N Amer - 06/19/2007
It’s been a while since I’ve ever been excited about a rally racing game and this coming from a guy obsessed with hot cars and the mostly European appreciation for tearing it up in the dirt in the Australian outback. I can blame my love for rally racing to the Colin McRae Rally games that Codemasters introduced a long while back on the Xbox and so, you can see, I was excited to hear that another realistic rally racing simulator would be available again but this time for the Xbox 360. DiRT is an automotive work of art that will fling mud in your eye and you’ll love every minute of it and yes, it might not be perfect but it is one of the best rally racing games you’ll find so far.
Codemasters is certainly no stranger to racing simulators that are realistic and extremely challenging to the point that the more casual racing gamer might just want to stop and consider dusting off old favorites like Need for Speed or Ridge Racer. Those who enjoy a more strict, by-the-book racing game, however, should not look any further than the likes of the Colin McRae Rally racing games or Codemasters’ other racing simulator ToCA Race Driver series. DiRT continues in the Colin McRae tradition of rally racing with licensed vehicles in exotic setting as you attempt to leave your mark in the rally racing circuit.
The game contains a lengthy and challenging Career mode that spans a number of race circuit tiers that take you from the bottom of the pyramid to the top by winning races. Then again you can jump right into the championship in Rally Championship mode where you can compete globally in a series of races where you can decide what type of vehicle and how many races. You can also participate in single-player events that range from Time Trail, Single Race or Single Event. Of course, what racing game isn’t complete without an online and offline multiplayer mode?
Career mode is the real meat of the game with over 66 events spanning a diverse number of disciplines. The racing disciplines are essentially racing styles such as the Rallycross, Rally Raid, the CORR and the Crossover. There are also events like the Hill Climb that add enough events rally fans will definitely enjoy sinking their teeth into throughout the game. You’ll not only gain recognition for completing each event but you’ll also earn money to purchase new and better vehicles. The vehicles themselves range from 2WD, 4WD RWD cars as well as some from the Classic series. You’ll be able to get behind the wheel of real vehicles such as Suzuki Escudo, a Lotus Exige and a number of off-road trucks and even buggies.
While the gameplay remains strict, the game is still fun enough to give each race an exciting and ultimately enjoyable feel to the race types. The first time you’ll hit a hard left while trying hard to maintain your first place position you’ll know you’re playing a really challenging racing game that’s right up there with the likes of Forza 2. Sure you can change the difficulty setting from Clubman (an easy yet still tough difficult setting or a Pro Am setting, but the game is still pretty hard that it might turn off the more casual racing game fan. Still, if you do manage to stick around you’re in for a treat because the opponent AI isn’t dumb nor will you feel like they’ll get a boost towards the end of the last lap like in most racing games.
The game’s controls are actually perfect whether you pick the controller or an Xbox 360 approved steering wheel controller and your car will always feel responsive to your style of driving. The problem is that whatever vehicle you pick they will always feel a bit “floaty” in rough terrain and there’s rough terrain in many of the real-life circuits that will take you from Italy to Germany and the United Kingdom. You’ll even be racing a buggy in Chula Vista, California. It’s a good thing that in the Rally and Rally Raid modes you’ll be accompanied by a co-driver who is good at giving you a head’s up when it comes to corners. It’ll take awhile before you realize the numerical meaning for corner calls. It also helps that the camera in this game is perfect no matter what view you use.
If you’d like to concentrate on the championship aspect of the game you can always try Rally Championship whether you like to try a European Championship, an International Championship or even a Global Championship. You can set up limits to the championship races, something you won’t get to do much of in the game’s weak multiplayer mode. Online you can take on up to 100 racers in a very limited racing mode that’s just one of the game’s biggest sore spots … well, second biggest. The game suffers from a stutter in the framerate that affects both the single-player mode as well as the multiplayer mode. It doesn’t get too bad, though.
Graphically speaking, DiRT is a gorgeous-looking Xbox 360 game with plenty of details and realistic backgrounds. Each environment offers plenty of eye-catching detail that gives each exotic locale its flavor and the track design just benefits from it. The licensed vehicles also look amazing bouncing across the terrain and while it’s painful to see an Audi TT slam into a boulder as the hood gets crushed and front wheel pops off like a champagne cork, the realistic vehicle damage just adds to the realism perfectly. Even the sense of speed is well represented in the game.
The game’s sound isn’t bad either, although the majority of the time you’ll just be listening to the sounds of every vehicle’s engines and the tires kicking up dirty. Crashes do have a somewhat detailed crunch to them but nothing in the degree of the Crash Mode in the Burnout series. Still, close your eyes and you’d swear you were watching a rally race on television. You’ll hear from your co-driver and he’ll do a good job of steering you in the right direction but somehow he sounds like he’s sitting in a booth somewhere sipping tea. At least the menu screen narration and the discipline explanations (handled by X Games newcomer Travis Pastrana) are informative and handled by somebody who sounds excited about the sport.
Easily one of the coolest and most entertaining rally racing games on the Xbox 360, DiRT is one of those games auto racing enthusiasts should not miss. Of course, it’s not entirely perfect thanks to some framerate issues and a really weak multiplayer mode, but these flaws just don’t distract from a pretty face and an overall excellent package well worth your time and money. Really, do yourself a favor and pick this one up right away, racing fans.
Review Scoring Details for DiRT
The licensed vehicles feel a bit bouncy even if you manage to do something about the suspension in the garage but still the controls are wonderful and the racing action is tons of fun. Yes, the framerate takes a dive throughout the game but it’s nothing that really takes you out of the game or ruins a lap. Even the real-world tracks are great.
DiRT looks amazing and the environments look nearly photo-real to the point that when you do slam into a tree you’ll see bits of bark and leaves fall from it. The damage to the vehicles is also a highlight and watching your vehicle kick up the dirt will bring tears to rally racing game fans.
The game’s not big on music and what little sound effects you’ll hear in the game will be drowned by the sounds of the vehicles’ engines but at least it does a great job of displaying all the sounds you would hear during a rally race. Your co-driver sounds like he phoned in his voice work but at least Travis Pastrana does an excellent job narrating the menu selections and your every career advancements.
Climbing the tiers in Career Mode won’t be easy and keeping up with the skilled AI will not be easy in Rally Championship mode either. To make matters even more difficult, your car takes real damage to the point that it can disable it completely if you‘re not careful.
There are plenty or real life cars to drive in this game including Colin McRae’s sweet prototype vehicle as well as the sleek Subaru Impressa. The tracks are also designed beautifully and make each racing discipline a unique experience. There’s a multiplayer mode as well but it suffers from framerate problems and just a general sense of a multiplayer mode so under whelming that it just isn’t good.
Why was Codemasters able to pull off an excellent multiplayer mode for the ToCA Racing series for the original Xbox but not for a next-generation console like the Xbox 360? The slim multiplayer options will not fail to disappoint Xbox Live fans and rally racing enthusiasts.
DiRT will make a true rally racing fan out of you and will be spinning in your Xbox 360 for quite a long time to come. It’s a dazzling-looking game with plenty of challenges and a lot to love despite a few weak spots here and there. If you’re looking for yet an excellent racing game for the 360 then you should definitely consider buying this one.
Easily one of the coolest and most entertaining rally racing games on the Xbox 360, DiRT is one of those games auto racing enthusiasts should not miss
Reviewer: Eduardo Zacarias
Review Date: 07/19/2007