causing damage to their working parts when they crash.
This damage is modeled realistically, allowing for systematic destruction of your car’s components, depending on where you hit. It can put you out of the race if you change vehicle damage from a looks only option to a detrimental factor. It’s another great example of just how accessible and customizable this game is. If you play on the 360, you’ll notice your avatar dangling off of your car’s detailed interior windshield if you use the cockpit view, which is an interesting but ultimately distracting idea.
Real-life rally racing requires a good amount of silence to allow for quick decision making to occur. Generally, the only sounds you’ll hear are that of the car and a racer’s co-driver. Someone who tells you what is coming up next on the track, whether it’s a large and slow corner, or a jump. The game reflects this quite well, giving you a good idea of what it’s like being a professional rally car driver. Narrators brief you on the rules of new events and help guide you through your career, but they’re silenced once you hit the track. So is the music, which is only used during event loading screens that show off the course’s features.
Rally fans have a lot to be excited about this year, as DiRT 3 presents them with an excellent package of fun and competitive content. It’s fun to play and just as entertaining to watch due to its beauty and interesting races that look close to their real-life inspiration. Codemasters obviously didn’t sit on their laurels like they could have, as they went ahead and added quite a bit of new stuff to the series’ core design – all of which work quite well. It’s polished to the nines and continues on a legacy of quality that the developer have tried to instill into their products. Though there are some bumps along the ride due to a couple annoying glitches, it’s well-worth adding to your library, as it’s one of the best racers on the market. See you on the track!
Rally fans have a lot to be excited about this year, as DiRT 3 presents them with an excellent package of fun and competitive content. It's fun to play and just as entertaining to watch due to its beauty and interesting races that look close to their real-life inspiration.