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Xbox 360 Review: Dirt 3

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Thrilling gameplay, eye watering visuals, spectacular physics, and flamboyancy; these are just a few of the things that we have come to expect from the Dirt franchise, and the third instalment, Dirt 3, undoubtedly delivers in style. However, it is not all great, and not everything has been improved upon.

The franchise still looks fantastic, and the in-game visuals in Dirt 3 are definitely better than Dirt 2. The calibre of detail on
the cars and on the scenery will make your eyes widen as you’re
driving… but just make sure you keep those eyes on the road, as it is easy to get caught up in admiring the surroundings. On the other hand, the menu visuals and the general layout have Dirt 2 winning hands down. This time around, the menus look very dull, masked with depressing shades of grey and green, slightly rescued by a hint of colour here and there. After Dirt 2 having a fantastic and fluid menu system, you would expect Dirt 3 to provide the same level of attractiveness and atmosphere, but instead, Codemasters have reverted back to a very simple and stripped down layout.

Whilst I’m on the subject of presentation, the Dirt 3 Tour (Career) menus are exceedingly awkward, and it’s an area that Dirt 2 dominates in, once again, as you used to be able to view a big map laid out across a table for your progress to be properly monitored. Dirt 3 now lacks the effortless navigation that the second instalment has, and you have to go searching for your records in individual sections of the event menu – it’s a pain.

The sound effects in this game are once again excellent, and when Dirt 3’s sounds and visuals are melded together, it really does forge a superb racing experience to go with the gameplay. The only problem that I have with the sound is when you hear your teammates in the Dirt Tour mode via the voiceover; my word they, are annoying. The voice acting is very cringe worthy, and it is seeping with cheese. Even though the voice acting in Dirt 2 isn’t too spectacular, Dirt 3 takes it to a whole new level where you just want to mute your television at times, as it grates on your ears and mind. Despite the fact that the voice acting is terrible, you do get helpful information from your teammates, if you’re new to one or more of the events.

There is a satisfying variety of events in Dirt 3, with over half of the game content being dominated by Rally, which isn’t a bad thing at all. Accompanying the Rally events are Rally-Cross, Land Rush, Trail Blazer, Gymkhana and Head2Head. In general, there is a lot more content in Dirt 3 compared to Dirt 2, and when not even including the Multiplayer, it gives the game its longevity. There is a great big negative within the Tour mode now though, in regards to car selection. You can no longer use your hard earned career cash to buy new cars, instead, you are given new cars by teams who are interested in you as your reputation rises. Even though free cars aren’t a bad thing, Dirt 3 makes it a bad thing, because each team has a different car, and these different cars have different levels of reputation rewards, and the higher the reputation reward doesn’t necessarily mean that the cars get better. Because you feel compelled to use the car that gives you the highest reputation reward, it greatly restricts your choice in what car to use and it leaves you feeling a bit sad. If you like racing in a particular car and it isn’t owned by a high reputation team, you would lose out on bonus rewards as a result of using your favourite car… weak.

In regards to Dirt 3’s gameplay, there really aren’t any negative things to mention. First of all, there is an all-new selection of difficulty levels, which will determine how much assistance you will get whilst driving your car. You can choose from three presets; casual, intermediate, and advanced. However, you don’t have to use a preset, as you can customise which driving aids you would like switched on and which ones you would like switched off (ABS, Dynamic Racing Line, Stability

Control, Auto Steer, Corner Breaking, and Throttle Management), depending on your experience. 

Dirt 3 still has the option to manually configure your car’s set up, this appears to have more of an effect on your car’s performance here than it did in Dirt 2, which is brilliant. You can configure your gear ratio, downforce, suspension, ride height, differential, and brake bias. In my opinion, the main reason why your car’s set up has more of an impact on your performance is because of the realism in the way your car reacts to the terrain compared to Dirt 2.

As you’re driving, you actually feel like you’re fighting gravity when you go around the corners at high speeds, and your car’s weight is more apparent. With the new addition of weather effects in Dirt 3, as well as the brutal terrain on various tracks, you will feel like you have to wrestle with the elements to get yourself through to the end of the race, which is what Codemasters promised Dirt fans when they were in mid-development of the game. With flexible difficulty and realistic reactions from your car on all types of terrain, you really are able to have an authentic racing experience in Dirt 3, which will please avid fans of rally, as Dirt 2 had a bit of an arcade feel to it, regardless of which difficulty was selected.

The incredible experience carries over into the Multiplayer, and if you’re really competitive, or even if you’re not, Dirt 3 Multiplayer is the place to be, racing against up to seven opponents each event. All of the aforementioned events are available to players, which caters for a variety of racing interests and generally keeps everyone happy. The menu system in the Multiplayer isn’t all that different from Dirt 2, as you still have your choices of Pro Tour (Ranked and competitive racing against players) and Jam Session (No-pressure racing against other players, with flexible racing rules). Despite Dirt 3 being a new release, the Multiplayer’s stability is flawless both in and out of races. Matchmaking is solid and accurate, and you will very rarely be matched up with opponents with a bad connection, however sometimes there is always one every now and then.

As you rank up, you will unlock cars that you will then be able to use in Multiplayer races only. When online, you have a separate ranking system from your offline career mode, but car selection in the Multiplayer is much more flexible than in the Dirt Tour, as you gain reputation based on how well you race and not what team you race for.

To conclude, Dirt 3 in general is a triumph, even though it is a bit damp in some places. The visuals, content, and gameplay are amazing, and they outweigh the negatives by a significant amount, so much so that the negatives will soon disappear into
the back of your mind. Codemasters should feel proud; they have taken almost everything that was great from Dirt 2, and made Dirt 3 into the most realistic and fascinating game of the franchise thus far and one of the best racing simulators in the videogaming market; it could have been better, but it is definitely worth your while.

Dirt 3 is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Lyrics. This game can also be found on: PC & PS3.

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About Jay Blundell