The main focus this year for the Dirt series is content. The amount of tracks, cars and modes, based on the last iteration, has been significantly improved; making Dirt 3’s package easily the most comprehensive yet. Moreover, the quality of the content is unmatched. Dirt 3 is, quite simply, one of the best off-road racing titles on the market.
Dirt 3 includes a whole host of different off-road disciplines. They run the gamut, including Rally Cross, Land Rush, Head to Head, Trailblazer and the list goes on, offering you a huge variety. From point to point races where you compete against the clock and the times set by other racers, to full on multicar races across multiple laps. It allows you to enjoy your rally experience the way you like it, dashing through the mud, snow, sand or concrete alone, with ghost cars or with other racers through the woodland of Finland, the snow covered peaks of Aspen, the dusty villages of Kenya and the industrial tracks of Chicago.
The singleplayer campaign has you join the ranks of professional rally drivers and climb to the number one spot through several seasons. As you complete each series of events you gain reputation points based on you position and by meeting certain criteria, which in turn unlocks new events, sponsors and driver ranks for you to progress within the series and onto the next. As you unlock sponsors you are offered different cars from a roster of 50, specific to each event – you can even choose cars from different eras, from the 60s to present day to mix things up. Progressing through each series continues on the theme of variety, offering a spread of each mode and location to avoid fatigue. It works brilliantly, keeping the experience fresh throughout and the introduction of the Battersea compound and the Gymkana events offer up something completely different.
The Battersea compound allows for free-roam driving, completing an optional list of challenges, whilst the Gymkana events challenge you to perform precise driving tricks around obstacles courses. It’s an original experience that can completely consume your time as you painstakingly learn how to handle your car in just the right way to pull off the drifts, spins and jumps required to earn the gold and platinum medals. It’s a tricky set of manoeuvres to get to grips with but utterly brilliant when you do.
All the modes, including the Gymkana events, are also available in multiplayer; two player split screen and eight player online. Two of the online party modes in particular stand out, Outbreak and Transporter, which are driving variants of the zombie infected mode and capture the flag mode respectively. They’re both excellent, with players dashing around sizable areas tagging cars to spread infection in Outbreak, and crashing into players to steal the flag in Transporter, and with the exceptional damage engine, which can be switched between cosmetic and realistic, it results in a hugely addictive and dynamic set of multiplayer modes.
As with the previous title, Dirt 3 allows you to adjust your handling options to a style to suit you. Options include switching on steering assists, driving lines, automatic acceleration and braking, for you to completely customise the handling to match your skill level and preference. For the simulation fan you can even opt for Hardcore mode which turns all assists and HUD elements off and places the camera in the driver’s seat for a more realistic and challenging setup. Flashbacks also return from Dirt 2 which allows you to rewind time to undo any errors you make up to five times per race at the penalty of reputation points. It’s a handy option for to counter the inevitable spins you end up in as the excellent and aggressive AI checks you on the way past, as well as the unavoidable crashes caused by the new weather effects of snow and rain combined with the surface spray. You’ll be bashed by opponents, completely blinded by spray and weather, crash and lose your lead, but you’ll love every second of it.
It’s hard to find fault with Dirt 3. It’s an exceptional rally game that truly brings to life the excitement of off-road racing. The new additions create exceptional variety, the tweaks polish the experience and the gorgeous visuals draw you in completely. Sure the inability to save replays other than through the new YouTube upload system is a shame and some more locations would have been nice but there’s no denying the calibre of Dirt 3. It’s racing miles ahead of the competition.
MLG Rating: 9/10
Platform: Xbox 360 Release Date: 24/05/11
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a physical copy of Dirt 3 for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.