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Critical Reception: Codemasters'  DiRT 3

Critical Reception: Codemasters' DiRT 3

May 25, 2011 | By Danny Cowan




This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Codemasters' rally racing sequel DiRT 3, which reviews hail as "the definitive off-road racing game." DiRT 3 currently earns a score of 89 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.

Drew Scanlon at Giant Bomb gives DiRT 3 5 out of 5 stars. "I was a little worried when I first started playing DiRT 3. It seemed, in those first few hours, pretty similar to DiRT 2," he admits. "But after thoroughly exploring all the game has to offer, I can assure you it's much more than a simple rehash of 2009's offering."

"Unlike DiRT 2, which grouped series by locale, DiRT 3 jumps around between eight environments," he continues. "That's one fewer locale than DiRT 2, but DiRT 3 makes up for it with an increased number of tracks (double that of DiRT 2) and the inclusion of weather and time-of-day options."

These new elements add a lot to the core gameplay. "Some circuit tracks are so dark that you'll find yourself having to memorize where turns are, turning blindly into blackness, hoping that your headlights will reveal some familiar section of wall," Scanlon recalls. "Nighttime rally courses are similarly intense, requiring you to rely almost exclusively on your co-driver for directions. Night races are, in short, awesome."

"For those worried that the game may be losing its hardcore roots, fear not," Scanlon assures. "DiRT 3 retains the series' signature physics-regulated handling system, and even improves it a bit by adding independent suspension so cars rock realistically with changes in direction. It's hardly a noticeable improvement until you go back to DiRT 2 and try to play without it. The graphics are similarly improved, with many minor upgrades conspiring to create some truly beautiful environments, and at no cost to a steady framerate."

"The DiRT series has carved out a nice little niche in the racing game genre, one between the who-needs-the-brake-button-anyway madness of games like Motorstorm and Burnout, and clinical, it's-fun-because-it's-real simulations like Gran Turismo and Forza," Scanlon notes. "Everything fans of the series have come to love in past games has been tuned and upgraded, making it feel an awful lot like the definitive off-road racing game."

Joystiq's Taylor Cocke rates DiRT 3 at 4.5 stars. "DiRT 3 really, really wants you to love rally racing as much as it does," he begins. "It wants you to love the speed, the grit, and the cheers of the crowd just barely audible over the roar of your engine. It also wants you to love how difficult the sport is, how tough it is to keep your off-road vehicle on the road in muddy terrain."

"For DiRT 3, [Codemasters] has taken the formula from the 2009's wonderful DiRT 2 and expanded on it in just about every way possible," Cocke writes. "There are more cars, more tracks, more locations, and a slew of new modes in both single and multiplayer. The four racing seasons in the campaign mode (and the masters-only World Tour mode after them) take your lead foot through 100+ different tracks, in locations as disparate as Kenya, Lake Michigan and Norway."

Cocke praises DiRT 3's options for newcomers. "For Casual players, brakes are automatically triggered and the game gives little nudges to keep the care on the right path, effectively making an experience more akin to an arcade racer," he explains. "There's also the Flashback system (available in most difficulties), which allows you to turn back time at the push of a button. Take a nasty spill off a cliff? No problem, just spin that clock right on back."

"DiRT 3 succeeds in accomplishing what it wants to do," Cocke sums up. "It has the capability to convert people who aren't particularly interested in rally racing to addicts who need just one more race or Gymkhana event. It would seem that Codemasters' love for the sport is infectious."

IGN's Peter Eykemans scores DiRT 3 at 8.5 out of 10. "There's a good chance I'll never hurtle down the backroads of Finland at more than 100 mph in a BMW Z4," he says. "But to be able to experience such a feat in a safe environment is divine. DiRT 3 delivers this power, reminding rally nuts what a fun ride this series is."

"The driving in DiRT 3 feels tight and responsive, and the six tuning options return to balance out any terrain type," Eykemans continues. "Cars respond effectively to the slightest control touches and the need for tight braking stands out. Every slide from gravel onto tarmac or snow feels significant and the variations require extreme concentration."

A new approach to car collecting doesn't work as well as it did in previous games, however. "Codemasters made an odd choice with car collections," Eykemans notes. "Money's been thrown out the window and cars are automatically sent over by teams and sponsors through leveling up. It feels as though nothing's been accomplished when the garage is full of random new cars I didn't specifically choose. Also, the newest cars provide the greatest driving bonuses, so choosing anything less will lead to earning fewer points."

"In DiRT 3 a few scratches tarnish an otherwise impeccable product," Eykemans concludes. "It's a superb racing experience and shouldn't be missed. While the agent isn't the best leader through the tour, and the garage is limited in its operation, the solid gameplay, variety of tracks and events, and overall fun factor make this a terrific game."


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