Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dirt 3 Impressions

It's here! It's out! More Dirt! Wooop woop woop a doop! Am I a fan of this series? I guess so. Actually I am a fan of arcadey racing in general, and the Grid and Dirt games usually manage to scratch that particular itch where so many others miss the mark completely.

I haven't had a chance to beat the game yet, but I've played enough races that I am pretty sure what to expect. So I bet everyone's first question is, "How is the game, anyway?" Well I'm glad you asked! It's good. I mean, obviously. Critics have been pretty kind to Dirt 3, with review sites lining up around the block to ejaculate praise all over it. But I'm sure we've already seen those reviews. So let's move on and take a look at what works and what doesn't, in the eyes of a big fat racing noob.

First off, the career mode. I think you'll all be thrilled to hear that Dave Mirra and all the other X-Games jerk-offs are absent for the most part. You have a manager, and a mechanic and a couple miscellaneous cronies who yap at you between races. Thankfully though they keep quiet while you're actually driving. Ken Block is in the game, but only in Gymkhana events, and he doesn't say much.

Overall the career mode seems much more streamlined and less repetitive than Dirt 2, which is nice. However the prize money you earn is gone, replaced instead with reputation points. Pretty much all the management aspect of it is gone, with new cars and races just being unlocked every few levels. Managing your money was part of the fun in past games and I am sad to see it gone.

My biggest complaint is that it just feels a bit too streamlined. You spend all your time between races just picking your next event from a menu. It's not immersive at all, and the whole thing just feels sort of hollow. I miss the trailer and the crowds of spectators from Dirt 2.

Speaking of which, while the game might be more technically proficient, it somehow lacks the style and excitement of Dirt 2. Yeah, fireworks going off as you hit a jump was cheesy, but overall things just felt more energetic for some reason. The effects and the music just made the experience come alive and did a good job of capturing the excitement and spectacle of it all. I'm sure the change was intentional, as Dirt 3 really seems to strive to be a true successor to the Colin McRae Rally series instead of catering to the baseball cap wearing, energy drink chugging X-Games crowd.

To that end, the rally events take center stage this time. There is a much bigger selection of rally cars from the past and present. The tracks are varied and challenging, with snow and rain adding to the mix. Sadly there are only four locations to rally in. They do an admirable job of mixing up the track layouts, but I would have liked to see a bit more variety in the scenery.

The driving is as excellent as you'd expect, with a much improved handling model. I really have to give them credit for providing people so many options when it comes to tweaking difficulty. You can set the challenge level of the AI, then choose a preset level of assists or custom tweak your own. The best part is that the game is fully playable even without any assists. In many games, turning off options like traction control and ABS makes your car handle like a wild turkey. In Dirt 3 it handles just like you'd expect. Brake early, watch your back end, and you'll have no problems. Amazing!

One of the most surprising additions for me were the Gymkhana events. These involve knocking over barriers, swerving around poles and generally drifting around doing tricks. What surprised me most is that once you get the hang of them, they're! Nowhere near the massive pain in the dick drift events were in Grid. They can still be annoying at times, but overall I was amazed how much I enjoy them.

So there you have it. Dirt 3 is a lot of fun, with enough variety to keep you busy online and off for a long time. It's definitely a step forward for the series, as well as a return to it's roots in some ways. This is for the better and worse, as I do find the campaign lacking in some of the ways that made Grid and Dirt 2 satisfying. It lacks a real sense of progression, with new events and sponsors seemingly being unlocked at random. Fortunately the racing is fun and challenging enough that it will keep you coming back over and over. And in the end, that's what counts I suppose.

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