DiRT™ Review

Dan Webb

Racing and dirt go together like Jeckyl and Hyde so it doesn’t surprise me that Codemasters have done such an impressive job of Colin McRae’s off road aptly named title, DiRT. It’s not as if they are new to this field of game, they have plenty of experience by now with Colin McRae titles but this is their first outing on this generation of console and it is a very bold effort.

"Racing has never looked so good!"

As soon as you fire up the game and watch the opening FMV you will see a shiny cinematic that is worthy of our praise. But that’s an FMV right? I mean, that’s no true indication of what the game is like… WRONG!!! This is THE best looking racing game on the 360 to date in my honest opinion. The courses on the game look breath taking and realistic, you will find yourself driving along a cliff face looking at the ravine below hoping that your car won’t suffer the fate that follows when you take a corner too fast. The actual car models are nothing short of impressive as they constantly change as well, whether it be the position of the sun and the shadows it casts or the dirt it picks up as you navigate the course. The lighting in this game will blow you away, you will first really notice it as you drive into a forest area with a sort of canopy and the sun pierces it, now that’s what I call lighting! On top of that the game carries an impressive looking damage system that reacts to your driving… Hit a tree, cave in the bonnet… Clip a barrier, damage the paintwork… More impressively, land awkwardly after a jump and watch the back window crack. Topping that, once you have lived the stage or course from the edge of your seat, you can slide back in to its comfort and watch the incredibly realistic replays which the game is blessed with, it almost becomes hard to tell its a game at times.Wow! However the game cannot be perfect and one minor problem I picked up on was that the frame rate suffered from time to time but this is so infrequent that you will hardly notice it.

The game not only looks good but sounds sweet. The cars sound different depending on the track surface which is a credible feature and the reverb in the tunnels is a minor detail that excels this game above other racing games. Your co-driver shouting out directions can be a lifesaver at times… Literally!! Listen out for the “Crest, right, 1” cause I can only advise you now, when you hear those three words in that order, BREAK HARD! The game does have it’s unbelievably poorly scripted moments, take for example when you win a race, the dialogue between the driver and the co driver is so ridiculous you can’t help but laugh, it goes something like… Driver: “We were the best because we were the fastest” Co-driver: “Really”. Now I’m not sure if the co-driver is being sarcastic there but it really sounds like it. As far as the menu music goes it is… ok I suppose. It’s nowhere close to the Beatles but can be quite catchy or annoying, which ever way you look at it. Hopefully you won’t be in the menus too long for them to drive you mad. In addition Rally driver Travis Pastrana narrates the career mode which is informative and he actually sounds quite sincere. Not like the usual drone like voice overs you get.

"Slide your way at high speeds to get that coveted podium position"

The game itself plays more like an arcade racing game than a simulation and you will hardly notice the difference between a RWD and a FWD as it seems as if the pivot points are central as opposed to on either of the axel but that doesn’t take away from the fun of the game. You will notice the difference between some of the cars the light Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX will have you throwing the back end around every hairpin corner which is great fun whereas the Lancia Delta S4 will be pulling away from the opposition on the straights but come to a corner and it starts to feel like a bus. For those die hard racing fans, there is the ability to tweak the set up of the vehicle before a race from the angle of the tires to strength of the suspension. Don’t worry though, if you're like me and can’t tell the difference between a wrench and spanner, you will be pleased to hear that this is an addition and you don’t need to touch it if you don’t want to. You'll be able to play the game using one of six different view points, three external which allow you to view the car at it's best but jump in to helmet cam for a totally new experience. You sound that much closer to licking the engine as you rev hard in to corners and you'll even see the driver change gears but the one thing that separates this game from the others on the market is if you roll the car, the silence that surrounds you is deafening, you literally feel like life has been snatched away from you. It's the little things in DiRT that make it stand out so much and they are great additions to an already fun game. All in all it is a fun arcade racing title that is pretty much pick up and play.

