It’s safe to say that the Xbox 360 has its fair share of racing titles, which happens to include Codemasters’ DiRT series.
And while the first two DiRT titles were pretty good in their own right, DiRT 3 arguably improves on past faults to pump out the best game in the series.
From the start, DiRT 3 impresses, with a slick user interface that uses triangles to unfold various menus and selection screens to keep things easy to manage. The game is broken down into the single-player main tour, while adding multiplayer options for both local and online play over Xbox Live, including single-player non-tour races.
The main tour is split into four seasons with various event types and disciplines to participate in. Gamers will start off the tour by learning that they are already pros and ready to jump in against the best. After upsetting hardcore DiRT fans with the overall lack of rally racing in DiRT 2, DiRT 3 also brings rally racing back to the forefront across lush landscapes in locales across the globe, such as Kenya, Finland and Los Angeles.
With varying levels of difficulty, the AI is actually pretty smart and even at some of the lower settings, can be pretty challenging. Luckily the game offers up assists that should help even the most basic players get a handle of how to race. In addition, players can customize the way the vehicles handle before each race, with six different tuning types, which not only helps for varying terrains but also to suit the different racing styles that every player is sure to have.
Generally speaking, each car drives pretty differently but they all have tight and responsive controls. Of course driving is really put to the test when driving at high speeds on pavement, dirt terrain or even on wet roads. DiRT 3 really turns it up with change in weather which brings not only rainy days but even snow. Adding to the experience is realistic effects, from the vehicle bodies to the tires and windshields. Though I personally preferred the 3rd person perspective (for control purposes), playing in first-person (driver’s seat view) easily resulted in the most satisfying experience. With the game already looking pretty gorgeous, changes in time made for an even better look. There were times were the sun appeared to be setting, which really highlighted the game’s lighting, even making me squint a few times as if the sun was really in my face, while playing at night, activated the vehicles’ headlights, which changed things up for the positive.
Speaking of effects, players can opt to change vehicle damage to be a cosmetic thing only but when full vehicle damage is on, cars will begin to react to each degree of punishment they take. At one point I almost forgot that I had it on full until a brutal car wreck left my car without a front-left wheel, which caused my car to start veering to the left. It added to the sense of mayhem during a standard race, and although I suffered in the overall standings, it was pretty fun to have to overcome such an obstacle.
With a pretty lengthy tour mode, multiplayer is just a deep, offering plenty of offline and online matches. System Link is an option but the game also allows for split-screen MP.
One of the more fun modes to play with friends is the Jam Session Party Mode, which allows for a handful of tag and capture-the-flag style matches. Gymkhana however, is easily one of the more entertaining modes, which gives players a virtual playground in which to pull off tricks and gain points for jumps, slides and pulling off donuts. It’s a great way to break up the gameplay from racing to something completely different.
Codemasters also added built-in YouTube functionality which allows players to upload 30-second clips of their best moments directly to their YouTube accounts. While the feature is nice to have, it would have been better to have the option to upload longer videos.
Overall, DiRT 3 is a pretty solid package. It’s got an enjoyable tour mode, plenty of Multiplayer modes, looks great, and plays fantastic. Outside of a few minor misses, DiRT 3 is clearly superior to the last two games and a highly recommended game for racing (and particularly rally) fans.