DiRT 3 Official Review
by Curse


Basic Information:
Developer: Codemasters
Publisher: Codemasters
North American Release Date: 24 May 2011
European Release Date: 24 May 2011
Trophies:1 4 22 24


Overview
Following on from the critically acclaimed DiRT 2, Codemasters have taken it back to basics to some extent with DiRT 3 and focused on the rallying aspect, compared to the festival atmosphere within its predecessor. Using the latest adaption of the game engine which has supported their award winning racing franchises such as F1, Grid and of course DiRT. But have they carried on with the same success?

Gameplay
Before we get into this, I should state that this game isn't intended to be a racing simulator like the likes of Gran Turismo, but despite this, codemasters have again created a very realistic feeling game. The backbone to Codemasters' success in racing games this generation has been based around the EGO game engine. The main feature to the engine when it first came into existence was the realistic damage that can be done to your cars from crashing or ramming opponents. This engine has been adapted and tweaked with other iterations, and we have now entered version two. The gameplay as a whole feels very smooth and very agile. The tracks are generally quite short and you'll be pitched against seven other opponents, as of such the racing is all high tempo with a large amount of overtaking and ramming to be had. The AI opponents will provide you a great enough challenge with leaving you thinking that a real driver wouldn't of just performed that move, which is a refreshing change to other racers where it feels like the drivers have been pumped full of adrenaline and aggression, and are out to get you. Despite the game not being out there to push the boundaries in terms of realism, you can edit settings etc. to give you a much greater control over your vehicle which is great to have for the more hardcore racing fans out there.

After the last DiRT had a focus on the fun, festival side of rallying, DiRT3 is simply back to the track. There is a fairly big focus on real rallying, the kind with a partner issuing instructions on upcoming corners etc. The gameplay suits rally-driving really well, and you really do feel the difference when you move onto a different terrain, the grip on the tarmac feels so welcoming after you’ve been thrashing it around corners in the mud with much less control over your vehicle. There is a much bigger focus on the driver, rather than the car with the game, which is a welcoming change. With most of the other new racers that I’ve played there seems to be a focus on what car you’re driving rather than how you’re driving it. With DiRT you have the realistic edge, but it’s all been adapted and changed to suit your personal enjoyment, meaning you can still have some great fun even if you’re not the world’s biggest racing fan. This fits hand in hand with the inclusion of Gymkhana, a relatively new sport based around the driver pushing the car to the limit to pull off drifts, donuts, jumps etc. The high-speed, agile nature of the sport makes it perfect for the game, with the cars capable of switching pace quickly and whipping around corners with ease


Well pieced together Gymkhana sequences can look simply beautiful at times

Singleplayer
To match the recurring theme throughout, the singleplayer is also a breath of fresh air in terms of feeling different. Whilst I must say, I enjoyed the festival theme to the last DiRT, the singleplayer feels as though it has now grown up slightly. There is a much bigger focus on rallying as I have mentioned, and this is reflected in the singleplayer. You'll find yourself going to different rallying events and performing in races, as always the better you perform the quicker you'll progress through the races. The menus are laid out in an artistic style, in a way that it entices you to try and gold medal everything. Each event is a 2D triangle, that is a side of a 3D triangle. If you gold an event, one side of the triangle will be gold, again enticing you to perfect all of the races and gain that golden triangle.

Ontop of the standard racing the game includes challenges and missions to keep up the interest and lasting appeal. The challenges promote more of the drifting/gymkhana portion of the game, but they keep the gameplay feeling varied for a while. Getting platinum medals in all of the Gymkhana events and DC challenges can provide even the better drivers among us back a few steps, but there aren't too many moments where you'll be tearing your controller in two. Variation in tracks doesn't become too stale until the end of the game, but even then it's nothing to be concerned about. As you level up you'll be unlocking new cars and liveries (Not that either of the two should really affect the gameplay experience) so you shouldn't be looking at the same old car every race

