Fans of racing titles can rejoice; there’s a new master all revved up and ready to role. While the DiRT series has continuously offered a stunning mix of various racing styles to fall in love with, there’s always been room for improvement. But with DiRT 3, well, there seems to be little to pop into the minus column this time around.
The Season Mode, the one that single-player fans will spend the vast majority of their time in, includes so much that it’s tricky to mention every little thing without chopping this review into more manageable chunks. Creating your driver, you’re tasked with completing events to claim points which in turn unlock more events. All the old favourites return, with various guises of racing, and a new focus on classic against-the-clock rallying now playing a huge part in proceedings. But it’s not all just about polishing up the much loved classics. There’s a lot of new shiny darlings to enjoy.
The new Drift mode, urging you to spend an unhealthy amount of time side-on to the oncoming horizon, is another glorious inclusion to diversify the Season mode ever further. Given a short course to traverse, you continuously gain points as you drift your way to the finish line, with increasingly difficult medals to attain. Simple completion of each of these slide ridden events is fairly straightforward, but claiming that Platinum medal will truly test your creative driving skills. Purely utilising the natural curvature of the course just isn’t enough to beat the highest hefty points totals, with some quick thinking and strategic planning required to hit these lofty marks. The only queer moment we had with DiRT 3 however occurred in this new mode. At times it seems the game isn’t too eager to add to your score, despite your current on-screen drifting. It might be a simple mechanism to keep to the score to a reasonable level, but it did feel a touch off putting to us as we flung our motors around the courses.
The much publicised Gymkhana mode initially feels unusual, but quickly becomes a favourite, and one you’ll spend plenty of time with. Like Drift, it’s all about attaining the maximum number of points in order to claim ever more difficult to achieve medal totals. It’s not just about being a quick driver, but a skilful one too. Smashing into certain obstacles, hitting jumps at the right velocity, and flinging yourself around the tight courses all add to your total.
Similar to Drift, attaining the lowest medal is a breeze, with only the basics required for pure and simple progression. But attaining those top marks requires an incredible amount of skill and patience, with one badly timed prod of the gas pedal putting paid to the perfect run.
And it’s not just a score and single-player season progression you’ve got to think about. Included in DiRT 3 is the ability to upload races and events directly to YouTube, allowing you the opportunity to show off to your heart’s content. The particularly big headed among you will undoubtedly find this little addition a work of absolute genius, as here is the perfect chance to show the entire world exactly how talented you are. Expect clips to hit the net right from the get go, and there will undoubtedly be some amazing talent on show in the months ahead.
Unlocking all these additional events works in much the same fashion as before, with XP the key to opening up the next batch of goodies. Winning events, completing team bonus objectives – more on those later – and generally being a heck of a talent behind the wheel of any vehicle continuously boosts the amount of experience points you’ve accumulated. Tweaking the difficulty – available on the fly before every single event – changes the amount of points you’ll eventually claim, so nudging the difficulty settings a few steps upwards, and switching off one or two helping hands for the events you’re particularly skilled with can offset the drop down to Casual, which you might require for the ones you find a bit tricky.
All of which makes DiRT 3 once again a driving title for all skills and experiences. Those of you brought up on the series will straight away ditch the racing line and ramp up the AI difficulty settings in order to find yourselves in the midst of a real battle. But for newcomers, there are all sorts of guides available to ease yourself into the action. Never at any point will you feel absolutely stuck, as you can easily omit a particularly tricky event and still unlock the next batch thanks to the generous number of points you’ll attain elsewhere with your favourites.
As you progress your driver skill level will increase too, making more and more car manufacturers eager to claim your services. Rather than restrict you to one, if applicable, each event will allow you to choose from various batches of cars, each with their own sponsor, and most intriguingly a special request to complete to add even more points to your running total. While some are simple to obtain, such as those which require little more than to finish in the two top in a specific event, others can be downright devilish to complete. It’s yet another crafty little addition by Codemasters to keep you replaying events in new ways and styles in order to bag even more points.
It’s all brought to life by that wonderful engine that Codemasters have created. The overall aesthetics are absolutely wonderful, with everything from the understated included tunes to the glorious lighting model rivalling the cream of the crop elsewhere. Once you turn a wicked hairpin bend in the middle of Africa and find yourself face to face with a bright sun (which omits the overstated lens flare that most cram in) you can almost feel the warmth on your skin. We’re not overstating things by claiming that DiRT 3 is one of the best looking console titles you can purchase. And the overly ‘extreme sports’ angle of last time around has been almost completely removed. Another bonus.
And then there are the vehicles you’ll be caressing through all these events. While some include little more than the same vehicle sporting different liveries, rallying in particular offers a wide variety of vehicles. Fans of old school rally favourites all the way back to the 1960’s will be able to jump behind the wheel of the vehicles they’ve always dreamed of stripping themselves into, each of which packs their own unique style.
All this of course would be worth the square root of nothing if the handling model wasn’t up to scratch. For fans of the series, it certainly feels slightly more twitchy than before, with vehicles packing even more weight than last time around. You will find yourself frequently over-steering during those initial events, particularly those focussing on rally driving. Thankfully the Flashback feature remains, allowing you to swiftly turn back time to before that latest fateful crash until you’re right up to speed. If anything, with the sheer amount of different brands of vehicles, courses, and disciplines on offer, this slightly tweaked handling system makes DiRT 3 all the more interesting to those wanting a long term thrill ride.
And outside all that’s included in the basic Season Mode, there’s both online and local multiplayer to get to grips with and test out your skills against the best from around the world, and those sat in your living room. As a total value for money package, there’s no escaping the fact that Codemasters have come up with a heck of a result for racing fans.
DiRT 3 is pure and simple the best driving title currently available. It’s welcoming enough for complete newcomers, yet packs in enough difficulty for even the most hardened veterans thanks to the expertly implemented difficulty system. The aesthetics are wonderful all round, the new events are all well thought out and designed inclusions, and the increase in number of rally events is an absolute masterstroke. Basically, Codemasters have well and truly sped off into the distance to first place with DiRT 3. Let’s see what the other big boys can come up with next.
Rating: Outstanding review policy
You can pre-order DiRT 3 here, we recommend that you do.