Aside from these rather petty moans, DIRT basically combines the best bits of the Rally games with the Race Driver titles, throws the whole thing into a spanking new engine and comes up with something quite special. It's been said enough times before, but the visuals are such a gigantic leap up from Codies rather underwhelming efforts with the last generation of CMR titles that it totally scratches off the main complaints we used to have. As you many recall, top-notch visuals were the missing link of the previous three Colin McRae titles, so to see the three year break put to such stunning use is genuinely heart-warming. Previously, the handling, damage model and driving physics were up there with the very best, and for all that good work to be retained and refined alongside stunningly detailed tracks, glorious particle and lighting effect and beautifully rendered vehicles is the sign of a studio really pulling out all the stops and listening to feedback.
Codies has also been careful not to stray too far towards arcade or simulation. Just as it has managed so expertly with the three TOCA Race Driver titles, it manages to straddle both areas perfectly, offering authenticity without making it inaccessible to mere mortals. Yet if you poke around in the menus, the ability to tweak set-ups still lurks for anyone who wants to tinker, so the option remains there if you believe you can eke a little bit extra performance out of your ride.
Just truck off
But in the same way as certain elements of Race Driver games don't quite come off, the same holds true for DIRT. For whatever reason, Codies decided to shoehorn truck racing into this game as well, and they stick out like a particularly sore thumb. Racing in bouncy 4x4s isn't the best fun, either, but these unwieldy monstrosities are nothing compared to the lumbering, oafish trucks which are about as fun to race in as caravans. Not a single person I've ever met who has played this game has had fun with them, and, at worst, you may end up being forced to play these events just unlock later sections of the game. Admittedly, the bite-sized nature of the races means they don't outstay their welcome to any great degree, but after enduring two or three of these events, you really won't relish having to play any more of them.
Another point (which went unchallenged in the original review) is the slightly borked online implementation. The claim of 100 player online mode all sounds incredibly promising, doesn't it, but the truth of the matter is far from that. All the '100' figure actually means is up to 100 people can all vote on and race the same Rally or Hill Climb stage, with the 'winner' being the one to post the fastest time. You don't actually race against them in the manner you might expect - as in they don't physically appear on your screen. It's just a dynamic leaderboard system, and a bit of a fudge by Codemasters, if we're being blunt. Having recently enjoyed the true online racing in SEGA Rally, this really is no substitute in that respect. (And while we're talking about SEGA Rally, this game's crying out for track deformation - but maybe next time, eh?)
In terms of the obvious 360 to PS3 comparisons, this fares as well as can be expected. The colour palette appears slightly warmer on PS3, and the visuals are, in general, just slightly softer than the 360 version we were battle hardened by. But in terms of how it ran, the differences were nigh on imperceptible, with the same solid, breakneck sense of speed that makes bumper cam racing such an essential part of playing DIRT. On a point of preference, the lack of rumble was a tad jarring, but, then again, DIRT doesn't make especially innovative use of rumble anyway, generally kicking into life during gear changes rather than reflecting every nuance of the track in the way SEGA Rally does on 360. If anything, it's the gigantic PS3 triggers that we still have trouble getting used to, but that's possibly down to not having played too many racing games on the platform to date than anything.
All round, Colin McRae DIRT is fine game which mixes just the right amount of depth with the kind of accessibility that should open up the brand to the kind of audience it always deserved. Sure, some of Codies tactics in 'going mainstream' are a tad irksome, but in the main the game succeeds by not only being exceptionally good fun to play, but being unquestionably one of the finest looking racing games on the market too. With only an undercooked online element and pointless truck racing detracting from the package, it more than makes up for these aberrations elsewhere. Codemasters did Colin proud.
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