2011-06-02

DiRT 3 – I Need Someone To Tell Me Where To Go

by Yo Snyder

I love cars. I love fast cars. I love driving fast cars.
Unfortunately, I dont have much of a chance to do that in real life;
thank goodness for video games. In
the virtual world, I can get my hands on all kinds of different cars
and really put them through their paces without worrying about wrecking
them or myself. Good times. Im a bit late to the DiRT party, but after
all of the Forzas, Burnouts, and Need for Speeds, I found it to be a
refreshing change of pace and a fun new challenge.

Most of the racing games Ive played stay on the asphalt, so Dirt 3
was my first foray into off-road, rally racing; I love it. Im not sure
why I didnt get into this series earlier, but Im happy to experience
it now. Rally racing offers a whole new set of challenges for the driver
from dealing with different types of terrain to pushing a car to its
limits while still maintaining control as you slide and jump your way
through a course. While a big portion of Dirt 3 is rally
racing, it breaks things up with some other types of events. One of the
most interesting is gymkhana. Here its all about the tricks and
stringing them together. Think of a skate boarding game and substitute a
car for the board. Admittedly this is probably where Im weakest at the
game. I just have a hard time going from a spin to a jump to donut to a
power-slide; but if you can master this aspect of the game, tearing
around those hair-pin curves in a race will be no problem.

While the racing is top-notch, there were a couple things that bugged
me. One was the lack of any sort of garage feature. You dont collect
cars in this game like others, you accept offers from sponsors and drive
the cars they give you. While this eliminates some complexity in
deciding which car is best suited for a race, it also means you dont
have the option to consistently use and upgrade a favorite. I like
certain cars more than others, and while appreciate the encouragement to
try out different vehicles, it still would have been nice to have an
option to use and tweak and upgrade throughout the game the ones I
really enjoyed. I should note, however, that before each race you can
tweak the tuning of your car, and I really appreciated the fact that
this made a notable difference.If I was having trouble in a race, making
a slight change in handling or speed usually made the difference. While
not involved as something like Forza, this is a nice option that can
make the difference between winning and losing. And not being a super
in-depth car guy, Im glad this aspect was relatively streamlined and
easy to understand.

Another more minor disappointment is the YouTube functionality. The
concept is great: take some of your best races and post them online for
all to see; like this.


However, you can only post 30 seconds. You cant get a whole race online
(which would take a lot of time to upload), so you can really only post
highlights. This is a concept that has a lot of great potential, but
ultimately feels like it fell short.

One area where Dirt 3 doesnt falter is online. You have all
kinds of options for online fun. Race on a team or on your own. Join a
rally race or just have some fun with the party modes. One mode, called
Infection, is pure automotive chaos. One
player is infected with a virus, and the only way to spread it is to
smash into everyone else. The longer you survive, the better your score.
Its a chaotic good time. The innovative party games add an extra layer
of good times to the game as you can take a break from all the
serious racing stuff and just have some wacky fun in your car. Its a
nice touch. The online functionality is smooth, its easy to get into a
game, although the balancing of teams doesnt always seem to work. (Why
put a bunch of noobs on one team and all the higher ranked players on
another?) And just in case you have a friend over, you can also play
split-screen; an option thats always welcome with racing games.

One of the interesting new experiences for me in rally racing was
having a navigator telling me the layout of the course ahead of me. At
first, I found this voice give curt directions such as medium right
into soft left into jump annoying and distracting (it doesnt help that
the voice is incredibly monotone and the directions sound like pieced
together bits of different audio). After I got used to it, however, I
found it very useful. By listening to those directions, I could devote
all of my attention to the curve, jump or straight away that was right
in front of me instead of dividing my attention between that and
constantly glancing at the map to see what was ahead; which often led to
trouble.
Ive said this before and Ill keep on saying it; thats a useful
feature in life as well. God knows all the twists, turns and bumps that
lie ahead of us in life, and if well let him, hes more then willing to
guide us through them. Youve probably seen those bumper stickers that
say God is my co-pilot; well, thats not what he wants to be. He wants
to take the wheel, he wants to be the pilot. However, we can get so
caught up with whats happening right now that we grip the wheel tight
and say we dont have time to worry about whats up ahead or or to let
go and let someone else drive. And yet, if want to successfully navigate
the course of life, thats exactly what we need to do. We dont just
need God sitting next to us telling us what turns and bumps are up
ahead, we need him sitting in the drivers seat.

Codemasters have always created solid racers, and Dirt 3 is
no exception. The game looks great, the weather effects actually impact
the racing, the A.I. is challenging but not unfairly so (and Im always
relieved to see them mess up everyone now and then, its good to know
their flawed too), and there are plenty of different events to keep you
satisfied. Plus, there are plenty of options to help suit any kind of
racer; whether youre new to the rally racing world or are an old pro,
youll have settings that will suit you just fine. Ive really enjoyed
taking my love of racing off-road with Dirt 3, and Im willing to bet that if you give it a chance, you will too.

Score out of 7:

Graphics: 6 – The cars look great and the environments are awe
inspiringwhen you have time to gawk at them. Most of the time theyre
whipping by so fast you probably wont notice. Weather effects also look
great, although splashing through water was a little disappointing.

Sound: 5 – The rev of your engine is always a thrill as you push your
car right to the edge of its max performance. Different terrain types
all have satisfyingly different sounds, and even the soundtrack isnt
all that annoying. Some flat voice acting brings things down at bit,
though.

Controls: 6 – You have plenty of options to get the controls right in
that perfect sweet spot that suits your skill level. The cars have
responsive, crisp controls that often require a delicate touch. While
not quite demanding as Forza, its not as arcadey as NFS: Hot Pursuit.

Gameplay: 6 – Lots to choose from, but most come to this game for
rally racing, and theres plenty of that. Gymkhana adds a fun twist to
the proceedings, and some excellent online multiplayer extends the fun
one can have. Plus, split-screen play; always welcome.

Story: N/A – Get out there and win races; thats all there is to it.

Content: 6 – Mild lyrics in some of the songs and some non-lethal car crashes. Good times.

Final: 5 – DiRT 3 is an absolute blast. The off-road rally
racing is a joy in all kinds of different weather, and gymkhana gives
you chance to learn some precision control behind the wheel. Its a
great looking racer with a robust online element. A few snags hold it
back – cant customize or keep cars in a garage, limited YouTube
function – but if you love racing, you should give this one a test
drive.