DiRT 3, the newest part in Codemasters’ racing series, takes us to desolate country roads, forest areas and open plains where we can almost feel the sand between our teeth. The previous games gave racing fans an overload of offroad disciplines but clearly dwelled away from the rally racing itself. DiRT 3, however, makes a U-turn and drives back to the start. Do we like this choice or do we prefer to drive with other cars on closed circuits?
In Dirt 3 you start as a rookie in the rally scene, you get a sponsor and a car with which you can start the first rally stages. As you build a name for yourself and your talent grows (or at least, that’s the idea) you unlock more sponsors and get to choose from more vehicles. Throughout the career mode you’ll often finish rally events but the game does move on side paths regularly and you have to get through Land Rush events (rally but with faster cars and less restricted specs), Rally Cross, Head 2 Head and the new Gymkhana.
Gymkhana has little to do with rally but was added by Codemasters as Ken Block, the X-games pilot and also known from DiRT 2, wastes his time with this. The idea is to drift as stylishly as possible, spin, jump and make donuts around obstacles. Get your best steering skills out as this requires millimeter work at times!
The different race modes come to their justice thanks to the large diversity of regions in which you can race. One moment you’re going through the open plains of Kenya, to finish a race in the snowy mountains of Aspen and finally end in the woods of Finland. Add to that different weather conditions and a night cycle and you understand the rides never become boring. The Ghymkhana events take place in Monaco, Los Angeles Colosseum and the British energy plant Battersea. As variation also an additional challenge is brought under the name DC Challenges. Here you have to do small missions like driving over boards against the clock or a drift session for as many points as possible. I didn’t really care about the drifting – it seems like a hype to build this into racing games – and we’re not looking forward to more of them either. Drop them!
Just like the track selection, the car park is very extensive. As you unlock more sponsors you can gt going with modern rally cars like the Subaru Impreza WRX, the Ford Focus RS, Fiat Punto Abarth or the Lancer Evo X. Next to that there’s also a huge list of icons from the rally sport like the Audi Quattro, Toyota Celica, Renault Alpine, the Mini Cooper S Works Rally, Ford Escort MK2, the Lancia Delta HF Integrale and even the Renault R5 Turbo! And the list doesn’t even end here but Wikipedia will be happy to tell you more about all the rest that’s present.
Graphically the DiRT games always do well. They never go all the way but this one does go quite far. The cars look fantastic and the damage model clearly went a few steps further than before. The surroundings are very detailed and the effects of snow, mud and burnt rubber almost complete the picture. The only downpoint is at the start of a rainy race where your car looks like it’s covered with foil instead of realistic rain drops and it also looks like all tracks limit your view.
The new menus are also a nice improvement. Instead of busy cut-scenes we get a minimalistic presentation with triangles. It needs some getting used to but this style does truly look great. Unfortunately an irritating voice that’s supposed to aid you spoils the fun. Luckily this is only limited and the engine sounds and squeeking tires come to the rescue.
If you prefer testing your skills against humans you can check out splitscreen (finally a dev who thinks of this) or multiplayer. Of course the modes are exactly what you expect from a racing game but there’s more. Thanks to a new party mode you can now play some fun games like Capture the Flag with cars, or Outbreak where you need to infect other people by giving them a push with your bumper. The variation online is huge and will definitely appeal to every player, die-hard racer or recreative gamer.
DiRT 3 is without a doubt the best and most varied rally game of the moment. The diversity is huge, but Codemasters no longer neglects the rally roots. The introduction of Gymkhana is refreshing but never dominates the game. Add some nice new online modes and you get a game that never becomes boring. This one needs to be in any gamer’s collection!