The Colin Mcrae games have been popular since the original back in 1998, providing one of the best rally experiences with each new title of the series. Now that the series has taken its first step into the new generation of consoles with DiRT, will it still be able to hold its own with the other fantastic racing games on offer? Rest assured it does, providing one of the best racing experiences available on the Xbox 360 console and here’s why.
First off, the graphics are simply fantastic. Without a doubt Dirt is one of the most impressive games graphically to grace the Xbox 360, not only providing photo realistic cars but highly detailed and varied courses that provide idyllic views in a range of different weather. The courses are located in a range of environments including Japan, USA, Italy and UK which all provide beautiful unique landscapes such as the raining countrysides of the UK (Typical. Rain in the UK – Ed) and the dusty canyons of USA to enjoy and destroy. The game looks especially fantastic in motion thanks to the fantastic particle effects of dust, mud and stone that will fly from the wheels to the dynamic lighting whilst not only adding to the atmosphere but making a huge difference to the time of day you race. Whilst the lighting is beautiful to behold and a spectacular addition to adding atmosphere to the courses, the bloom effects can be so strong that you may need to adjust the TV settings to prevent going blind before you get to enjoy them.
One of the most impressive aspects of DiRT is the damage modelling on the cars which reacts to the smallest detail in car destruction. If you drive into a post, the front of the car will bend around the post, whilst sliding the side into a wall could result in a door-less car or perhaps shattered glass flying behind in a trail. Not only can you convert a coupe into a hatchback in 5 seconds flat, but you can also obliterate your surroundings, be it fences, poles or even small trees for example. Of course this would all be a little pointless if there was no effect on the car, thankfully there are many different situations that can arise from reckless driving, ranging over nine of the essential car components. Hit a tree side-on with good force? Oh dear, you will now have to do the remainder of the track with the car constantly steering to the left.
The game features three main game modes; Career, Championship and Rally World. First of all Career is a tier system (11 Tiers in total) with over 60 tracks, each getting harder and requiring different cars to compete in (which must be bought using the money earned from each race). Championship mode follows the typical tournament style play where each ending race will earn you points depending on your position, which will eventually determine your overall place in the tournament. These courses range through a large selection of countries and cars. Lastly Rally World allows you to take part in single player races, events or time trails with the options you choose. The amount of variety on offer is fantastic, offering many different race styles from the typical cars to trucks, buggy’s and big rig racing machines which can be enjoyed again on a varied range of track types such as hillclimb, rallycross, rally, rally raid and other types. All that needs to be known is that DiRT offers a lot of gameplay in a large range of situations.
Without a doubt DiRT is a blast to play, which is obviously the most important aspect of any game. It is easy to pick up and play but with practice you can start to turn up the difficulty settings (which will earn you more money in Career mode for example) to take on smarter opponents whilst also having increased damage effects on collisions. The varied play-styles all offer unique driving experiences whilst still keeping a similar play-style which won’t scare off players new to rally games.
A large fault with an overall fantastic package is Multiplayer and the lack of it. Only two race modes are supported over Xbox live; Rally and Hill Climb. The worst part of online multiplayer being that you simply race alone, no other cars or even ghosts present on the track, leaving an online game that is nothing more than a time trail. Whilst it is nice that up to 99 people can play at one time, online games usually involve joining a running game (you must wait till it ends, a few minutes wait), waiting for the map voting to end (one minute wait) , loading (30 seconds wait) and then player connection (one minute wait). When the final result is nothing more than a brief time trial tournament game with little human interaction, much more is desired. Now onto the worst part about offline multiplayer… there is none. That’s right; you are not given the option to play multiplayer on one console, which is rather insulting for a racing game of this calibre.
The last mention goes to the overall sound and audio aspect of DiRT, which is overall superb. Whilst there is not a huge support for background tracks, which are usually only present during replays and menu screens, they are still pleasant and fitting to the design of the game. The actual in-game sound effects are simply fantastic. It is hard to know what is most impressive, as whilst taking note of the quality engine noise unique to each and every car, a wrong turn into a head on collision presents fantastic crashing, smashing and cracking noises that sound just as horrific as they look.
Overall DiRT is a clear winner, delivering a fantastic package in every aspect bar multiplayer. Any fan of racing game should pick up this gem right away, and sceptics of the genre should give it a shot too, as the arcade style play with great variety provides an experience that should be enjoyed by all.