Replay Value: 10
Over the years, Codemasters has virtually claimed the rally racing venue to themselves. With the success and long running pedigree of quality found in their Colin McRae rally games the competition has seemingly fallen by the wayside. Rallisport Challenge is nowhere to be found. WRC saw limited release. The ill-received Sega Rally Revo has had Sega curtailing their beloved arcade rally franchise into a smaller sized download-only offering. The Dirt franchise, being the spiritual successor and the official continuation of the Colin McRae series, offers a full fledged rally racing experience that can in nowise be considered anything less than the standard bearer of quality and excellence for this sub-genre.
Codemasters has succeeded in lovingly crafting Dirt 3 from top to bottom. Offering a wealth cars, variety of racing modes, a stylishly executed presentation, all while exuding a masterful grasp of the genre they're representing, Dirt 3 bares the torch representing their on-going pedigree for excellence in proud stride. Anyone even remotely interested in immersing themselves in rally-style racing that truly encapsulates the spirit of it's excitement should find Dirt 3 a home in their racing collection.
The meat of the single player experience happens through the 'Dirt Tour' mode. The presentation will assume your role as a newcomer rookie who's striving to break into to the rally scene. Menu commentators will guide you through seasons with tips and pointers, guiding the introduction of your touring experience while coming to grips with the flow of Dirt 3's design. You'll earn reputation points for competing in racing events. The amount thereof is scalable by the quality of your racing performance. The better you place after finishing a race combined also with your chosen vehicle will dictate earned reputation points. These reputation points will accumulate, making you more attractive to various sponsors (car manufacturers) and other 'livery' items.
As you succeed in winning events, additional seasons, competitions, and modes of play will unlock: Rally, Rally Cross, Land Rush, Trailblazer, GYMKHANA, and Head 2 Head. These modes will make up the bulk of your Dirt 3 playing experience. The Rally races will have you racing in point-to-point intervals working for that best time. Rally Cross has you competing against 7 opponents on a closed circuit. Land Rush has you driving through rough terrain while challenging competitors. Trailblazer, being similar to Rally, uses a point-to-point interval format but raced on wider roads while driving lighter vehicles. GYMKHANA is something of a stunt based spectator event, having you preform tricks with your car through an obstacle course. Head 2 Head is a one-on-one race event held on a double track, figure eight, circuit with each racer owning either the inside or outside track, but never the same track, racing in opposite directions. The racer with the best time in this event wins the competition.
As mentioned before, and new to Dirt 3, there's the GYMKHANA events. It's a mode that glamourizes performing car tricks and techniques in a closed arena. You'll work through a gamut of events, like spinning your car in donuts, power sliding sideways between drift gates, and busting through foam blocks along with other like trickery. Skillfully stringing together a variety of tricks in sequence will build a up a 'trick meter' that combos with spectator multiplier points, effectively raising your reputation in the process. I wasn't easily accepting of this new event at first, desiring racing more-so than doing something that felt more akin to the SKATE or Tony Hawk franchises; though, overtime, the GYMKHANA events grew on me. Before long I found that my handling of vehicles in races outside of GYMKHANA felt even more natural to me during a race.
There's also the DC Compound, referred to as the 'ultimate automotive playground,' unlocked early on during the Dirt Tour. It's a large open lot segmented into three main areas. It contains ramps and obstacles, inviting you to complete 'DC Missions': There's a checklist of challenges, like finding hidden items or performing certain tricks and maneuvers. The idea here is to free roam with your car without ruled constraints while enjoying the automotive obstacles.
Dirt 3 is loaded with tracks and vehicles. With over a 100 different courses from over a solid selection of global locations, held anywhere from Kenya, Michigan, the Swiss Alps, Monoco, and many other places, Dirt 3 serves up plenty of courses to race on. You'll enjoy the sheer enormity of locale options with their beautiful accompanying scenery, observed as you travel from competition to competition. On those tracks you'll get to choose from a long list of cars while you make progress: Rally cars from the most prolific manufacturers (Peugeot, Mitsubishi, Subaru etc), buggies, trucks, and classic vintage automobiles. It should be known that there isn't a big emphasis on actual car collecting here.
