Review: Hop in your vehicle and prepare for some next-gen racing.
DIRT is refreshingly different from its counterparts, which is what makes it such a blast to play; it manages to blend realism (in its graphics) with arcade style gameplay. This is good news as it allows the game to take on two different images ? first up is the reality of it all. Everything looks fantastic, from the amazing tracks to the way the vehicles shine. Then DIRT's arcadey roots show when you put the game to the test; while the handling of the vehicles is as realistic as how everything looks, it's still based on the core arcade racers we've been playing for years.
But let's not forget that above all, DIRT is all about being realistic. Whether it's the made-from-billions-of-pixels vehicles that you spend a good slice of the game with or the strictly next-gen courses, everything truly is, for lack of a more descriptive word, beautiful. DIRT's visuals are a sight to behold and, dare it be said, they are on par with the PlayStation 3's MotorStorm; which clearly remains one of the best looking video games to date. Elsewhere in DIRT's box of visual treats comes the pleasure at an expense that is the crashing. While it's common knowledge that you'll be a little upset when you ruin your perfect driving streak, there's no doubting the pleasure of just watching the vehicle crumple, smash and, at times, overturn. This is down to how realistically the game pulls it off. Depending on the speed and angle you're travelling at on impact, along with the size and strength of the beastie you actually collide with, the vehicle will become damaged in ways you've never seen before? well, unless you like watching or causing real crashes, that is. Either way, it's quite amazing how the vehicles become a bit of a rust bucket in ways so realistic it's almost scary.
Equally as ? if not more ? refreshing is what a technological achievement DIRT is, and that really must not be forgotten since it's so easy to take everything in the game for granted. The most notable part of this ?element,' if you will, is how the different vehicles react to the different types of terrain they're on, as well as the way different terrain causes vehicles to perform. For example, one of the game's 4x4 vehicles may be able to get across one of the dirt or desert tracks with relative ease, but the big rigs may have a fair slice of trouble in speeding along while bumping up and down over the tricky terrain, and still maintaining control of the vehicle. Fortunately then, not all types of vehicle can be raced on all courses in the main Career mode, and the races contain all the same class of vehicle ? you won't be in a 4x4 while the other racers are in buggies, 2WD and RWDs.
Whichever way you look at it, the vehicles are the most striking factor in DIRT. That becomes apparent as soon as you look at the back of the box and realise there are now different types of vehicles available. Yes, as well as the usual rally card, this time round the game has included big ass trucks and 4x4s so you can really tackle those desert terrains and hill climb events.
So, what about the game modes that are on offer? DIRT certainly doesn't fall short in this factor as it includes three different game modes. There is Career, Championship and Rally World. Career is a pyramid of eleven sectors, and as a racer your goal is to work your way to the very top where you compete in the final Champion of Champions event to win the core single player mode. Championship is similar to career only without the pyramid, and contained within are National, European, International and Global championships which, not surprisingly, are to be won as your goal. Finally, Rally World is a race-by-race mode where you can jump in any of the vehicles you own and race on the game's many tracks. This level of variety is certainly welcome and makes a happy medium in the game since there's something to suit everyone's tastes.
If that's not enough, you can then take your game online provided you are connected, where you can partake in ranked, player and private matches as per usual. These are either Rally events or Rally/Hill Climb which you'll be familiar with if you've played a fair part of the game's single player. The game seemed to be absolutely lag-free, and maintained at a usual framerate with even up to eight players in an event. This is good, by the way, so it's definitely a good idea to test out the game's multiplayer if you can, which really extends the game's longevity.
Going back to the Career mode? it's a bit short. Don't get me wrong, there are certainly plenty of events. In fact, the pyramid alone is huge and you'll probably feel overwhelmed at the beginning. Then you realise that inside the pyramid's sectors are often more than one event. This is mad! Well yes, it really is, but these events still won't take even casual gamers more than a few sittings to finish off. Thankfully, the choice of different difficulty levels ? as well as the opportunity to earn more points and money by finishing in higher ranked places ? is certainly enough to make you come back to earn the money to buy new vehicles and make your collection even sweeter.
Essentially, DIRT isn't problem-free. Fortunately though, it's not at all problem-ridden, and it really is a game almost impossible to fault. Almost. To begin with, the game seems to have a problem with resetting vehicles once they have veered off course or crashed. Even when the vehicle has been overturned for more than its fair share of seconds. And then you're still waiting? waiting? waiting. And then you realise that the game can't be bothered to reset the vehicle, so you go into the pause menu and press ?Reset Vehicle'. It's hardly a hardship, but having to pause the game to reset your vehicle regularly when you crash is an annoyance only made worse by the fact that the game almost instantly resets your vehicle if you cut a corner.
Next up, not so much of a problem as it is a visual mistake ? the tracks your vehicle leaves when driving through different terrain and conditions. It's really wonderful to watch how dirt is sent flying in the tyre marks of the vehicle behind you, or how rain splashes behind the wheels in a realistic fashion. This is all very cool when you're looking at the back of the vehicle. If you look backwards so you're facing the front of the vehicle, you'll also see the dirt/rain flying backwards, or spraying. Then you look forwards again, and backwards again and realise the trail only begins as soon as you look in a direction. It's not actually trailing behind you all the time regardless of your viewpoint, as much as the game would like you to believe that. Basically, it's a slight graphical issue that could have been easily resolved. Either way, it doesn't really detract from the experience as much as it does annoy you when you really notice it.
But hey, those are really the only two niggles I really had with the game and with those out of the way, DIRT really is a truly astounding video game experience not to be forgotten. As it stands, it's likely to be forgotten since it's not such a major release alongside The Darkness and Forza Motorsport 2, but if it's a near-perfect game you're looking for, DIRT is bound to impress.