GSY REVIEW | X360, PS3, PC Friday, May 20, 2011 | 3:00 PM

Gamersyde Review: DiRT 3

Gamersyde Review: DiRT 3

Writing DiRT 3’s review has been one of the biggest challenges of my rather short game reviewer career. Not because the game is bad or uninteresting, but first because I have already written much about it in our preview, but also because I didn’t find a lot of negative things to say about it. I’ve searched and searched, but really couldn’t find much. It’s been a challenge to find enough to write to keep you occupied a few minutes reading this review, but thankfully you’ll also have quite a few videos to pass the time too.



No severe sequels

Let’s start with the obvious: DiRT 3 is Dirt 2’s sequel. Dirt 2 had tried real hard to please American gamers, usually not so interested in Rally racing, by releasing a great game presented in a X-Games-ish wrapper - a rather nauseating one for us Europeans. Codemasters thankfully forgot all about that ambition and delivered a game where most of the time is spent in beautiful races against the clock, and where menus are now actual menus (but classy ones, as is now the norm with Codemasters) instead of a trailer parked in the middle of a noisy crowd. And the cherry on top of the cake is that the incredibly annoying comments of the other racers during races are now gone too.



So what about the game itself? There is of course a quick race mode where the player can select any type of gameplay and track and just go race against the online leaderboards, but the meat of the game is the career mode, as expected. One season is available right from the start, with three more to unlock by finishing the previous one. Each season is composed at first of two championships, with one more to unlock, and a last one to finish the season with something a bit different. Each event in a championship is freely available (unless still locked), and the player earns points by finishing on the podium. These points are used to unlock more events in the championship, and also to unlock the third and fourth ones in that season. Another set of points increases the player notoriety and unlocks new cars and liveries. Nothing out of the ordinary, but it works very well.



There's no blocking us

There are many types of events, as expected. I’m sure purists would have loved that this game only featured Rally races, but everything else is very accessible. Let’s start with the Rally events, with races against the clock with a copilot announcing the next corners and multiple stages (their number increases with the seasons). The Trailblazer mode is mostly the same thing, but with much more powerful cars and no copilot. Quite the adrenalin rush! Good news for Rally racers, these two modes are the ones where most of the in-game time will be spent. Let’s continue with the Rallycross and Landrush events, fun but not so original races for 8 cars or trucks. More in the Rally spirit, Head to Head events are races between two cars on a single track composed of two crossing lanes. Last but not least, the special events, like drifting, and most importantly Gymkhana.



Gymkhana events are the most publicized new feature of DiRT 3. If you have never heard about this strange discipline and its barbaric name, Gymkhana is a sort of obstacle race, made popular by Ken ‘I wish I could finish a WRC event without breaking my car’ Block via some highly popular youtube videos. DiRT 3 tries to reproduce this experience with a point and combo system in a closed field including many different obstacles. The player has to chain them as fast as possible to get the best score at the end of the time limit. I think the simplest way to understand it is simply to watch the video below! These events aren’t that numerous during the championships, even though some of them are mandatory. Thankfully they are very easy to pass with the lowest score possible, so someone who doesn’t want to spend too much time with these can definitely do so and move on. Also worth mentioning, at the end of each season, a new part of a sandbox-ish playground opens up, with missions like doing a 180 while jumping and things like that to do. Completely optional, but it’s a nice addition.



Time to lose some weight

The most important part of a racing game is by far the car handling. The Dirt series has never been known as simulations, and this new episode isn’t really an exception. But it doesn’t mean Codemasters didn’t do some heavy (literally) changes to how the cars handle. The very obvious change is that the cars now feel like they actually weigh something. The first few minutes of the game are a very good demonstration of how mass shifting during breaking and cornering affects how the game should be played. DiRT 2 fans will without a doubt say Hi to a few trees, houses or holes when approaching their first corners. Cars also tend to easily oversteer, and breaking too late can have some surprising results. It’s a bit destabilizing (quite literally again) in the beginning, but then everything just clicks and feels in fact more natural.

Dirt 3 also welcomes back weather conditions, which had been missing since the good old Colin Mc Rae 5 on previous consoles. You can now race on wet tracks, under the rain, on ice, on snow, and even in the middle of a snow storm. This of course affects the cars handling greatly, and help rediscover stages that would get tedious after a few times with normal conditions. Add to that night races and you will understand that Codemasters certainly tried hard to make sure their game would not get too repetitive after a while.



