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Codemasters Dirt 3 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £27
inc VAT

Variety, but not at the expense of consistently high quality. Dirt 3 is a driving game that goes all-out to entertain - and it succeeds


Flexible in providing graphics for all-comers, and gameplay types for all tastes, there’s also something to please most in the handling options. The casual setting allows even complete novices and children to get round without too many problems. Intermediate adds enough control to get yourself in trouble, but only if you try something silly. Expert mode punishes every error, with no ABS or stability control – though even this won’t quite suit diehard rally simulator fans, with it still being relatively easy to keep the car on the track. Our one gripe is that the various terrain factors don’t effect handling enough, with switches from gravel to tarmac being less pronounced then we’d like.

Dirt 3 racing snow
Terrain isn’t as critical as we’d have liked

Whichever handling mode you choose, you get five ‘flashbacks’ per level. These allow you to rewind time by a few seconds, and in doing so wipe that horrendous crash you just had from the record. The feature allows you to really push the car to its limits without worrying about screwing up your whole lap. Using flashbacks does cost you reputation points at the end of the race, so you’ll unlock new races, tracks and cars quicker if you’re frugal.

Despite all its brash Americanism and Xtreme sports branding, the game’s structure is a bit so-so. You play the role of you, if you were a driver trying to make your name in the racing business, with each race earning you points depending on your performance. The wide variety of events helps mix things up a bit, but with all the basic race styles and some very powerful and classic cars on offer from the start, there’s not a huge amount to look forward to. Thankfully, it occasionally drops in an oddball event, one per five stage tournament, to keep things fresh.

Dirt 3 audi
Classic cars abound, like this eighties Quattro

In terms of tracks there are plenty, here’s a rundown from the serious to the silly. There are four main rallying areas (Finland, Norway, Kenya and Michigan) each with 8 rally tracks and three Trailblazer tracks a piece. Next up are the head-to-head tracks, 3 locations with 2 tracks a piece. Then the hectic Landrush areas, two of those with four layouts each, used for the Truck and Buggy races. Finally there are two Gymkhana areas, with four layouts each, and the same again for the Truck and Buggy Landrush races. In addition there’s a smattering of extra courses for various drift challenges and one-off Gymkhana events. The car line-up is also suitably varied, and includes everything from classic 80’s rally cars up to ludicrous souped-up Hummers.

Driving games no longer demand the kind of attention they used to, but they are still a popular genre. Dirt 3 plays to the short attention spans of the YouTube generation, by introducing an appropriate new mode to an already broad selection and then mixing everything up to keep you entertained. Plus, if you ace the bits you like, you needn’t even bother with the odd mode you don’t fancy.

Such broad coverage is bound to attract claims of dumbing down, but it’s incredible just how high the quality bar is set across everything here. It’s not for those who want hundreds of hours of exacting and demanding driving, but in terms of entertainment there’s nothing on four wheels to compare.

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