DiRT 3 Review
Dirt 3 is a superb off-road racer that adds some great new features and improves upon its predecessor at just about every opportunity.
Your progress as a driver is measured in reputation points, which are earned after every event. You score points for podium finishes, for not using your flashbacks, and for completing any team-specific goals. Teams aren't a big deal in Dirt 3; where in some games you're expected to commit to them for entire seasons, here you can drive for a different one every time you get behind the wheel, if you wish. Early in your career only a couple of teams have any interest in you, but as you earn reputation points and level up, more teams (and by extension, more cars) become available to you. Your choice of team before any event is likely to be motivated by its car first and foremost, but the number of reputation points that the team is offering for completing its bonus objectives is also a consideration. Sadly, you don't get to see what the actual objective is when choosing, so your decisions aren't nearly as well informed as they could be. Regardless, none of the challenges are so difficult that you're filled with regret for choosing a particular team; most involve simply reaching a certain speed, finishing with no damage, or making it through an entire event without ever spinning or rolling your vehicle.
On top of the events that form the four seasons, Dirt Tour mode boasts a number of unlockable extras that add to its longevity considerably. For starters, there are world tours specific to each discipline; choose to race and subsequently do well in point-to-point rallies, and you unlock a rally world tour with dozens of those events. Furthermore, you can unlock a playground of sorts in the form of London's Battersea power station and its surrounding area. Here, not only are you free to practice gymkhana techniques, but you can also complete a number of varied challenges to earn extra reputation. These challenges include everything from completing jumps and performing tricks in specific spots, to crashing through fences that divide the different unlockable areas and locating hidden Dirt 3 logos. Visiting Battersea makes for a welcome change of pace, and it's also a great way to prepare for some of Dirt 3's more unusual multiplayer offerings.
In addition to online versions of all of the conventional races, rallies, and gymkhana events, Dirt 3 features some unique vehicular versions of modes that you might already be familiar with. Transporter, for example, is a capture-the-flag game, while Outbreak is an Infection-style game of tag in which your car turns bright green when you're hit by an infected player. Another highlight of Dirt 3's sizable multiplayer suite is Invasion, a game in which you score points for crashing through cutouts of alien robots but lose points for causing collateral damage when you crash through cutouts of buildings. This mode, perhaps more than any other, puts the skills that you pick up in gymkhana events to great use, because you have to be both fast and precise to beat other players to your targets. Some of these multiplayer modes can get a little too chaotic at times (when everyone descends on the flag at the same time in a relatively confined space, for example), but it's still a lot of fun and hugely satisfying to win or even score a single point in a closely contested session.
Split-screen multiplayer for two is also supported, and like the online play, it's practically indistinguishable from playing solo where the game's performance is concerned. The only noteworthy difference is that you don't get the option to drive using the cockpit camera. With the exception of gymkhana events and joyrides around Battersea, split-screen races with a friend in any of the available disciplines (rally, rallycross trailblazer, head 2 head, landrush) can support up to six AI drivers competing alongside you. Advanced options, which are also available when you host unranked Jam Session games online, include allowing custom vehicle setups, forcing manual gears, and choosing between visual and full damage. Basically, whether multiplayer or solo, you can play Dirt 3 however you like; it can feel like a forgiving arcade game, a challenging simulation, or just about anything in between.
Regardless of how you play Dirt 3, there's no denying that, like its predecessor, it looks and sounds fantastic. Despite the fact that you rarely get to stop and admire the environments, the level of detail in them is great, and the cars--while not quite up to the standards set by the best that Forza Motorsport 3 and Gran Turismo 5 have to offer--are even better. Seeing these brightly colored vehicles get caked in mud and snow and take believable damage from impacts is a treat, and the incredible noises that their engines make never leave you in any doubt about the amount of power you have at your disposal. Audio is impressive across the board: you get plenty of feedback from whichever road surface you're driving on to let you know how well your tires are gripping, and the licensed soundtrack with tunes from the likes of Chromeo, Drive A, Hudson Mohawke, RJD2, and We Are Scientists is appropriately eclectic and energetic.
Dirt 3 improves and builds upon its superb predecessor at just about every opportunity. The new multiplayer modes and gymkhana events are great additions, and if you're interested primarily in traditional racing disciplines, it has more than twice as many routes to race in more varied weather conditions and in an even greater selection of vehicles. The option to upload replays to YouTube isn't as exciting as it could be, given that you're limited to 30 seconds and there's no other way to save them, but this is a small blemish in an otherwise superb game. Whether you're a veteran of the Dirt series and the long-running Colin McRae Rally series that preceded it, or someone looking for a way into off-road racing, Dirt 3 is the game you should be playing.