There is one feature where DiRT will not surprise anyone, and it’s its technical side. DiRT 2 already was a very impressive game visually, and DiRT 3 takes it even further. The various lighting settings for each stage - most of them with dawn, dusk, night and some combinations with weather conditions - are all very natural and beautiful. Check out our video showing a snow stage at dawn to see an example of how it changes everything. The modeling of the cars and track details is also way above average, and the game stays smooth all the time. The only real slowdowns I saw were in the menus and during the loadings, so they don’t really matter. On our Xbox 360 review code, I noticed some very rare instances of tearing, mostly when playing with an outside view camera. In the end, Codemasters certainly can be proud of their engine.



Multiple pleasures

I couldn’t try the online races since I was playing on a debug console, but I still got to play the split-screen mode with our good friend BombStrike (who is actually the one playing in all our videos). This mode is limited to two players, but looks very close to the single player. The most obvious differences are the lack of a cockpit view, no reflections on the cars and some slight pop-in of the vegetation. It’s quite impressive to see such a good looking single player game still showing most of its beauty with a split screen view. A lot of racing options are available during the creation of the event; most importantly it’s possible to either all start at the same time (6 AI are possible) and have collisions disabled, or do a staggered start and have collisions enabled. Other classic events are of course also available, like Rallycross, Landrush and Head to Head. A very well done mode, for sure.



What can I say about DiRT3 that’s at least a bit negative? The only real bad point I could find is that there are only 4 environments (divided in many stages of course) for Rally races. Finland, Kenya, Michigan and snowy Norway provide a nice variety of locations, but a more mountainous environment like Corsica or Japan would have been a very welcome addition. Other events like Rallycross and Gymkhana have their own environments, adding some more variety, but more is always welcome. The addition of weather effects and night racing mitigates this issue though.



Conclusion


DiRT 3 is an excellent game, and Codemasters should be commended for not just doing yet another sequel with no real additions when they are basically the only ones still releasing Rally titles. Unless you are completely uninterested in this nice racing style, DiRT 3 is a title that should find a place of choice in your collection.

Snow rally in Norway
Norway at dawn
Overcast Finland
Kenya by night
Trailblazer in the snow
Monaco Head to Head
Split screen head to head
First Gymkhana

All comments

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Commented on 2011-05-20 15:54:12
"Snow rally in Sweden". "Sweden at Dawn".

You're mixing it up with Norway. There's no tracks that take place in Sweden - as you can see it even says Norway in your videos. ;)
Commented on 2011-05-20 15:58:00
Damn, thanks for that. Fixing now.
Commented on 2011-05-20 16:00:06
Blim, do you like this as much as Rallisport 2?
Commented on 2011-05-20 16:09:45 In reply to bettyloui
Posted by bettyloui
Blim, do you like this as much as Rallisport 2?
That's a tough question. Rallisport 2 was so close to perfection, and I guess nostalgia is making it even better in my mind than it was. DiRT 3 is certainly a great game.
Commented on 2011-05-20 16:36:49
I got one question, i think it was already in Dirt 2, but not Dirt. Can you go on Xbox live and race against other games but ALSO see them on the track at the same time? I don't mean racing against a ghost or times or nothing....do you get to race against other (visible)cars in this?
Commented on 2011-05-20 16:40:33 In reply to Moonwalker
I didn't play on Xbox Live, but as I've written in the review in split screen mode you can either race simultaneously with your split screen partner and up to 6 AI, and in that case there are no collisions. Or you can do a staggered start, and then collisions are enabled.
I expect it to be mostly the same on Xbox Live, but I can't tell for sure.
Commented on 2011-05-20 16:50:41
Rallisport 2 really was perfection. I had a little tiny small complaint about the small rocks that bring you to a complete stop.. but other than that, rallisport2 was so ahead of its time...
Commented on 2011-05-20 17:00:04
1st day bro
Commented on 2011-05-20 17:01:21
I like how the driver takes the hands of the wheel when the car is about to crash. Shows how much attention they spend to details
Commented on 2011-05-20 17:03:56
HI Blim...one question mate.
How long are the stages ?....8-10 minutes.?
Thank



