|System: PS3, PC, Xbox 360|
|Dev: Codemasters Southam|
|Release: May 24, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Lyrics|
by Patriel Manning
Rally fans are rejoicing, as the third installment in the DiRT series has finally been released. Those who felt that the series has strayed away from tenets of traditional rally racing might be a bit skeptical about the direction Codemasters has taken. The developer has promised a return to form, and, while the X-Games aftertaste from DiRT 2 isn't completely washed away, you'd be remiss to not pick this up. Not only is DiRT 3 a good rally racer, it's a good racing game, period.
DiRT 3 begins with a brief introduction from your teammates and a series of short explanations regarding each of the race types and locations. If you've become accustomed to the planet-hopping RV hub present in DiRT 2 and F1 2010, the first thing you'll notice is that it's been replaced by a much more efficient menu system, complete with Codemasters' signature "pop." To be clear, the entire map-based structure of DiRT 2 is gone, and it makes for extremely easy navigation without significant load times between locations.
The career is organized into four main parts, each with four subsections. Within the subsections are a varying number of events, each having its own requirements for completion. Codemasters has gone to great lengths to make the career mode accessible, but they've managed to do so without sacrificing anything for the veteran player. For instance, you won't have to spend a bunch of money collecting cars and setting them up, as this is taken care of through the sponsor offers that are available to you. If you so choose, you can delve into tuning and change the handling characteristics, but, for the most part, the cars and trucks available are ready to go.
Having RPG elements in racing games has become common of late, and DiRT 3 is no exception. It carries over the RPG-style "rep" system from the previous game, and with good results. Your "rep," a sort of RPG-style meter, is determined by your performance during events, and that, in turn, determines what sponsor offers you'll receive. The system works to reward players for performing well at a high difficulty while at the same time not discouraging less experienced players from taking advantage of the various assists.
The staple racing modes of the series have returned. This means that familiar modes like Rally, Land Rush, and Head 2 Head are all back with a shiny new coat of paint. There are some new attractions, as well. One of the biggest additions to the series comes in the form of an entirely new motorsport: Gymkhana. Series front man Ken Block is somewhat familiar with the art, which probably has a little to do with its inclusion. If you're unfamiliar, Gymkhana is to motorsport what freestyle is to skateboarding, and in this analogy Ken Block is akin to Rodney Mullen or Kilian Martin.
The Gymkhana events require you to perform specific tricks in specific sections of the arena. You earn points for drifts, spins, donuts, and jumps, depending on which marked section of the arena you're in at the moment. You have the freedom to string tricks together in any way you like, but repeated tricks will earn you less points. The real reward comes early in the career when you unlock your own private Gymkhana compound, complete with obstacles to avoid smashing into as you drive around like a lunatic. Couple that with the fact that you can upload video clips directly to YouTube (though you're limited to 30 seconds) and you can see the potential of this addition. Fans of traditional point-to-point rally needn't fear, though. There are numerous events that take place across Africa, Europe, and the U.S. that should satisfy any skeptic. In fact, about 60% of the career mode is devoted to rally racing.
The vehicles of DiRT 3 are also brought to life by a truly dynamic handling model. The first time you transition from gravel to tarmac, you'll feel the difference instantly. The slip-and-slide feel of loose gravel disappears when the tires bite onto the blacktop, and you'll lose precious seconds if you aren't ready for the transition. For the first time in the series' history, you'll also be able to race in the snow, which behaves and reacts realistically. As you race along, it will slowly build up in the wheel wells and on the tires themselves. This makes the feel of the car slightly different towards the end of a race in the snow, and results in a deep level of immersion.