The single player proportion of the game focuses mainly around a career mode where you have to work at the bottom completing challenges and beating opposition to work your way to the top. This is possible the most innovative and graphically superior menu system and career ladder I have ever seen, easy to navigate and nice on the eyes. As you progress up the pyramid the challenges become longer and are more challenging. The career mode will ask you to compete in very different styles of racing that put you in different situations, these include from classic point to point Rallies, CORR buggy races against opposition, nerve racking Crossover races, the long winded Hill Climbs, the off road Rally Raids and Rallycross. Something for everyone there. There are 46 vehicles to collect and buy as you progress through career mode with 182 liveries (that’s a paint job for those like me who didn’t know what it was) to purchase. The cars range from classic rally cars, big rigs, buggies, off road beasts known as Rally Raid cars to something that can only be described as a bus and are no fun to drive whatsoever. The racing modes against the CPU lack a little to be desired and are very unforgiving, you’ve only got to rub tires with someone and they spin you around in to a wall. The game excels in the traditional rally races though, the point to points are exhilarating, pushing the limits of the car in beautiful settings whether it be the fog of Japan’s hills or the sun of America’s deserts, in some harsh conditions trying to beat times of your competitors to move up the career pyramid. Don’t push too hard though because if you misjudge a corner you could end up halfway down a mountain or wrapped round a tree with the unfortunate “Terminal Damage” flashing on your screen forcing you to restart the race or retire. The game has 5 difficulties which take in to account the skill of the opposition and the damage to the car which leaves the game open to the skilled professional to the first time racing driver. The game also stores some pretty nifty stats which are available all under one roof or are shown to you during loading times which is a pretty nice touch.

"Watch out for that cliff face, it's a long way down!"

It’s not the type of game that will ask you to devote a lot of hours to completing it, it’s probably good for 20-30 hours gameplay to work your way through the career mode and then on top of that there are some classic rally events to work through. Oh and there is multiplayer, I nearly forgot, but seriously, it seems as if Codemasters forgot as well. There is no split screen for starters then the online multiplayer is well… How do I put this? It’s exactly the same as the single player but racing against someone else’s time… You can’t race on the same track and it’s only point to points. It tries to boast a 100 player online mode, but it’s not quite the same racing against someone else’s time, on Live in fact, you never see another person’s car, just their time which is a let down. It is definitely a major flaw on what has been an A rated title up until now.

As far as the achievements go in this game, the list is very balanced. You have the standard collectors achievements for collecting cars, the standard career achievements for working your way through the career, the usual distance achievements and then there are the other mode achievements. You’ve also got a few multiplayer achievements which isn’t over doing it. It’s possible to unlock the large percentage of these during the career mode, the “Championship” achievements for the rallies can be unlocked in career mode which I discovered earlier but if you want the full 1k you’ll have to play the Championship mode anyway. An impressive list for an impressive title, I would take a guess at 30 hours for the full one thousand gamerpoints, I mean, you have to drive 1000 miles for one of them, so there is no shortcut for that.

If you're looking for a racing sim, I suggest you look elsewhere. If you're looking for a stunning looking arcade racing game that is fun to play, I suggest you stop reading this review and go and pick up a copy. It’s rally, so it’s never going to feel like a racing sim because the whole idea of rally is to slide round the corners. This is close to being a top title but the multiplayer is a severe letdown but that shouldn’t discourage someone from experiencing a great single player title.

Poorly scripted driver-co-driver dialogue at times but balanced out with impressive Pastrana narration. Car sounds add to the realism.

The best looking racer on the 360. Cars that react with your driving, whether it be damage or dirt and mind blowing landscapes that depict their relevant countries, you can feel the desert heat from the comfort of your own chair.

Simply the most fun arcade racer on the market, far from a simulation racer but doesn't try to be one. There are a few handling issues but take nothing away from the pick up and play of it. Multiplayer is severely disappointing when it offers so much more.

The most impressive and contemporary menu system on any console. Easy to navigate and a pleasure to use. Very impressive.

Good balanced set that is achieveable for any skilled player but time consuming. The collect all cars needs skill levels to be raised for more money as there are a lot and the 1000 miles in career mode seems excessive when you can do the career mode in under 500. Other than that, commendable effort.

Overall, this is the best looking racer on the 360 to date. Great fun to play and a career to sink your teeth in to. Unfortunately let down by the odd handling issue and lack of multiplayer so all in all a game that will probably sink to the bottom of your collection after a while as you struggle for what to do next on it. A must play for the single player, racing fan or not!

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