Multiplayer
The online portion to this game, you wouldn't expect to be up to much, but in itself, it's marvelous. Codemasters seem to have bought in a fantastic party/lobby system which makes playing with friends as easy and simple to get into as the likes of call of duty. It seems weird comparing a racer to a shooter, but in terms of the lobby system it feels spot on, the usability makes it easy to stay with your party all night long regardless of what happens to the lobby. Another comparison to make with online shooters of today is the leveling up system, after each race you'll earn XP based on your finishing position. Whilst it is pretty much carbon copied of every other level system, it's still nice to have something to aim for, although receiving items for leveling up would've been appreciated. Compared to other racers which can be hell to play with friends (If and when you find a game that is), DiRT3 has probably the best lobbying system I've came across in a racer, which may not seem like much but it makes such a difference. I never once came across a bad experience of lag. When you come across the occasional troll online you're two clicks away from muting them. The nature of the online modes makes it difficult for you to come across people that are only interested in ramming you, and the inclusion of flashbacks online makes it easier for you to get back from bad crashes. All of this adds up to make what feels like a flawless online racer. The regular gamemodes such as rally and rally cross are portrayed in a sense that if you're a clean driver (No cutting corners, ramming etc) you'll find yourself gaining much more points, meaning that for once, driving in an unsporting manner will cost you points

Whilst the usability makes the online fantastic, it doesn't stop there. The newest addition is the inclusion of 'party gamemodes', and I must say, playing these online with some friends has been the biggest laugh I've ever had playing a racer. The party modes are simple enough, cat 'n' mouse, another mode has you trying to knock down the correct card-board cutouts, and my personal favorite, outbreak, where one person is infected and has to go about bashing into the others in order to infect them. It's nice to sit back and relax playing an online game for once and play as a team, and this is what these invoke. We all know that from time to time we get frustrated playing games, especially online racers, so it's great to be able to go through these party modes and for once be asked to ram other players online, so all of that anger built up from losing a race can be vented onto other players in a healthy manner for once. Ontop of the party gamemodes, Gymkhana makes an appearance in the online modes which is good to see. And there's also "Joyride mode" which gives the players access to the Battersea complex, and allows them to do as they wish. With a little imagination players could make their own gamemodes, however there is no ability to set up rules etc. The only downside to the online modes seems to be the lack of map variation. Whilst I never seemed to notice this playing singleplayer, whilst playing online you seem to be in the same places quite often, and this is even more noticeable in the party modes

Technical
DiRT3 isn't the prettiest face in the crowd, but it does the job sufficiently enough. When somebody asks me to choose a standout game for graphics, DiRT3 probably wont even be on my mind. But there are no real flaws found. Whilst it isn't standout in terms of graphics, it presents itself superbly. Each car has been modeled superbly, and again whilst you will not be left thinking "Wow, this is really pushing boundries", I have never came across a moment where there has been a visual flaw so to say. I would much rather have a consistently great game than an inconsistent game full of visual ups and downs. The atmosphere generated by the game is a personal highlight, it's as though you're driving in a drivers Utopia. Driving around the X Games track with the sun shining brightly generates the feeling. Thrashing it throw a picturesque snowy village that looks like its taken from a christmas card generates the feeling. And navigating through the modern artistic feeling menus, listening to upbeat major key music generates this feeling. And the feeling is good, trust me. The soundtrack as I mentioned, always puts me in a great mood, and hearing the euphoric feeling "Blind Faith" by Chase & Status before a race just puts you in a happy mindset. And I can honestly say that this is one of the very few games I would definitely buy and listen to the soundtrack of. The cars sound real, and aggressive, and this generates the realistic feeling of racing. In the same sense with a shooter, you do not want to be firing a gun that sounds like it's firing bubbles, rather than bullets, these cars sounds real and they sound mean. Again, the game isn't pushing boundaries, but for what it does, I found very little noticeable flaws.


Walking in a winter wonderland...

Trophies
Not a quick weekend rental platinum, but it's not a grueling +100 grind for the platinum. The trophies do what they should, and they make you squeeze as much out of the game as possible, providing you with great value for money in the end. And whilst they dodged a bullet in terms of difficulty by not forcing you to play on a certain difficulty, platinumming the DC challenges should put you through your paces. Getting to the superstar title online would be a nuisance if it wasn't for how much fun you can have online.

Closing Thoughts
DiRT3 left its mark on me thats for sure, I pick up a game wanting a challenging yet still fun time and that is what I got. This game just puts me in a great mood, and the online mode sets an example to all other racing games of what to beat. Seriously, even if you aren't the worlds biggest racing fan, buy this and I assure you, you will not be wasting your time or money

Gameplay: 8/10
Strong enough to beat off most competitors, but not up there with the racing giant of Gran Turismo

Singleplayer: 8/10
A lot of fun to be had here, but in the end I felt myself preferring the online portion to the game. Which is a testament to how great the online is.

Multiplayer: 10/10
For me it took what makes the Call of Duty series great and applied it to racing. And that is immense fun with friends, and easiness of finding games with or without a party

Technical: 8/10
As I've repeated, nothing thats pushing boundaries, but at what it does, it does really well.

Overall: 8.5/10