What a surprise, Bazaboy is playing another driving game. Not any old driving game however, this is the latest game in a series of games from Codemasters all of which I have played and enjoyed each more so than the previous one. In 1998 Codemasters joined forces with rallying legend Colin McRae on the original PlayStation. Even back then racing and driving games were always amongst my favourites and when a game came along which was not only centred on my favourite motorsport of rallying but was also backed by one of my favourite drivers of all time, it was pretty much a forgone conclusion that I would love this game and I was not disappointed. Over the following years and through my ownership of both the PS1 and PS2 a total of five games were released in the series, with each game adding a little something new, be it a graphical improvement or improving on the games playability, each game in the series continued to better the previous title.
Come the age of the next gen consoles the series underwent a bit of an overhaul. The first change of which was the name, changing from Colin McRae Rally to Colin McRae DiRT. Retaining the traditional rallying stages of point a to point b racing against the clock, there was a lot more added with racing events such as rally cross, trailblazing and land rush being added with not only rally cars, but also 4×4 trucks, buggies and highly powered hill climbing cars. This meant that along with the rally there was a huge amount of variation for players. Following the success of Dirt, another addition to the series would soon follow. However, prior to it’s release, Colin McRae lost his life in a helicopter crash. Codemasters did what I personally thought was the right thing to do and in memory of the driver went ahead and once again put his name before DiRT2. Continuing on from the last game, the variety in races remained meaning the game was still as enjoyable as ever. And now Codemasters have dropped the McRae name and the latest title is simply titled DiRT3. Is it still just as much fun to play?
DiRT 3 aims to continue down the path that the series has taken, concentrating more on numerous different forms of off-road racing rather than confining itself to only traditional rallying. However Codemasters have listened to the fans whom, and I include myself in this, had been calling out for more rallying content than that which was on offer in the previous game. Our wishes have been granted this time around as this incarnation of the game has the most rallying content of the three most recent games in the series. More rally stages and more choice in rally cars, including favourites of rallying fans – the powerhouses that are Group B rally cars. This is not to say however that nothing new has been added. Although McRae is no longer present within the game, there is still a big name driver involved in the form of Ken Block. Block is a young American driver who started rallying in his home country and now competes in the World Rally Championship. What he has become better known for are his Gymkhana videos on YouTube and so, fittingly, Gymkhana has been brought to the game. For those who have no knowledge of what this type of driving involves, I suggest searching YouTube for one of these videos. It basically involves precision high speed driving while drifting, spinning, do-nutting and jumping your rally spec car over and around obstacles. With the ability to upload your replays directly to YouTube, your stunning Gymkhana moments can sit on the site right alongside Ken Blocks real life version. And so content wise, both for those looking for traditional rallying and others looking for more fun aspects of driving, the game definitely delivers. But does everything else measure up to previous offerings?
The simple answer is yes, in almost every way. The game looks much better than the previous title, but not so much when it comes to the cars themselves as there has not been a huge improvement. That is not to say they look bad, because they don’t. They look just as good as they did in DiRT 2 and those were pretty impressive to say the least. The big visual improvements are in the scenery. The locations, although there seems to be fewer of them this time around, do look a lot better than they did in the second DiRT game. The rally stages, especially the forest areas, look a lot more impressive and realistic. The addition of weather making a return to the series is also welcome, giving us the challenge of racing in the rain and snow to liven things up. Another improvement is yet another case of Codemasters improving on an aspect of the series which I continuously believe they have nailed in each of the games, only to better it the next time around, and that is the sound. The engine sounds of all the cars within the game have been wonderfully recreated once again, sounding even more like the real thing, non more so in my opinion than when it comes to the Group B carsn most notably the Metro 6R4, although I am sure my neighbours do not agree at this time.
One more small but significant improvement comes in between the races. The user interface of DiRT 2, although being cool as you navigated an actual environment in a first person type view choosing races from a map inside a camper van and cars from a paddock area outside the van, was interesting. But a lot of fans, myself included, thought that this was too complicated a system, especially when you were just looking for a quick race through a stage. So this time around things have returned to a more traditional menu system, making selecting what you want to do a little simpler and quicker, and easier to find what you want. The one small letdown is the selection in cars which seems to be smaller than the previous game. On the car selection screen there seems to be a huge choice, but you soon notice the same car is there two or three times only with a different livery. The only saving grace is that the cars present are mostly great choices, and there is of course the chance of more cars being added as DLC.
So it is all good so far. But the most important thing is does the game play as well as the previous game? And the answer is no, it plays better. Again Codemasters have improved the series in another area. It’s another case of wondering how they could improve on the last game and once more being surprised by the fact that they have again outdone themselves. Like most of Codemasters racing games – Grid, F1 and this series of games, the handling has been the perfect mix of simulation and arcade, making the games huge hits for both hardcore fans of motorsports and the more casual gamer alike. DiRT 3 is no different in this respect and this goes for both the rallying stages and the newcomer event Gymkhana. I say this because the games handling is different for this new mode, with the steering much more sensitive when compared to that experienced throughout the majority of the game. This makes it much easier to throw your car into spins and drifts with relative ease, without being so different that you cant easily go back and forth between the rallying and gymkhana events without having to change your driving styles drastically.
So I can safely say that whether you are a newcomer to this series of games or a long time fan, you will not be disappointed with this the latest offering from Codemasters. The long time fans can pick this up safe in the knowledge that it is indeed a step up from the previous game, although a few extra cars and locations would not go amiss. We can hope that this is rectified with some DLC. Newcomers looking for a fun rally driving game will not be disappointed with this easy to pick up, challenging to master, always fun to play driving game. DiRT 3 is without a doubt Codemasters’ best title within the series to date. So, until DiRT 4 is inevitably released in two or three years time, rallying has a new home on our consoles in the shape of DiRT 3.