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The Dirt series of games has always been focussed on a rally driving experience endorsed by the now late Colin McRae. Dirt 2 was the first game in the series to be released following the early death of the great Colin McRae. Dirt 3 marks a subtle moving away from the series roots. This has been further accentuated with the subsequent release of Dirt Showdown. In Dirt 3 the rally experience is still there, alive and beating at the heart of the game. It is surrounded though by what you might term more 'extreme' rally modes. Clearly Codemasters, the makers of the game, are trying to reach out to a more arcade playing audience. In Dirt 3 they have created a balance. The rally game experience is central to the game but then as other options there are the Gymkhana modes offering the true arcade experience.
Offline game play
Offline game play is tight offering a series of races that increment slowly in difficulty but never become impossible. With world locations of Finland, Michigan, Norway, LA, Kenya and Monaco there are a range of backdrops, road surfaces and weather conditions with which to contend. Each location offers a unique experience. The Monaco event for example shares only minor similarities with other car racing games that include this location. You will not be following the traditional F1 road course but instead performing on a custom made course with a view of the port behind as you criss-cross around a tight winding course and bounce over small hump back bridges conveniently placed to make you loose control on the entrance into another switchback curve.
Always interesting in the Dirt series is how the menu unlocks other events as you experience success in the game. The same is true here with a glorious menu gradually unpeeling layers of the game as you win podium positions.
The AI of the other cars seems slightly suspect but the this is more of an arcade experience than previous incarnations of the game and for this I suspect some sacrifices have been made. The end result is a high octane roller coaster ride of rally like modes and the fact that the other cars seem to be following a pre-destined route regardless of your position on the track doesn't detract from this fast paced excitement.
The game introduces a now common 'rewind' feature. If you enter a corner a little quick and end up ploughing off to meet your maker with your face pressed into the trunk of a pine tree then the rewind feature will let you pull back to the point where you can apply a little more brakes before turning into the corner that caused your demise. As a system that lets you learn the tracks to get the most out of the trickiest challenges this is fantastic and stops some of the most challenging levels becoming frustrating. Instead of having to replay whole levels you have a chance to put right your errors and continue which really does help keep the player's motivation and engagement.
Online game play
Online game play is seamless and challenging. A positive aspect of the online experience in Dirt 3 is that the race experiences are unique to the online mode and therefore it isn't just 'more of the same with human opponents' as often happens. It does mean however that with a new game online and new challenges your offline experience has not prepared you in the same way as you might have expected for the online battles that rage. Online game play is fast, action packed and ultimately great fun. There is an option to play rally stages but most of the online action is in the Gymkhana based arcade action.
Graphically this game is a cut above the last incarnation and the different locations offer a great visual variety. My own favourites are the particle effects from dust and snow. Finland and Kenya are particularly spectacular locations and initially you may find yourself spinning out just because you become distracted by the visuals on offer.
One great aspect of this game is the cars included. Instead of piling in every possible option of modern rally vehicle Codemasters have given a 'history' of rally driving that is as fascinating as it is challenging. The handling and appearance of the cars feels authentic and there is a considerable difference between cars and generations. Getting to know the car is good advice for those wanting to win all events in the game. The following cars are all included in the game with additional vehicles available as paid extras:
60's Rally Class: Mini Cooper 1275S, Lancia Fulvia, Alpine A110
70's Rally Class: Opel Kadette, Fiat 131 Abarth
80's Rear Wheel Drive Rally Class: Ford Sierra RS Cosworth, Opel Manta 400, Renault 5
Group B Rally Class: Audi Sport Quattro, Ford RS200E, Austin Metro 6R4
90's Rally Class: Subaru Impreza 555, Ford Escort RS Cosworth, Lancia Delta HF Integrale
Open (Rally America) Rally Class: Ford Fiesta, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, McRae R4
Super 2000 Rally Class: Peugeot 207, Fiat Grand Punto Abarth
WRC Rally Class: Ford Focus RS WRC 2010, Citroen C4 WRC 2010, Ford Fiesta WRC 2011, Mini Countryman WRC 2011
Dirt 3 Raid Rally Class: Bowler Nemesis, Volkswagon Touareg TDI, Mitsubishi Racing Lancer, Hummer H3
Rallycross Class: Ford RS200E2, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, Ford Fiesta Mk.7 T16 4x4, Peugeot 207 T16 4x4, Subaru Impreza WRX STI (N14 shape), Metro 6R4
Classic Trailblazer Class: Pikes Peak Audi Sport Quattro, Peugeot 405 T16, Toyota Tacoma Special
Modern Trailblazer Class: Suzuki SX4 Special - Hillclimb spec., BMW Z4M, Ford Fiesta - 2009 Pikes Peak spec., RMR Hyundai Genesis PM580
Landrush Buggy Class: Fictional Codemasters Buggy
Landrush Trophy Truck Class: Fictional Codemasters Trophy Truck
Gymkhana Class: Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, GYM3 Ford Fiesta, GYM2 Subaru Impreza WRX STI (N14 shape), GYM1 Subaru Impreza WRX STi (N12 shape)
This premium edition includes an additional set of cars that we previously sold as additionally downloadable content and had to be purchase separately. It also includes the track packs that again cost money so this pack represents excellent value for money and a great way to purchase this game.
Overall this game represents a great addition to the series and excellent value for money to the gamer. There are oodles of options and new events popping up all the time and this is a game that will keep you returning for more. My only slight concern is that some would find the quantity of arcade experience over rally experience as a change in direction for this series. For me, in Dirt 3 the balance is just about right and I recommend this game to people who enjoy rally racing.