DiRT 3 Review
As my tiny, super-powered hatchback sped along the frozen trails of Norway's premier rally track, a sense of urgency and fear began to overtake me as I slid around corners at breakneck speeds. As I stared intently ahead at the icy roads, feeling every bump and every slide, one thought continued to go through my mind:
I'm going to die.
DiRT 3 is one of the scariest racing games I have ever played in my life. No, it's not a survival horror title on wheels, but it gives such an incredible sense of speed, momentum, and weight, driving down narrow dirt roads and sliding around corners becomes a very visceral experience. At high speeds, you struggle to keep your car on the road, and if you do crash, the fantastic car and damage modeling make each collision a work of art.
The game is gorgeous. From the car models to the environmental details of the tracks, everything looks as dirty and dusty as a race on dirt roads should. And as you race, cars get dirtier, tire marks get left behind and paint flakes and scratches as cars rub against one another. Even the menus are well designed, flashy, attractive, and easy to navigate. The massive amount of detail is one of the game's strongest features along with one of its most fatal flaws: incredibly lengthy load times, some of which last up to two minutes of staring at an idle load screen. I suppose it's a price to pay for such good visuals, but considering some incredibly good looking PC titles load in a fraction of the time, it's definitely noticeable and bothersome.
If realistic rally racing sounds too daunting, fear not, as even the most casual racing fan can jump right in. One of the strongest features of the game is the huge amount of customization available prior to the races. From tweaking the AI of the drivers to adding driving assists that help the player maintain control, there is a wealth of features that ensure DiRT 3 is as accessible as possible. Before any race, with a only a few quick tweaks, you can play the game as an arcade racer, a deep simulation, or anywhere in between.
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Single-player mode features a fairly lengthy career mode along with a single-race mode. The career mode consists of three separate championships before making your way toward each season's finale. With four different seasons and the option to purchase additional races through DLC, there is more than enough for a lengthy single-player mode. While it may not have the length of breadth of Gran Turismo or Forza, there is more than enough variety and unlockables to keep players interested and wanting to revisit races for better times and new items.
Winning each race nets you points. These points contribute to your overall rank and unlocking more cars. Rank serves an important role, as the higher your rank, the more teams you will unlock with their respective cars. While the vehicles are all based around rally racing, there is a substantial amount of variety. From trucks to dune buggies to vintage rally racers, there is more than enough to keep players interested.
Besides rally races, DiRT 3 offers other modes for those wanting more than racing against the clock. Rally Cross modes will pit you against other drivers in a more traditional racing mode. Head to head is you versus another driver as you race to the finish in crisscrossing tracks. Finally, for those into tricks and showing off more than driving, there's the Gymkhana mode in which your car will jump, spin, slide, and topple blocks to earn points. While this seems like the most fun, it's also the most difficult. You have to spend a significant amount of time practicing the perfect line and angle of approach before you can begin doing doughnuts and power slides like a champ. Thankfully for those more interested in racing, these can be skipped. The game offers flexibility; you play what you want, and unless you’re obsessed with completion, you never have to play events you don’t want to.
Along with the lengthy single-player mode, DiRT 3 also has a variety of multiplayer modes for local and online play. Simple races and rally events are available, but some of the most fun events are the most exotic ones. Modes like cat and mouse and zombies turns simple point-to-point racing into games of survival and evasion as players try to take out one another. It adds some much needed variety to the standard race-and-beat-your-friends modes that have been staples of the genre. Beating your friends with speed is one thing; beating your friends by running them off the road seconds before the finish line is a much more exciting -- and satisfying -- experience.
With the sheer variety of modes, excellent controls, and beautiful graphics, DiRT 3 is a fantastic racing game. Despite being a year old, it stands out as one of the most fun, varied, and playable racing games to date. DiRT 3 is not just a racing game, it's not just a rally game. DiRT 3 is simply fantastic and fun for all racing fans. It's always thrilling, always exciting, and as difficult and unforgiving or as easy and accessible as you want it to be.
Editor's note: The review is based off of the PC version, provided as a review copy from the publisher.