DiRT 3 Preview
Although Gran Turismo 5 includes Rally events, the true-blue Rally fan is lying in wait for DiRT 3, which seeks to once again redefine off-road simulation. In addition to tossing in more cars, more variety, more environments and in general, more overall gameplay, Codemasters will also include “gymkhana,” which is a specialized form of stunt-based driving popularized by Ken Block. It’ll be the first time such a style has been featured in any video game and the developers have also taken fan feedback into consideration. Unsurprisingly, the hardcore followers want the team to refocus on Rally – some will argue new disciplines in the sequel stole the limelight – and as a result, DiRT 3’s career mode will be comprised of 60% straight Rally races. We always like to see franchises evolve, especially when they’ve managed to earn the praise of critics and gamers alike.
Codemasters will utilize a more advanced physics engine, which should provide racers with an even more realistic experience from top to bottom. Various surfaces and different conditions will force you to adapt on a routine basis, and the designers are really getting anal about the detail involved…gotta love that. Grass, pavement, dirt; you must acknowledge your surroundings and make the appropriate adjustments. This will be more critical than ever before but if you’re not quite checked out on Rally racing, you can enable fresh driving assists that will help you get your bearings. So when you first hit the track, you can have the benefit of throttle management, added stability, and artificial braking for corners. Of course, once you’ve become accustomed to the action, you can disable all those assists and try to drive like the professionals. But even then, you do have one last-ditch effort to eliminate a mistake: it’s the return of the flashback feature, which lets you rewind time and give another poorly taken turn a second try.
It’s the gymkhana that intrigues us most. You’ll have to string together tough jumps and stunts, which may prove to be especially difficult. Given the amount of practice and vehicle understanding required, it may take a few tries to get acquainted with this flashy new style, especially because it has never before been in a game. There are various modes within the gymkhana discipline: there’s Trailer Thrash, Pipe Dream, Can You Dig It, and Pole Dancer. The latter has you spinning donuts around a pillar while Can You Dig It will have you zipping around, narrowly avoiding disastrous obstacles…like a massive mechanical digging arm. For big air, you can try Airborne, which asks you to leap and land cleanly (harder than it sounds, we’re sure), and Block Buster is exactly what it sounds like: yeah, just try to knock down as many foam blocks as you can. It sounds great for the true-blue driving enthusiasts.
The combination of gymkhana with traditional Rally racing ought to be enough to entice most fans, if the enhanced physics engine isn’t. We should also be looking at another step forward in terms of visual and audio accomplishment. As for multiplayer, the new iteration will boast two-player split-screen play for the very first time, along with other offline modes that will support up to eight players. And of course, you can expect quite the online multiplayer community. DiRT 3 is scheduled to release during the second quarter of this year for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC, and if you enjoyed past titles, this should be right up your alley. But will you be able to handle the hardcore stunts and unique driving challenges…?
1/3/2011 Ben Dutka