When Dirt 2 was released in 2009 it boasted a lengthy and varied career mode, numerous multiplayer options, and uniformly excellent presentation. Its sequel loses none of those things and also makes some great additions to the formula. Split-screen multiplayer is now an option, there are more vehicle classes to choose from, gymkhana events and snowy conditions pose fresh challenges, and new multiplayer modes put interesting automotive spins on some first-person shooter favorites. Dirt 3 brings a lot of superb content to the table, and because it offers a plethora of customizable difficulty settings and assists, newcomers and veterans alike can enjoy its excellent off-road action.
6314714NoneThe Racing line assist is one of many that's included for newcomers to off-road racing.
Regardless of which difficulty level you play at and whether or not you take advantage of stability and braking assists, Dirt 3 handles like a dream. There are dozens of great-looking modern and vintage vehicles in the garage, and you race them on all manner of surfaces and in changing weather conditions, but getting behind the wheel of one that you haven't driven before is never a problem. The controls are responsive, and while it's certainly possible to mess up so spectacularly that your ride loses panels and becomes deformed to the point that it's unrecognizable, there are gameplay mechanics in place that ensure you don't feel the need to hold anything back. Even as you hurtle along narrow dirt trails and around icy hairpins, Dirt 3's cars, trucks, and buggies encourage you to push them harder by using excellent audio and rumble feedback to let you know that you're not quite on the edge yet.
Demanding new gymkhana events in which you're challenged to perform tricks in specially designed arenas reinforce how excellent Dirt 3's controls are. In these exciting sessions you score points for crashing through carefully positioned destructible blocks, and for performing donuts, spins, slides, and jumps. String different tricks together to get the crowd pumped, and you build up a score multiplier; display anything other than masterful control by colliding with something, and your multiplier goes down. It's not entirely dissimilar to performing combos in a skateboarding game, except that the tricks are significantly less complex. Stringing successful tricks together against the clock is still plenty challenging, though, and as a result, gymkhanas are great practice for other events. Once you can make a car dance around a cone and slide at speed through a gate or underneath a truck, getting it around a corner in a race doesn't seem like such a big deal.
Tutorials do a good job of teaching you the tricks you need for gymkhana events.
Every event in Dirt 3, whether it be a point-to-point rally through a Kenyan desert, a head-to-head race in the Aspen snow, or a circuit-based rallycross event that weaves in and out of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, demands precise driving. You can get away with a few collisions here and there, particularly if you take advantage of the five flashbacks at your disposal to correct your mistakes, and it's entirely possible that you might find finishing in first place too easy if you're an experienced player. Turn off some of the assists, crank up the difficulty, and switch from cosmetic damage to realistic damage, though, and you'll find that Dirt 3 is exactly as challenging as you want it to be. At the other end of the scale, if you're new to off-road racing and looking for a way into the genre, Dirt 3 has you covered. In addition to the aforementioned assists and other options, it's the first game in the series to offer a dynamic racing line like those seen in both the Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo series.
That racing line can be invaluable as you learn your way around Dirt 3's 100-plus circuits and stages; position yourself poorly as you take a turn or jump over a crest, and you might make a subsequent corner unnecessarily difficult. Also invaluable in the events where she's available is real-life co-driver Jen Horsey, who always delivers the information you need in a clear, concise, and timely fashion. (A male alternative is also available, as is an option to have either co-driver use more complex and detailed language.) If you listen to her carefully, rally stages that wind through the forests of Finland or around the lakes of Michigan don't seem nearly as daunting. You still won't have much time to admire the impressive scenery or to contemplate the foolhardy fans that occasionally run across the track ahead of you, but you're far less likely to wrap your car around a tree or crash through a barrier and into the crowd.
Replays afford you an opportunity to admire both the scenery and your skills behind the wheel.
Many of the events in Dirt 3's lengthy Dirt Tour career mode span multiple back-to-back races at the same location, but the game does an excellent job of keeping the action from feeling stale. After finishing the first of three rallycross events in dry conditions, for example, you might race the next during a grip-changing downpour and then the final in wet conditions after the rain clouds have passed and your visibility is improved. And in point-to-point rallies, racing the same stages in different directions can make for a very different experience, especially if you're under a desert sun one stage and having to use your headlights to cut through the black of night the next. Also lending variety to your career is that you invariably have several different events to choose from. The dozens of events that compose the Dirt Tour are organized into four seasons that must be completed in order, but your progress through each season is anything but linear, and you always have the option to return to events that you want to replay in an attempt to improve upon your position or best score/time.