The AI is also something of a highlight. Based on difficulty, these opponents aren't afraid to trade paint with you as they'll aggressively defend their position on the track. You'll feel the real need to anticipate your opponents behavior and execute a well timed plan to take the advantage. Bumping or crashing into an opponent intentionally presents an authentic feeling response. You won't observe a dull thud in doing so; no, you'll feel the vehicle's behavior distort and wrestle with itself after impact. If your going to ram or be physical, do so with caution as the game sells you on the risks of collision well.
The game handles with excellence. The various automobiles are highly responsive to inputs and you'll feel convincing physics at play while navigating through the gamut of courses. The variety of surfaces of dirt, mud, tarmac, gravel, snow and more, will adjust the feel of handling. It's all convincingly executed and will no doubt make gamers keenly aware of the differences in racing on a road opposed to racing on the mud.
As a game that tries to draw in newcomers (lesser tolerant, less committed players) together with experienced racing fans, Codemasters remarkably addresses a wide spectrum of playing preferences. There's three core difficulty presets that incrementally scale the level of realism accordingly. Beginners will appreciate the more arcade-like and forgiving feel of the cars, while experts revel in the authenticity of the race as the physics convince you of accurate car handling in these rugged environments. Further yet, the player has direct control over the precision tuning of their automobiles. Whether that's ABS or TCS, or the adjusting the suspension or wheel camber, it's all here in all of it's specificity.
The flashback ability from before makes a return in Dirt 3. The flashback component allows you to stop and re-wind time in an event where you make an ill advised maneuver. Your limited to 5 flashback uses during each race. Using flashbacks come with a penalty as it will negate from your reputation points earned following a race.
The multi-player modes are a robust offering. Out of the starting gate you'll have split-screen local and online, system link and traditional online play options. With that, you have access to virtually all types of game modes played during the Dirt Tour, including, also, a Outbreak Zombie mode that is something like a game of car tag where you try to infect other players by ramming into them. There's bound to be at least more than one game type players will enjoy. Whether that's 'capture the flag' or traditional rally cross racing is up to you.
The youTube feature is an interesting new component, allowing players to upload replay events and share them on YouTube. These replays are limited to 30 seconds and are encoded at up to 480p resolution. Depending on your upload bandwidth, upload times can be several minutes. It's a nice new way to expand the 'play and share' side of gaming, but, unfortunately, this component feels a bit tacked on.
Visually, Dirt 3 is a solid, well balanced and thoughtfully executed. Maintaining that moody and stylish saturated visual presentation, Dirt 3 looks as fans would expect it should. The cars look convincingly detailed and very well representational of their real-life counterparts. They're not quite up to the detail found in Gran Turismo 5, but still this offers some of the greatest racing visuals this gen. The cars bust apart and the damage, arguably the best in the biz, satisfyingly deforms the cars. You get some superbly crafted car interior cockpits, rocking and shaking to the bumps and jolts, expected of rally racing. The rain and mud effects fittingly build up on the windshield as your wipers struggle to maintain the visibility you desire. The wide variety of tracks and locales all look masterfully crafted. You'll drive through the thick of forests, sporting trees that near always appear 3 dimensional(no flat card board trees here). The frame rate maintains a solid 30fps even during the thick of atmospheric effects like rain and mud while wrestling ahead of 7 other automobiles in rally cross. Though, I did spot a brief moment of slowdown in a rally cross event taking place in the snow at night.
The sound is another highlight in Dirt 3. Codemasters captured the engine and chassy effects convincingly. You'll hear the authentic clangs, pings and exhaust bursts as these fuel combustion beasts snarl their way through the mud, snow and dirt. The wrecks sound satisfyingly authentic. The soundtrack heard during menus and replays is a blend of rock, rap, and other pop modern tunes. You won't hear music during the drive, just the authentic sounds of a race. No complaints here.
There's a whole lot of value here for gamers to really drench themselves in with dirt and mud. With over a hundred single player racimg events, fun time killers found in the DC playground, and awesome customization options, you'll crank in the hours by the dozen before you know it. That doesn't even include the breadth of multiplayer options to boot. This package just isn't lacking in any kind of longevity.
Dirt 3 is a superb rally racing package that is bursting at the seams with high quality content, owning only a few minor contrivances. It's flexibility in accommodating the needs of individual gamer preferences makes for an easy recommendation to anyone who enjoys rally based gaming. If there's any aversion to Dirt 3, in any reasonable way, it would not be one concerning a lack of quality; rather, the lack of interest from the rally sports themselves. If you like racing, and like it rally flavored, then hit the dirt with Dirt 3.