DiRT 3

Polished DiRT

With DiRT 3 Codemasters returns the series to its rally roots, but is that a good thing?
Author: Parjanya C. Holtz
Published: June 4, 2011
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There's an aesthetic beauty to racing a pimped out european compact sized automobile through a snow covered Norwegian forest in the middle of the night, while all that prevents you from crashing into the next pine tree is the bright shining glow of your headlights. DiRT 3 is all about that soothing feeling of rush that nature plays such an important role in, and that sets in when your only opponents are the rubble beneath your wheels and the stopwatch that measures your success.

This time, no hyper-stylized skater-boy vibe detracts from the experience that is Codemasters' third installment in the reboot of the legendary Colin McRae Rally series. With DiRT 3 the British studio stripped away most of the unnecessary ballast of DiRT 2 and returned the series to its rather minimalist rally roots.

The bread and butter of DiRT 3 is clearly its career mode. The amount of variety found here, whether in regards to cars, tracks, weather conditions or simply types of races, is impressive to say the least. This is a game that, if played all the way through, will keep you occupied for weeks. And while a slight risk of the whole affair getting somewhat stale and repetitive would be hard to deny, it's the quality of the actual driving that will keep you motivated and coming back for more. No matter the surface you drive on, cars handle realistically, without succumbing to the insane, and as some would say fun-draining realism of a Gran Turismo 5.

As you drift around corners from one surface onto another, DiRT 3 makes you feel the road like few racing games have before it. Every stone, every snowflake, every raindrop seemingly plays a role in how your car slips, slides and accelerates. This is true, no matter whether you compete in the US, Norway, Africa or Monaco, just to name a few of the more prominent, and each in their look and atmosphere unique locations.

From the first few minutes into the game it quickly becomes clear that DiRT 3 is all about classic rally. Yes, there are standard races to compete in, and some of them even involve you getting into heavier trucks, but the vast majority of the career mode lets you drive beautifully rendered compact automobiles from the racing era of the 60s up until today. Having so many vehicles to choose from can be overwhelming, which may have played a role in Codemasters' admittedly somewhat controversial decision to almost entirely automize the acquisition of new cars. Everything now revolves around experience points which can only be earned by competing in races, and cars unlock automatically with your success on the tracks.

As you level up, different teams will show interest in your abilities, thus offering their individually branded vehicles for you to choose from. However, you never commit to any one team, and the choice is yours which team to drive for ahead of each and every race you compete in. It's a slightly awkward system that works well for those of us more interested in the actual racing than hoarding cars in our virtual garages, but it also takes away some of the fun and motivation you get from saving up for that one super car that costs close to a billion virtual credits. Ultimately it's a matter of personal taste whether this is something that will annoy you or not, and not so much an actual flaw in the game's design.
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