Developer: Codemasters Southam
I love rally racing. There’s just something about cars slipping and sliding through uneven roads that makes me want to smile. That’s partly the reason I suppose that I love British game developer Codemasters so much, because they’re the people who’ve made games for rally fans such as myself for as long as I could remember. That’s also the reason why Dirt 3 was an automatic purchase for me, though the improved graphics, new racing modes and new cars might have also been a factor.
Dirt 3 isn’t just about rallying. Sure, a large part of the game gives you an opportunity to compete in rally events, but it’s just one of the many disciplines that the game throws at you. There’s also Trail Blazer (which is similar to hill climbing), Rallycross and Land Rush, among others. New to the series is Ghymkhana, which requires you to perform several tricks like performing donuts around static objects in a close track. There’s a variety of locales and weather conditions to choose from, and each stage handles differently depending on the weather. A relatively easy drive through Finland’s many rally stages is drastically different when rain starts to pour.
What I generally like about the game and the series in general is that there’s a perfect balance of realism and arcade-y driving. There’s a couple of assists to help you get started, and once you’re more confident you can start turning them off to get the full effect of the game. To be honest I wasn’t getting my hopes up when it came to the controls, as I played on some demo machines in COMPUTEX with a USB controller and I found that the controls were a tad sensitive. Good thing I was wrong, as the controls were pretty good. I started playing on Intermediate with the assists off and damage on full, and I managed to pull off great lap times, which was a surprising as I was playing with a keyboard.
The cars are a large part of the experience, and I’m happy to say that Dirt 3 has them in abundance. A lot of vehicles from different eras and disciplines are available from Baja rally monsters to contemporary rally cars to iconic 80s Group B rally vehicles. Each car is lovingly modeled and is available in different liveries, and races in general are a visual feast.
Speaking of visuals, the game is pure eye-candy. The game runs completely on DirectX 11 – meaning that there are a lot of visual effects like hardware-instanced tessellated crowd, water tessellation, and enhanced post-processing effects. Nowhere is this more evident as when your car is about to run a stage in the rain – you can see water droplets on and around the vehicle itself, adding to another layer of realism.
There are a lot of things to take in when it comes to single player mode, but the game lays it all out for you in videos and in-game tutorials well. The single player mode allows you to cut your teeth on the different disciplines on your own terms, as you’re able to tune the difficulty settings before you go into every race. Codemasters’ patented flashback game mechanic makes a return, which basically allows you to rewind back to a certain point in the race (like a missed or messed up turn) and try it again.
There’s also a multiplayer mode for those times when you want to start playing and competing with your friends, as well as a split-screen mode to play with when you have a buddy over. You can also upload your racing highlights to YouTube if you’re into that sort of thing. There’s also multiplayer on tap, and aside from online versions of the regular races, there’s also capture the flag (with cars) and outbreak, wherein a single car (the infected) tries to tag other players and infect them.
Dirt 3 is tons of fun, and I recommend the game for anyone who loves racing games.