Commented on 2011-05-20 17:38:51
loving the avatar ragdoll lol.
Commented on 2011-05-20 17:43:58
Gymkhana can be done in-car ya? or at least on bonnet?
Commented on 2011-05-20 17:59:31 In reply to rob230
Posted by rob230
Gymkhana can be done in-car ya? or at least on bonnet?
Sure. It makes it much harder to see where you are compared to the obstacle though, so that's why the video is done with an outside view.
Commented on 2011-05-20 18:25:30
Bummer about no collissions, I really miss the Rallisport Series, it all falls back to when EA came a calling to MS about coming to Xbox and not wanting MS to have competing sports games on the platform..
Commented on 2011-05-20 20:32:16 In reply to BlimBlim
Posted by BlimBlim
Sure. It makes it much harder to see where you are compared to the obstacle though, so that's why the video is done with an outside view.
Top man thanks, I like a challenge :)
Commented on 2011-05-20 21:29:46
Blim. Did you get a review code for the PC Version? I'd like to know how it compared visually. i.e. If there's any noticeable improvement apart from the given higher res and AA.
Commented on 2011-05-20 21:31:50 In reply to OldSchoolGamer
Posted by OldSchoolGamer
Blim. Did you get a review code for the PC Version? I'd like to know how it compared visually.
We got it at work (not gamersyde) a few days ago. I saw it running for a few minutes on a Q6600 at 3 Ghz with a GT570, and well... It looked great :)
I couldn't really pause the game and watch if the textures were any better, but considering the PC version is about twice as big as the 360 one, I bet they are.
Commented on 2011-05-20 21:51:21
I think this is going to be a great game, day one for me. But it seems like all the racing titles that have come out fall a bit short in some way or another. This game for example. Everything is great looking, we know it handles well, why have these short tracks. Where are the long stretches of snow fields, then into a town, then back out, a deep forest up ahead, through that, then back out or into a small town. There is no sense of changing landscape, it all seems to be the same. I don't know, I'm American so in saying this, why the f%$k do they have to dumb everything down for us
Commented on 2011-05-20 22:25:54
Thanks for videos. Looks a good game but going to pass this.
Commented on 2011-05-20 22:30:22 In reply to BlimBlim
Posted by BlimBlim
We got it at work (not gamersyde) a few days ago. I saw it running for a few minutes on a Q6600 at 3 Ghz with a GT570, and well... It looked great :)
I couldn't really pause the game and watch if the textures were any better, but considering the PC version is about twice as big as the 360 one, I bet they are.
Cool!

It's been a while since a good racing game landed @ PC. NFS performance was pretty awful and didn't support multi GPU.
Commented on 2011-05-20 23:01:46
Dirt 1 and 2 are the most fun racing games ever made, so hope this continues that.
Commented on 2011-05-20 23:44:52
Oh why did you guys have to remind me of Rallisport 2? :( I never got into the dirt games as the car always seemed to be on rails. There was no other feeling like shooting out of a hairpin turn in RS2. Maybe I will give this one a try.

Dirt 3 is compatible with the MS xbox wheel right?
Commented on 2011-05-21 03:11:26
Well im sold, ive like the Dirt games thus far despite their flaws and this one sounds a whole lot better. The only thing i need to decide now is which version im going to get.
Commented on 2011-05-21 09:10:01
Looking good. Dont know about you, but when I look at the video it gives me the feeling that for the first time in Dirt you do not have the feeling to drive through a small landscape line with invisible borders left and right.

The streets seems to be more a part of the surrounding landscape.
Not sure how to explain this...
Commented on 2011-05-21 09:45:19
Thanks for the vids/review. It's funny people brought up RS2. Surprisingly there's nothing substantial that this game does that RS2 didn't already do (weather, rain, night, group B, etc. ).

But for what it's worth, I'm really liking what I see on those videos. Handling is probably not up to where I'd like it to be, but it certainly looks like it's a racing game that can't be missed--especially considering the lack of rally games out there. I'm getting this one on my collection it seems.
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About the game
  • DiRT 3
  • PC, X360, PS3
  • Published by Codemasters
  • Developed by Codemasters
  • French release: Available
  • US release: Available
  • Japanese release: Available


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