So realistic you will have to take a bath afterwards!
June 1, 2007 – It only takes a few things to make a good racing game. One being that the selection of cars has to be vast. Those same cars have to handle well and they must at least appear to be going at break neck speeds. When you have a specific style of racing game, you would think that this would be an easy task for certain titles. After all, these requirements are not that hard to obtain. However, when your specific racer happens to be one that captures the raw vibe of a rally race, there are a few other aspects to making a good racing game you have to address. Recently, I had the opportunity to try out the latest racing game that dives head first into the dirt, Colin McRae’s DiRT. So how is it looking so far? In one phrase – awe inspiring.
From the very beginning of the game, you will notice how much detail has been thrown in. The opening movie starts out with the quite melancholic soundtrack similar to the days of Gran Turismo. Slowly, you watch the rally car speed along the dirt track and right at the peak of the tranquil music, the vehicle grips the edge of death drop cliff. The music picks up in beat and so does the insane action on screen. Several cars speed past as the video continues. In fact, the pacing of the vehicles will get your blood pumping. When you least expect it, a vehicle starts to flip and roll in accurate display. The crunching of metal echoes as that vehicle bounces along the dirt track towards the camera. Abruptly, it stops and all you can see is a mud caked bumper and the title DiRT etched out in the mud.
The menu is easily navigated. The quiet tone of music is a bit misleading though, considering the mass amount of carnage you are about to partake in. I was able to choose between three different vehicles – The Impreza, Evo IX, and the Ickler, which I have to say is my favorite. Each of these vehicles took me to a different location and presented a new type of race for me to get my vehicle dirty. The Impreza was on a German race track, not a rally track, but an actual race track. This is not that big of a surprise considering that several rally races actual do occur on paved tracks. When the race starts, you will notice two things. One: how sharp and crisp everything around you is beautifully rendered. The addictively mesmerizing songs that will play while you race will be the second thing you notice. Both of these immediately noticeable traits are present in all of the races that I was able to participate in. The Evo IX let me traipse around a mountainside in North America crazy speeds. Finally, the Ickler, a bouncing buggy with hyper chaotic speeds, is where I was able to battle it out against ten other challengers for the top spot.
It could simply be said that the cars handle nicely and the gameplay is enjoyable, but that would be a great disservice to the game altogether. Of course, the cars handle nicely. However, this is not where the beauty of the handling comes into play. There have been other games that incorporated the racing styles of a rally race, but with DiRT the accuracy of the vehicles is so well thought out that one could almost believe that this is how the real rally cars handle. This, of course, does not including the several acrobatic rolls and tumbles you will perform, most of the time unwillingly. In several instances where you roll your vehicle, it will just continue to roll until it finds all four of its wheels on the track once more. This little attention to detail makes the games pace that much quicker. Of course, don’t try to roll on every track and think you will be okay. For example, while racing with the Evo IX along the mountainside, there were several times that I rolled off into oblivion.
There is one other thing that is a well thought out idea. Instead of the long wait for the initial load of the game, we are given a quick, dynamic rundown of our stats, including how long we have rolled, longest jump, max number of rolls, and a quick reminder of how bad, or great, you are with a total of your races won and lost. This acts as a great relief of the load screen. So well in fact, that you may forget that you are waiting on the game to begin. Then again, once you lay eyes on the sheer dynamic representation of the vehicles and environments of the races, you will quickly dismiss any gripes you had with the loading.
DiRT is definitely becoming the racing game to beat out this summer, in the hearts of rally lovers at least. For those fans that love Motorstorm, this could be the new title for you. Same goes for the Forza fans that need to get a little dirty when they drive. We will have more once the full game releases in the middle of June. Be sure to check back for our final say on this latest racer.
Better Bring an Extra Change of Clothes
April 5, 2007 – You have to love the feel of driving your car through dirt whether in real life or in a realistic game. Over the years, the traditional racing has grown to include this chaotic adrenaline rush as much and as often as they can. Unfortunately, none have built up the reputation that Codemasters has with its Colin McRae series. Constantly improving on their series, Codemasters has delivered time after time on the expectations of the series. Now, with the next-gen consoles ripping up the market, it is only fitting that we get the chance to unwind on a dirt road with the latest installment into the already impressive series.
Probably one of the more interesting things about Colin McRae: Dirt is that it has been built from the ground up. When Codemasters says they rebuilt the franchise for the next-gen consoles, they mean it; even the menus have been redone. As to be expected, the visuals will, of course, be breathtaking in every sense of the word. The proof of this is that the videos look as good, if not better, than several of the screenshots do. That alone is something to look forward to. Puffs of dust clouds erupt from behind the speeding vehicles as the tires dig deep into the curves of every turn. Beams of blaring light blindingly splatter against the highly detailed vehicles as they zoom along the tracks. Even the individual blades of grass add to the sense of both realism and attention to detail. If the backgrounds will not be enough to mention the amount of detail put into Dirt, then the physics of the game will make you a believer. Codemasters, who has never had a problem with impressing us with their detailed modeling capabilities, takes it a step further. Using a soft body mechanic in order to display the bends and scrapes of the vehicles in real time adds that special spark to the damage modeling we all love and appreciate. It’s Detailed so well that you will actually be able to see nearly ever piece of damage you have caused to your vehicle all in real time.
Then, there is the audio of the game. The audio will be created on the fly and will be fully dynamic with the rest of the game. Instead of prerecorded versions of the Doppler and reverb effects, Codemasters has recorded individual samples of every section of the engine; instead of using the tried and true speeding up or slowing down of RPMs revving, Dirt will capture the realistic sounds of your vehicle’s every little sound effect of the engine, giving us the dead on accuracy of the real thing we should expect from the next-gen consoles.
The camera angles displayed in the trailers also show some nice new touches to the series. Of course, traditional views are present – the first person perspective, roof top view, bumper view, and the under the helmet view, which gives you a view of the wheel from inside the vehicle, but one of the highlights in the trailers displays an overhead view. Racing with this view causes the camera to bob up and down when going over jumps and to shake as you take a turn. This approach to the camera gives the experience more of a television presentation approach. There also appears to be no loss of control or accuracy while racing in this view. Subtle advancements like this are the ones that will further capture the realistic appeal of the game.
The gameplay itself will most likely be in the same vein as previous installments, except this time around it will be more U.S. friendly; there will be ample amounts of themed locations and vehicles based on the U.S. We can expect to compete in Rally raid, 4×4 events, hill climbs, and much more, including the entire run of Pike’s Peak. Codemasters has stated that if it can be done off road, then it will be in this game. One example of what they are talking about is the multi-car races. Not the traditional rally racing ghosts, but actual cars that you can charge into, lock wheels, or cause sparks to fly as you rub against them. Though the full detail on the levels of multiplayer has yet to be revealed, you can be sure that this new game mode will play heavily in multiplayer.
With over 45 vehicles, 100 liveries (unique designs), and nine styles of Off-road competitions, Colin McRae: Dirt is shaping up to be the next big racer on the next-gen systems. More importantly, it is shaping up to be the racing game that others might build off. If nothing else, it will show us what to expect from future installments from Codemasters into the Colin McRae series. Colin McRae: Dirt is set for a June release on the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. Be sure to check CCC for the full review of the title in June.