Platform: PC, 360,
Length: 5+ hours
Rating: Worth grabbing
With poor old Colin McRae having passed on several years ago now, it seems like it's finally time to put to rest his name too. But I suspect his name doesn't feature in this issue's game title not for this reason, but rather because Dirt 3 seems so much fresher than Colin McRae 8 (no corpse pun intended - although obviously it was because I just wrote that). Whilst it still doesn't quite match the likes of EA, who are about to put out their 18th Need for Speed title, I do somewhat shudder when a sequel is released within anything less than two years of its predecessor (I'm looking at you Modern Warfare).
What differentiates the two series though is that Codemasters, the developers behind Dirt, seem like they actually want to make a good racing game, whereas the horde behind the NFS franchise seem more motivated by what will look in a trailer. In that vein, Dirt 3 continues its trademark classiness with the return of its stylish menus. Whereas Dirt 2's were flashy at the expense of practicality, this time form and function are well balanced. The quality established by the menus is carried throughout the game. Dirt 3 features some spunky looking cars and courses, making it visually a more appealing game than GT5. Sure, not so much with regards to how realistic particular bits looks, but rather how coherent and consistent the overall aesthetic is.
With regards to the actual game-play, it's still nicely varied albeit with a greater focus on the rally component. Consequently, the game feels more mature and mellow than Dirt 2, which for me is only a good thing. The game still longs to be ‘hip’, what with players being able to upload their replays to YouTube (as if there wasn't already enough crap on that site). Likewise, there's a new power-sliding mode, known as Gymhana, which actually does quite a lot to add some variety to the otherwise all racing affair. Touching on controls briefly, the cars are somewhat tricky to handle, however this does do well to create a real sense of power. Throw in some tarmac and you've got yourself one balls-to-the-wall racer. When it inevitably then goes tits up, you can still rather clumsily rewind time. Whilst this feature does well to remove those moments of sheer rage, it does so at the cost of cheapening the win.
Having now played both Dirt 2 and 3, I can say that this game is a definite improvement. Whilst I still probably wouldn't shell out the cash for it if I was already a proud Dirt 2, GT5 or even a Shift owner, I would point someone in Dirt 3's direction over all others.