The vehicle roster delivers three dozen cars for your racing pleasure.
The first Dirt found its niche with a focus on off-road racing, but unpredictable physics held back the controls striving to emulate the simulated feel of arcade driving. Dirt 2, however, struck a more resonating chord with fans after retooling the car physics to sustain the G-forces generated upon entering a hairpin bend at 60 miles per hour. Dirt 3 looks to copy the success befitting its predecessor, and I daresay the developers have accomplished that goal.
Codemasters has trimmed away the fat to provide the most streamlined and exhilarating Dirt experience yet. The Dirt Tour (career mode) has been refined with a heavy emphasis on pure rally racing. There are no big rigs to slow the momentum to crawl. You start as an up-and-coming driver like any typical racer, and the goal is to progress through four seasons of increasingly difficult events to compete in the DC SuperSeries Championship. The trailer hub from Dirt 2 is absent, but the new menu style is clean, simple, and easy to navigate throughout the constant camera pans. Regrettably, your commentators spew laughable lines every time you begin a race, earn a podium finish, and unlock a new event/season. The Dirt series has never been known for its noteworthy dialogue or convincing commentary, and Dirt 3 continues that tradition. Seriously, Jack the mechanic sounds like an American laboring to fake an Australian accent.
Drifting in a winter wonderland...
Gameplay is still the same old fare – be the first/fastest driver to make it from Point A to Point B – but the execution is where Dirt 3 excels above the competition. Night racing and snow terrain make their first appearances, each providing a new set of challenges to master. Whipping cars around corners at 80 miles per hour delivers thrills fast and frantic, and the AI will show no mercy at higher difficulties – watch your back or you may find yourself trading paint with the nearest guardrail. Doors uncouple, windows shatter, and wheels detach depending on how hard you impact the environment or your competitors. There’s a reason that Dirt that leads the pack when it comes to vehicle destruction. Fortunately, flashbacks make their triumphant return. Go careening over a cliff? Smash headlong into a wall? Use a flashback to rewind the action several seconds and prevent impending doom. Players now have five flashbacks per race, and there’s little penalty to using them.
There are several changes to the Dirt formula that fans may find discouraging. Car management and customization has been toned down for the third entry. Players no longer concern themselves with purchasing rides. Cars unlock at various ranks (30 in all) by earning rep points. Achieving a podium finish, using fewer flashbacks, and completing bonus objectives, such as reaching a certain speed or not taking damage during a race, all contribute to a player’s reputation. Applying liveries to your cars is more important than in the previous games, though, and sponsors are obtained at higher ranks. Affixing a certain sponsor’s livery to your vehicle determines how much rep you will receive upon completing a bonus objective. The rarer the livery, the more points you can earn. Gamers no longer have to fret about the damage dealt to their cars either. Every dent and ding is automatically repaired between races, so feel free to wreck your vehicle to your heart’s content.
This desert oasis has never looked so enticing.
Visually, Dirt 3 amazes. Players travel to various locations around the globe, from the rocky hillsides of Kenya to the snowy mountains of Norway to the dense backwoods of Michigan, and although only a couple dozen tracks populate the events, the changing weather conditions prevent that familiar sense of déjà vu. Even though the sprawling vistas shine while driving, where the graphics really please is after the race. Codemasters continues to enhance their adrenaline-charged replays; they are truly a sight to behold. Dirt 3’s replays provide a cinematic view of color and speed that will get people's hearts racing. Of course, the vehicles are littered with details as well, even when caked with mud, covered in snow, or layered in dirt.
Gymkhana is another first for the series. An automotive sport staged in an arena such as a parking lot or stadium, Gymkhana tasks drivers to perform jumps, drifts, and donuts using objects like cones, ramps, and trailers. Be forewarned: The learning curve is steep, but once you perfect the basics of feathering the throttle and using the emergency brake, few racing games provide the satisfaction Dirt 3 offers. If gamers wish to post their more impressive replays online but lack the necessary means to do so, Dirt 3 contains an innovative feature. Players can upload any replay to YouTube directly in-game. The process may take a while based on your Internet upload speeds, but showcasing one’s drifting expertise to the world is sure to bring bragging rights and excite a number of fans. There’s just one caveat to this feature: You need an online pass.
Ken Block is your master on everything Gymkhana.
Multiplayer admission also requires an online pass. I hope you bought the game new because if not, you’re going to shell out $10 to access some exceptional cutthroat gameplay. All the typical modes are here and can be played solo or with a team, but Codemasters has upped the ante with fresh alternatives. Outbreak begins with one driver designated as the infected car. He or she must then spread the infection to other cars by ramming into them. Fighting to remain the last man standing is intense, and trying to evade seven pursuers is an experience I won’t soon forget. The Transporter mode, on the other hand, is Dirt’s take on conventional capture the flag. Players must chase down the enemy flag carrier while attempting to protect their own. It’s harrowing and helps revitalize the old racing formula. Gymkhana may also be played online as contestants vie to accomplish varying objectives first and claim the top leaderboard position.
Simply put, Dirt 3 is fun. Not once did I feel frustrated with the game, except when practicing the more difficult Gymkhana maneuvers. Fans may find the simplified and streamlined career mode unfavorable, but the refined focus on rally sport provides one of gaming's most exhilarating driving experiences. The settings are breathtaking, and the cars exhibit intricate details even when missing doors, tires, or windows. Gymkhana provides a fresh take on drifting, and your best replays can be uploaded directly to YouTube. However, a VIP pass is required to access this feature as well as the multiplayer – an unfortunate downside, because racing fans should not miss out on Dirt 3's online modes. Healthy driving assists ease newcomers into the series, but it’s when you break off the training wheels that Dirt 3 truly comes alive.
Developer: Codemasters Southam
Release Date: May 24, 2011
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign) 2-8 (Multiplayer)
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, PC