DiRT 3 Review

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The long-awaited gymkhana edition of the rally-focused game. Featuring a lot of hooning.

Rally racing, that's what the DiRT series is famous for. You go through your racing career with races like rally stages, lapping, head-to-head. You also have drift runs, time trials, and gymkhana (more on that later). Eventually you unlock the Winter and Summer X-Games tournaments at the end of each season.

As you progress through the game, you earn points based on your race performances toward new sponsors, such as Red Bull, Monster, Hella, Arai, Alpinestars, and many other well known brands to drive for.

There's cars. And trucks. And even buggies. From classic rally cars to modern cars like Subaru WRXs and Mitsubishi Evolutions to crazy power machines like the Pikes Peak Suzuki. At first glance, there are a lot of vehicles to choose from, but in reality it's a lot of different livery packages on only 20 or so vehicles.

And then there's the new gymkhana addition. You've probably seen the YouTube gymkhana videos from Ken Block by now. Now you get to do the same thing! The idea is freestyle driving and racking up points via tricks like smashing into through blocks, drifting through tight openings, and doing donuts in small spaces and around objects. This is quite possibly the most aggravating, yet rewarding part of the game. The learning curve is quite high for getting the timing right on the various tricks. Missing it means crashing into something, or traveling too far away from the zone. But once you are able to perform tricks without crashing, and then being able to chain them together in sequence, it just felt like you climbed Mount Everest.

Turning off the various assists really adds a challenge to the driving experience with finding traction in slippery conditions. I never knew how much I had to relearn when I turned them off for the first time.
Conclusion: the physics are quite realistic. I've never had to 'feel' out driving a car in a racing game before.

The graphics are awe-inspiring, with the sun and the moon lighting up the lush environments, and that's only with medium settings on my computer. I can't even imagine what the ultra high settings are like.
Racing in snow and rain, through the forests and deserts, at high speed, throughout the days and nights is crazy. The little effects are also something neat, with snow and rain splattering on the windshield, and slush and mud building up on the front of your car throughout the race.

When I played the first few races, I had a strange feeling but I couldn't put my finger on it. Then I realized that there wasn't any background music during the race so all you heard was the car and the environment. So much better. When you're flying blind through the course, all you want to do is concentrate on your co-driver. Hearing the snow pop and the dirt and leaves crack as you drive over is eerie, because that's what you'd hear in real life too.

And that makes crashing feel even worse, because you hear parts crumple or scrape or bang or shatter, and it hurts. Who knew a driving game could make you FEEL badly when you damage your virtual car?

Codemasters, the studio that's behind this game, amongst a host of other racing games like GRID and PURE, really know their stuff. What fun this game was.