The third installment of the Colin McRae Dirt Series is here, and this time it has brought along its hoodie wearing Asbo cousin gymkhana. With the Dirt series, Codemasters have always tried to bring ‘seat of your pants’ off road racing to the masses and I’m glad to say they have done it again in spades. Once again, Codemasters have outdone themselves on the physics engine with the cars feeling alive as they slide around mud-filled corners and jitter nervously on tarmac. Before the start of each event, you can of course change the assists (racing line, ABS, stability control, etc.) and car settings (gear ratio, downforce, etc.) to make it more to your liking. Manual gears are available to those of you wishing to wear out your buttons but this can only be selected in the main options screen. Once you get the car set up to your liking you are off into the event and it won’t take long though until you are power sliding round those hair pin turns like a true pro.
This is the first time in the Dirt series that the developers have included a racing line for you to follow. Adding to this, Codemasters have included a flashback option (which I am not a fan of in general for racing games) so you can rewind back far enough to avoid the accident you caused. And that’s one of the nice things about Dirt3, with a few tweaks of the game settings it changes from a novice friendly off road racer that everyone can enjoy, to a challenging game with enough slides and spins to keep most hardcore fans happy.
The graphics are crisp and sharp and you get a real sensation of speed as you travel down a logging road at 201kph. That you might say is hard enough in itself to capture, as many have tried and many have failed, but when you add in rain, snow blizzards and nighttime stages, all rendered with eye melting detail, it just adds to the overall package and you think, “yes, they have done it again”.
Adding to the effect, is the way the mud and snow build up on the car, crazy rally fans run off the stage as you come hurtling towards them, and the damage model is just a thing of beauty with parts flying off in high-speed smashes. The cars have been rendered beautifully and as you progress up the ladder, you get more cars and liveries to unlock.
Dirt3 does come with an impressive soundtrack. But, to be honest who wants to listen to that when you have the sound of a waste gate chirping like a nest full of hungry eagles to enjoy. It would be nice however to turn off your manager and sponsor’s voice-overs in between events, as they are quite repetitive…
On your way to the top, you have to compete in 4 seasons. Each season has three levels, and each level has five events (of varying length) and a season finale for you to enjoy, and they cover all the aspects of the game we know and love; rally, rally cross, trailblazer, land rush and now gymkhana.
Now, for those of you who have no idea what gymkhana is, it is a sport/style of driving where donuts, jumps, and drifting under semi trailers are the order of the day. The objective is to go around a course in any direction you want and perform various tricks in order to score points – just think a supermarket car park on a Saturday night without someone keeping an eye out for the cops.
During the season, you get to compete in sponsor challenges. Here you can earn bonus points by smashing robots, racing a bobsleigh, and performing tricks in a certain order, and the end of every season is capped with a season showdown.
On top of the four seasons, there’s also the discipline specific races to tackle and the Battersea Compound so you can practice your gymkhana in peace and complete some more missions, all adding to your driver rep score. Even though Dirt3 takes you around the world to get your fix of mudslinging, after a while it all becomes more of the same. The same tracks, with some races that are just a little longer, but overall not really a lot to come back to. That is until you look at the multiplayer, which is also a huge sticking point.
The multiplayer – here we have a problem. To access the multiplayer you need to have a VIP pass. Now this comes with the game when you buy it, but… If you’re renting the game, buying it second hand, or even borrowing it from a mate, you will have to get your own VIP Pass to access the online section. Which for the 360 is available on Xbox Live and is a snip at 800 points! To add further salt to the open festering wound, there are certain cars and liveries that are only available with the VIP code and others that are only available as DLC. I know times are tough and the game developers are trying to figure out a way to make money out of the second hand market but I think this is taking the piss a bit, the multiplayer is a key part of the game.
However, if you do have a VIP code or you do decide to buy one, what opens up can only be described as fantastic! We all know the main issue with racing games is some douche bag using you as the brake, but what the developers have done here is to put the cars on the same stage but they’re all ghosts. Spooky but very effective, as you don’t have to worry about anybody ruining your race but yourself.
And the difference in graphics, handling and general gameplay from the single player to the multiplayer is a gnat’s hair. And with the glorious “mute all” button it’s just pure racing heaven.
Multiplayer is divided into two categories Pro Tour and Jam Mode. Pro Tour allows you to compete in the following events:
- Competitive – Circuit Racing, Point to Point, Gymkhana
- Party Mode – Get drunk and have a laugh
- Hardcore – No OSD, No Assists, Forced Head Cam
- Point to Point – Rally, Trailblazer, Head to Head
- Circuit Racing – Rally Cross and Land rush
Jam Mode allows you to take part in all the game modes including Transporter, Outbreak, Cat ‘N’ Mouse, Joyride and Invasion.
Transporter is capture the flag but with movable flags and score zones. Simple enough.
Outbreak is a “Zombie/Infected” mode where one player is infected and has to spread the disease.
Invasion is all about smashing through cut-outs of robots – whoever smashes the most wins.
All events are available to play in either solo or team mode.
The final kicker is the ability to upload your finest replays and crashes to YouTube and share them with the world. Now the only problem with the YouTube upload is that you’re limited to a 30 second replay, and it makes you have to select the right camera angle for your replay before you enter in to the you recording area. I would have liked more options in the editing mode here, and a few more generic video titles other than perfect line, epic jump, omg and so on. And the ability to actually save a full replay on to your hard drive would have been nice, and who knows, maybe in the next one.
Personally, I loved this game. Yes, the races are a bit ‘rinse and repeat’, but I found if I was getting bored of the single player there was the multiplayer, and if I got bored with that there was the open Battersea Compound area to play in. Dirt3 is not without its faults and they are minor (bar the VIP Code) but this really has put Codemasters to the forefront of how a racing game should look and feel.
The ability to upload in game footage to YouTube is a great idea, and it’s something I hope other game developers will catch onto. With the amount of game options that are available to you and the cool but limited YouTube option, I would say this is a ‘must have’ for all racing fans. So get it, get dirty and get posting!
**All videos posted here were taken from the Xbox360 Version.