A twist and turn of fate
A nice blend of realism and arcade-style flare is what I tend to look for in a racing game. I’ve never been much for detailed specs or terminology when it comes to cars, but I do enjoy the look and powerful feel behind these finely crafted machines. Thankfully, Dirt 3 gives the right amount of both to pique my more casual interests. I got to check out what Codemasters will be showcasing to the less enthusiastic rally-racing fan, which oddly enough will come in the guise of all-new Gymkhana-style multiplayer modes.
Ever since popular rally-racing star Ken Block began posting Gymkhana videos to YouTube, it’s become an Internet sensation. His Gymkhana 2 video was the fourth most-viewed viral video in 2009. Not to mention the countless others that have received millions of views as well. Although he is far from being the originator of the sport, he is certainly taking measures to broaden its concepts.
If you’ve never heard of Gymkhana before, let me break it down for you. It’s an automotive sport similar to autocross, but has a far more complex driving course. These courses typically take place on open fields or parking lots, and require skillful maneuvers to navigate a series of cones, 180-degree turns, 360-degree turns, figure eight turns, and a variety of other obstacles. The main purpose is to proceed through the course with the fastest time possible while using techniques like extreme acceleration, braking, and even drifting when necessary. It’s kind of like making a full-sized car do things that only a go-kart should do; and it’s quite an astounding spectacle. However, some of the Gymkhana modes available in Dirt 3 had some very entertaining twists of their own.
The first was a mode called Invasion, which gave players the chance to let loose some of their road rage aggression on defenseless robot cutouts. The round started and players began sliding and spinning across the blacktop terrain as it quickly turned into a chaotic competition. Everyone was scrambling to knock over robots in order to gain as many points as possible. The person who took down the most robots eventually won the match, but players had the extra challenge of avoiding skyscraper cutouts, which granted negative points to your overall total.
The next mode was a zombie-car scenario called Outbreak, which had players “infecting” each other with their cars. It was essentially like a giant game of tag, except instead of a gentle pat on the back it’s more like a hearty slam with a metric ton automobile. Cars were flying around like they were in a pinball machine as everyone tried to scatter like cockroaches in the light. The mode created a great sense of tension throughout the match, because no one really knew who was infected at the start. The only notification was a slight green tint to each infected car, which wasn’t noticeable until it was too late. Once the infection spread to more players it became a severely outnumbered game of hide-and-seek, and eventually led to the last survivor screaming out-loud like a terrified child.
Easily the most entertaining mode of the trio, Transporter was also the most recognizable to anyone who’s played a first-person shooter. It was capture-the-flag with cars, but with a whole new level of intensity. Being chased around with high velocity vehicles can get pretty exciting, and if players piled up in a corner it became an almost inescapable demolition derby. This mode had teams of two players, so if someone did manage to escape the dog-piled wreckage with the flag, a smart teammate could do some football style blocking while the other skids off to score the point.
Satisfying moments like these were riddled throughout the new modes, and the DC Compound map we were shown felt like the ultimate adult playground. Dirt and wooden ramps, half-tunnels, cranes, semi trucks, and a plethora of tires and other objects to dodge gave us ample items to play with. Even though the playing field had a lot of obstacles, it still managed to maintain enough open space for all eight players to roam free.
Dirt 3, of course, still has the staple modes and subtleties their franchise is known for, but now feels far more complete with these new multiplayer additions. There are even some new aspects like split screen multiplayer, driving in snow, and a direct upload ability to post all of your favorite highlights to YouTube. The standard Gymkhana alone is enough to get rally fans foaming at the mouth, but now the casual crowd can also have some variants to latch onto when the game releases on May 24th, 2011.