DiRT 3 Review
Traditional racing games are a dime a dozen these days; they are either annually renewed or get a new paint job in the graphics department with each entry. Most racing games unfold like this: get in, race, unlock some stuff, and progress until satisfied. DiRT 3 will come as a big surprise to gamers new to the franchise. It blends the unpredictability of off-road racing with the appeal of street racing. You have the option to compete in almost any kind of challenge you could think possible inside a vehicle and on almost any kind of surface.
One of the first things youíll realize about this game is the level of quality in the presentation. The menus are slick and polished; the music is a great mix of unique tracks; the voice-over work is so good that itís a shame there arenít visual characters attached to them; and the graphics in the races are of the highest quality. One cool touch is that occasionally the voice-overs will call you by your name if your name was on the pre-set list, but it doesnít happen enough. Another cool feature is how the replay of the event will automatically play in the background of the summary at the end, allowing you to jump into the replay if you want - you can even post segments to YouTube. Itís not that they re-invented the wheel of presentation in games, but the developers have put the extra effort into making sure every inch of this game is far above the status quo.
The racing is not tight and hyper-realistic, but itís not over-the-top or exaggerated either. Every car has the ability to power slide, or drift as they say; so the disclaimer for any newcomers is that the racing here is not the standard car mechanics you may be accustomed to in other games. Your selection of rides will range from street racers to off-road trucks, and each set of wheels is divided into their own classes and each one combined with the different surfaces makes every track a test of adaptability.
One of the best features is the green guiding line that gives you the correct placement and speed of your vehicle during a race. So long as the line is green and youíre following it, you are doing great, but you will see the line change to red for upcoming curves, meaning you need to slow down until the line changes back to green meaning you can floor it again. This is a small feature that I would love to see in all serious racing games as a way to help drivers learn how to maneuver twists and turns, but of course you can always adjust this and other assist settings to your liking Ė there is always room for your own input of course, such as how I like to aim under the line when itís red. Most seasoned racing gamers can play on the intermediate difficulty, but even that shouldnít be much of a challenge before too long. You can increase the difficulty of the other racers, adjust the ways the game can help you, turn on damage, and change it to manual gear-shifting if things get too easy.
Though the game is predominantly about rally racing, there are many more modes to choose from. Rally is just you against the clock, with your competition leaving at different starting times you most likely wonít see any other racers unless doing really bad or really good. This mode may initially be off-putting for arcade racing gamers who only know how to race against a field of opponents, but there is plenty of standard racing to be had in other modes. Gymkhana is a freestyle mode where the objective is to perform tricks in certain designated areas, with an emphasis on not hitting the walls and not repeating the same trick to death. The bottom line is that there is never a dull moment when you have so many ways to test your metal: Gymkhana, standard racing, the career, multiplayer, and even an online zombie mode.
The career mode leaves nothing to be desired. As you progress you earn rank that unlocks stuff throughout the game, but more than just a grind, you may find yourself enthralled by the opportunity to go from small-time to big-shot. The career is divided into four seasons and you advance through each circuit based on performance. To help you is a cast of voice-overs encouraging you on, and though on paper it may sound like a cop-out (and it may very well be), the career still felt a bit personal and provided that little extra motivation to do well thanks to the motivational pep-talks. Itís not a ground-breaking way to present a career mode for an alternative sports game, but itís better than just navigating menus on your lonesome or a half-hearted series of meaningless cutscenes.
Another key feature in the gameplay that stands out during your career is the ability to rewind out of crashes. In multiplayer itís simply a way to correct yourself in a snap, but in the career this nifty feature allows less experience players a mulligan after one bad turn; even then it requires some skill in knowing how to resume once you pick the spot you wish to restart from, meaning you could just end up crashing in a different way if not careful enough. And to ensure you leave an event happy, you can replay events as many times as you need. Disingenuous, yes, but in the end itís in the hands of the player if they want to have an easy difficulty, turn up the assists, use all their rewinds, and replay an event. The last feature that streamlines the gameplay is that you can only adjust a few sliders to tweak aspects of your carís handling before each event. This eliminates the hassle and diligence required for advanced auto-tuning; you just pick the sponsored vehicle, appearance, and itís up to you if you change the settings. Though simplified, the settings still require advanced knowledge of what the upcoming contest demands, but for the majority of time youíll find that tweaking your own play within the default alignments works just as well.
Again, every inch of this game is designed to appeal to the eye. While racing youíll notice the wear and tear on your ride as you bump around the walls and other racers, but youíll also notice the grime and muck that accumulates on your exterior. If the track is in a muddy, abandoned warehouse location, your car will be covered in mud and slightly reflecting light. The level of detail in your rides, the damage the vehicles take, the permanent damage the tracks take, and the interior view of your rides look amazing; if only the spectators on the periphery looked a little better the visuals would be spotless. The courses themselves may surprise you, from Finland to Michigan and the LA Coliseum you have a great selection of surfaces, environments, and times of day to compete. You may enjoy the look of the beautifully serene countryside during the day, but the nighttime races in the snow are even more intense and unpredictable. You may not get a good look around you, but the eye candy is there beyond the race tracks and chassis.
In this game you are given the power to make the it as challenging as you like, and when tired of the engaging career you can have your pick of a slew of multiplayer modes. DiRT 3 is like the Halo 3 of racing games. Like Halo 3 it is based in reality but takes liberties here and there, both games look absolutely gorgeous if not slightly exaggerated in shininess, and both set the bar high for future imitators. Racing fans have no reason miss this game and people who are on the fence shouldnít be. DiRT 3 is a crowning achievement in the potential fun that a racing game can offer. It just may be that perfect mix of hardcore realistic racing simulation and arcade simplicity with a pinch of that Fast and Furious flavor the kids love.
Final Rating: 98%.