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PlayStation 3 Review: Dirt 3

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When I reviewed Dirt 2 a year and a half ago I found myself truly impressed with the number of cars, tracks, drivers, race types, etc. present in the game.  If cars weren’t quite as customizable as I may have liked, they were incredibly fun to drive, and even if the home base was a little under-realized, it did what was necessary.  The new Dirt 3 takes everything from Dirt 2 and builds upon it in deliberate, but not always better, fashion.

Whoa there, rein in the horses, you’ve probably read that the new Dirt is fandiddliantastic with even more of what made the last one great (and the last one was great).  Consequently, you’re instantly unhappy with my saying that the new one isn’t always better.  Just understand what I’m actually really saying – every change made feels like a purposeful one and while the result is another great game, not every decision made was a good one.  Dirt 3 is great, but after playing it I can’t help but feel that it could have been better.

I will be the first to admit that I was not wholly and completely in love with the magical trailer that would follow you all over the world in Dirt 2.  It was something of a silly way of organizing all the important career mode aspects in a single place.  For Dirt 3, Codemasters has eliminated the trailer.  The result of this is a less cohesive, less complete feeling career mode.  There is certainly more to do in the mode, but without a single cohesive hub to show you what you have done and what’s left, the game loses something.  You’re just racing here, you’re not building a substantive career.

There is a logic to this decision, in Dirt 2 you were working your way up the ladder from novice to professional driver, in Dirt 3, you’re starting off as a pro.  Things still get harder as you go, but the point of career mode is just to win every race and unlock everything you possibly can, not to work your way up any ladder.  But, whatever the reasons may have been, a more focused central hub for career mode would have been beneficial to the title.

Where Dirt 3 really excels though is where it counts – with the racing.  There is a fantastic level of detail present as you whiz by all the tracks, more tracks than in the last game, more modes than in the last game and more cars as well.

While Dirt 2 certainly had rally events, they make up a far greater percentage of Dirt 3 than they did its predecessor.  There are other styles of races present, but if rally racing isn’t your thing, you’re going to be frustrated with how much is present in the title.

What Codemasters is really touting though for Dirt 3 is the addition of Gymkhana.  Think of Gymkhana as kind of gymnastics for motorsports.  Gymkhana asks you to perform jumps, do donuts, smash blacks, drift around corners, and showcase other tricks within arenas.  Chain together tricks—go from smashing blocks straight into a donut and then into a jump—and you earn more points.  Crash and you don’t.  It’s brilliant and can also be brilliantly frustrating when you end up just short of your goal.

For newbies out there, Dirt 3 has a huge list of customizable items to alter the difficulty level.  You can go with a preset difficulty level as well, but if you’re someone who wants help into corners but no racing line, you’re going to need to alter that stuff manually.  With no assists turned on, the game is freewheeling and cars can be exceptionally difficult to control.  With a full set of assists, you can almost just hit the gas and go without a worry.  There is a way to customize the game difficulty for nearly everyone to be challenged without their being overwhelmed.
Now, should you still crash, the game you can still “rewind” time for a few seconds to immediately before whatever atrocious error (in our case it’s almost always too much gas or braking too late) caused your destruction.  Then you just start the race up again. You get a set number of rewinds on every race and using fewer results in your earning more experience points at the end of the race (and therefore leveling up faster).

Races themselves unfold beautifully.  There is no sense that the game is either aiding you or your competitors in order to keep things tight, but once you get the hang of things you’ll still routinely find yourself in the thick of the race.

As for the look of the game, that too is beautiful.  The graphics are absolutely outstanding, and with lots of different locations there’s almost always something new to see.

If you’re looking for a new, all-out, mainly off-road, racing simulator title, look no further than Dirt 3, you’re going to absolutely love it.  Online multiplayer allows for up to eight people to play at a time, but there’s so much to do in the single player career (even if it’s really badly organized) that you’re not going to feel like going online is remotely required to truly enjoy the game.  Were the career mode better organized, this might just have been the perfect title in the genre.

Dirt 3 is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Lyrics. This game can also be found on: Xbox 360 and PC.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.