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Platforms: 360 | PS3 | PC (reviewed)
Developed and Published by Codemasters

I have not completed the career mode in DiRT 3. Technically this should be an ‘impression’, but it’s as close to a review of this game I’m going to give, so that’s why it’s a that. Ohwell. DiRT 3, is a sim-lite rally racing game. My enthusiasm to play has plummeted. This is not to say DiRT 3 is bad, it’s just a little lacking.

I’m going to start off with a grievance and sum it up as thus: DUDE! THAT WAS AWESOME! HERE, LET ME ADD SOME MORE EXCLAMATIONS BECAUSE DUDE THAT WAS AWESOME SICK WICKEDNESS DUDE. DUDE!!!! Since (Colin McRae) DiRT and the tragic demise of Colin McRae, the series has apparently taken a turn in presentation. Whilst the first one was very much focused on exploring rally and rally event variations as a progressing career, DiRT 3 has a very emphasised focus on the American X-Games (Disclaimer – I haven’t played 2, although I don’t see that as impeding this write-up). To that extent, having spent a few hours on the single player ‘career’ mode, I feel like I’ve done small amounts of pure rally driving, where the events themselves are painfully short, compared to the admittedly fun variations and circuit type events.

All the time through the main navigation and pre/post-race menus, you’re being hammered by commentators who belong back in the early 90s where people could just about get away in still using the world ‘gnarly’. It’s so, so, so annoying…dude. Unfortunately the mute button isn’t terribly useful in this scenario because it being a rally game and a fairly sim-ish one at that, you need it for the instructions of where the bloody hell you’re going while travelling at over 100mph on narrow almost-roads.

For you see, this game wasn’t designed to be played with your full HUD (Head’s Up Display). No, you’re supposed to play this like a man, with no HUD whatsoever from your in-car view and wailing as you fly into a corner and subsequently the large tree that is not part of the road. Fortunately, and this is one gaming convention I can get behind, you now have access to rewinds that allow you to go quite a good chunk of time backwards. You’re limited in your uses though and for each you use, you lose experience points that go towards unlocking ranks and thus new cars or liveries. This feature has a second use though of allowing you to upload the clip to YouTube, albeit limited to 30 seconds. Not that I have or likely will use it, but it’s nice and convenient.

Reaping the benefits of the PC, at damn near max, the game is very, very pretty (evidenced through all the pictures being taken by yours truly). Desert regions come to life in the background as your car sits in several broken pieces next to a strong rock. I also have been using a 360 controller because hey, I like to be able to actually drive my cars for a few seconds longer than I otherwise would be able to. The controls are obviously very intuitive, being essentially the same as almost every other racing game out there and part of the joy of the game comes from battling with the road which is so damn satisfying. The rally events, circuits and the Head-to-Head cross-over events are all very fun to play, although the former as mentioned do tend to run disappointingly short.

What has been added is the gymkhana; a free-style event. That can go burn in hell. I don’t want to do free-style in a car. Especially not in a rally car! These events have you string together a series of moves that belong more in a skateboarding game. Fortunately, the requirement to get past these events is usually acceptably low, although the completionist/perfectionist could spend an agonising amount of time trying to perfect the events.

The cars can be manually tweaked before each event, so those who know what the implications are of gear shift changes can do better than those who don’t. That being said, the instructions on these things are actually pretty thorough, so the depth is there if you want it. Similarly, difficulty settings are easily manipulated, ranging from degrees of received damage, opponent AI difficulty and HUD displays, etc. The game has some good customisation options, noticeable in multiplayer as well with a variety of modes, although at time of writing I still haven’t successfully been able to join an online match for whatever reason. This is several weeks post release.

There are a couple of small annoyances as well. Fullscreen doesn’t seem to be enabled, which is down-right bizarre, requiring you to manually edit a file. Alt-tabbing breaks this as well, meaning I ended up getting my screenshots using another program. The whole thing runs on the Games For Windows Live system as well, which mostly gets in the way, although it doesn’t harm the game in any way I suppose. Its existence serves to be annoying, but not prohibitive.

There’s a lot to do in DiRT 3, no doubt about it. The visual presentation is great, it looks, sounds and plays nicely. Yet, here I am writing an ‘impressions’ rather than a review. I lost enthusiasm with the game. It’s not a bad racer by any stretch of the imagination and the annoying commentators are not off-putting enough to make you want to not game, but the game kinda lacks a soul. Like its heart’s not really in it, explaining why the actual rally events, the main reason for a DiRT game, are criminally short and I’ve since abandoned the career mode and game itself. It’s been some time since the game came out, so you can definitely pick it up for a lower price, but I find it hard to recommend for someone who really likes dedicated rally games. DiRT 1 was and still is easy to recommend. Perhaps that missing DiRT 2 has a nice balance, who knows? Either way, I don’t know when I’ll play 3 again. If at all.

Boring Stuff: I actually have no idea how far into the game I got. I’m going to say not very much. As stated, the game was played solely with a 360 controller and the settings were in the majority set at their highest. On the PC, you will require a Games For Windows Live account if you wish to play online.