Game of the Week: DiRT 3

Rally round.

Who cares what's out now? E3 is almost upon us! Time to lose ourselves in a frenzy of silly speculation and lust for distant prospects. A real game you can hold in your hands and play seems disappointingly tawdry and prosaic by comparison.

I don't really feel that way, of course, and neither should you - as much as a games writer shouldn't tell you this, playing games is more fun than reading or talking about them (most of the time). But usually the industry obliges our collective obsession with big announcements and impossible promises by barely releasing anything near the immense media impact crater created by the greatest games show on Earth.

Not this year. The volume's down a little, but not the profile: next week we get Hunted: The Demon's Forge; E3 week itself sees the release of inFamous 2, Red Faction: Armageddon and (outside North America) Duke Nukem Forever; the week after has Child of Eden, Dungeon Siege III, Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and Alice: Madness Returns.

That lot includes some of the most interesting games of 2011, and possibly even one or two of the best. Here's hoping they can find a few players who don't already have 2012's stars in their eyes.

If you're all about the here and now, there are two excellent prospects this week. The turn-based tension of Frozen Synapse proves once again - as I wrote about Revenge of the Titans a few weeks ago - that tiny indies are succeeding where some of the biggest publishers and best developers have failed over the last decade or two: they're making genuinely innovative strategy games.

"Frozen Synapse is an excellent and inventive multiplayer game, but it is, truly, also an excellent and inventive single-player game - one that provides its own distinct challenges and rewards even as it effectively tutors you to be a multiplayer champ," wrote Alec in our Frozen Synapse review.

"Frozen Synapse takes the old, the stuffy and the traditionally glacial and it makes it brand new, instant and brutal. It's such an achievement."

Our pick of the week's triumph is more iterative in character, though.

DiRT 3

No matter how much you love a great game series, it can't stand still. It has to evolve and it has to try to find new players - but when the purist Colin McRae Rally transformed into the noisy, globalised and typographically suspect DiRT, many were dismayed.

DiRT 3's first 15 minutes.

If a franchise is in safe hands, though, there comes a beautiful moment where a balance can be found between what was great before and what is relevant and exciting now - when new and old audiences can be brought together to realise that they've been celebrating the same thing all along.

DiRT 3 is one of those moments.

"DiRT 3's real achievement and its real charm don't come from its litany of ways to churn mud, gravel and tarmac," wrote Martin in our DiRT 3 review. "There's a proud sense of heritage, both for Codemasters' rich past with the Colin McRae series and for the sport itself, that sits seamlessly alongside a spirit of innovation that the studio has quietly made its own in recent years... Codemasters has succeeded in curating another superlative festival of driving."

It could well be the best racing game this generation to come form one of the great racing studios. So when, in a week or so's time, you find yourself pining unbearably for F1 2011 or Forza 4... just remember what's already sat on the shelf.

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