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DiRT 3 (PS3) Review

Dirt 3 is the newest addition to Codemasters' off-road racing series, and is easily the most complete and accessible game in the Colin McRae: Dirt franchise. The latest title is a more mature driving experience which is more subtle in terms of design and presentation. Having the heavy action sports influence toned down quite a bit allows Dirt 3 to appeal to those who want to see more professional racing action. The game retains just the right amount of new-school racing jargon to remain fresh, but also uses more traditional methods to draw in old fans of rally games—such as a more mild soundtrack and less commentary. Comparing Dirt 3 to the previous games shows that the developers have found the perfect mix of new and old, which makes for an all-around better game.

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When Dirt 2 launched in 2009, the game introduced a few new racing elements and a unique “in your face” design style that put the game on the map. The racing genre, one that seems to lose a little more recognition each year, needs franchises like Dirt to stay alive and there are few developers who realize that the video gaming world lacks great racing games. The sequel did have its flaws, but was a big step forward in terms of gameplay. Old race types were given a more modern appeal using a variety of new elements, and there were plenty of courses and vehicles to choose from. Dirt 3 continues in this fashion, offering players an even bigger set of cars and trucks and richer driving environments. Unfortunately, customization is still limited to prefabricated liveries and tuning is reduced to a set of sliders which control the very basics of vehicle handling and performance.

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The implementation of gymkhana events is what really makes Dirt 3 shine, and really forces players to perfect their driving skills. Gymkhana is a type of motorsport that is quickly gaining popularity around the world. Similar to autocross, gymkhana is like an obstacle course for cars which feature jumps, gates, and other hazards. In the real world, drivers are required to quickly navigate the courses by drifting and spinning their cars through a series of tricky obstacles—in order to reach the finish line as quickly as possible and with the least amount of mistakes. In Dirt 3, players will be introduced to both freestyle and timed events. In freestyle gymkhana, the objective is to rack up as many points as possible, without error, before the time runs out. The arenas are littered with different stunt objects such as breakable blocks, spin zones, and “donut” markers which vary in size. The timed events are slightly different... Drivers must navigate a closed course and perform the necessary stunts in a predetermined order. If a stunt is missed in the sequence, you must go back and complete it. The faster the course is completed the better the reward.

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Most of the core rally racing types make a return for Dirt 3, which include the fast-paced rally-cross events, land rush, and of course the traditional rally mode with navigator. Trailblazer and raids are also present in the game but there is one new race type that has finally made its Dirt debut... crossover. Crossover is like rally-cross but allows for only 2 cars to battle in a fierce head-to-head competition. The courses are tight two-lane circuits which frequently cross over one another and feature an abundance of sharp corners and big jumps. Each racer starts in the opposite lane and a single lap is completed when a racer finishes both sides of the course. Since both drivers have the same amount of ground to cover in one lap, this type of racing is frantic and exiting. It's sort of like virtual slot car racing in terms of how the tracks work and, like in the real world, one little mistake can mean being eliminated from the competition. Crossover races, while not new to the rally/racing genre, are a welcomed addition to the Dirt franchise and make for some really intense match-ups.

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Dirt 2 was a great-looking game and Codemasters have somehow managed to make the graphics and audio experience in Dirt 3 even richer. The environments are highly detailed and the weather effects look authentic on such high poly vehicle models—which are of course top notch as usual. Along with the game's impressive visuals, the game sports the best audio quality in the series thus far. The sound of highly-tuned engines will resonate between canyon walls and will be drowned out beneath the falling snow. The crowds of people who populate the edge of the track and in the grand stands are a little more involved in the action; you will be able to hear their commentary and ambiance as you speed by. Certain photo enthusiasts will even scramble out of the road before you pass, just like the fanatics in the real world.

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Codemasters did a great job with Colin McRae: Dirt 3, and at the end of the day it's the best game in the acclaimed series thus far. It may be similar to the last iteration in terms of gameplay, but Dirt 3 provides a unique and accessible driving experience of its own thanks to the addition of gymkhana events. The tour mode contains tons of events and enough variety to allow for hours of racing pleasure. The multiplayer component of the game is as you would expect and is reliable for racing online. Players can share their ghost replays/records with others the same way as in Dirt 2, but now have the option to upload videos of their races to YouTube. This new feature is available in both single-player and multiplayer modes. Expect to see an influx of user-created D3 videos to land on the site because this feature is likely to gain popularity. If you've been looking for a solid racing game that's both challenging and packed with intense off-road action, then Dirt 3 may be exactly what you need; if you've enjoyed the previous installments then there's absolutely no excuse to not pick up and play this freshly refined new version. It's not the most complete racing game on today's market, but Codemasters' newest is truly the best in the series.

Rating
9.3

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