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Developer: Codemasters
Publisher: Codemasters
Platform: Xbox 360
Genre: Racing
Release date: 06.19.2007
The Colin McRae racing series has gained a loyal following over the years, mainly because its developer, Codemasters takes the sport very seriously and raises the bar with each new version of the game. Nowadays, racing games are a dime a dozen and it?s very hard to stand out in the crowd. The latest edition in the Colin McRae franchise, now titled DiRT, not only stands out, but it shakes the ground like a rocket just hit it.

Instantly, you are sucked into the game because of the superb menu interface that uses a combination of flashy icons and friendly voice work, provided by rally race champion Travis Pastrana to set up the rules of the game. Everything you need to know about the types of races, stats and vehicles are displayed in such an easy and visually pleasing manner that you?ll think you?re using a Mac. For instance, when you choose the career mode you are shown a detailed pyramid made up of 60 colorful picture boxes displaying every race you need to complete to work your way to the top of the tier. Clicking on one of these racing events will open up layers, telling you information about the race, the terrain, and the cars available. If they start handing out rewards for user interfaces in games, DiRT wins hands down.

Rally racing games are very different from the NASCAR, Grand Turismo, or Need For Speed titles. DiRT is more about you against the road rather than how many other cars you can beat and get to the finish line. There is a science to it, which is why you are joined by a co-driver during races, who constantly feeds you information about directions, paths, and the condition of your vehicle. Listening to your partner?s instructions and keeping your eyes on the road at all times is crucial to winning games, because if you make one wrong turn you?re going to feel the impact of the crash.

You don?t have to be a fan of rally racers to fully enjoy DiRT, because at its heart it is still a fun racing game that anyone can pick right up and play, designed to be user friendly for a novice or a pro. There are four options for gameplay: career mode, rally world, championship, and multiplayer. Each type of race requires a specific vehicle, and throughout your career there are about 50 of them available to buy, trick out, and race. Besides rally cars and buggies, some races require racing trucks to increase the challenge. Learning how a particular vehicle handles is the key to advancing up the championship pyramid. Obviously a truck and a car handle the road differently so you know if you?re making a steep turn while behind the wheel of a pick up, you?d better take it slow, or over the cliff you go.

Types of races include Hill Climbing, Championship Off-Road Racing (CORR), Rally Raid, Crossover, and Time Trials. Most of these are point-to-point challenges where you race against the clock to reach checkpoints to beat your opponent?s time. Most tracks are pretty short, and the selection is not that big, so as you advance it looks as if you?re racing the same couple of tracks repeatedly. DiRT offers different types of gameplay depending on the difficulty setting you choose. If you select the pro level, the rules are stricter, making any crash a potential threat, but at the casual Clubman level the rules are more passive, allowing you to be a lot more adventurous and push your vehicle faster on the curves because it can take a lot more damage.

The vehicles respond nicely to the controls, this is especially felt when you?re traveling down a long snake-shaped road, bending around one curve after another, and you feel the tension of your car during each turn. If this game does not perfect your hand and eye coordination, then nothing will. Also, DiRT really shows you how important rumble can be in a game. When your car rolls across gravel, or bounces over bumpy terrain, you will become immersed when your controller nearly jumps out of your hand as you attempt to keep control of your vehicle.

DiRT is definitely one of the best looking games that has ever graced the Xbox 360. The attention to detail with both vehicles and environments demonstrates that the guys at Codemasters really took this game seriously and didn?t settle for less than perfect. Proof of this is seen when switching to the inside the car view, called the Helmet Cam, and drooling at the sight of the dashboard and road ahead as it whips towards you. Then when a crash occurs in this mode, the windshield explodes as glass shards spray all over the vehicle?s interior in such a jaw dropping manner that you?ll keep doing this action repeatedly just to see it again.

Your precise driving not only wins you races and cash, it also keeps your vehicle from ending up in the scrap heap before it crosses the finish line. DiRT?s damage modeling is designed to specifically affect the areas on your vehicle that have taken impact from a crash. If you drift around a sharp curve and your rear left wheel takes damage, that wheel may become a handicap and slow you down. If you slam head on into a cliff?s wall or a barrier, you can damage your engine, ending your chances of winning a race. And there?s nothing like seeing your pick up truck make a jump and land down hard, causing one of the doors to fall off.

DiRT plays to win, and there are very few things to complain about, except for the limited selection of tracks, and less than stellar online mode, which has you racing against opponents you never actually see. Otherwise, Codemasters has delivered a great game that holds its own in the competitive racing market. Anyone who likes rally racers or is a fan of racing games in general will have a good time playing in the mud.
This is an absolutely gorgeous game, and without a doubt, one of the best-looking racers on the Xbox 360. When a game makes you actually look forward to seeing the menu screen you?ve got to tip your hat to it. Everybody raves about the inside-the-car-view from Project Gotham Racing 3, but DiRT definitely gives them a run for their money. It?s great when you start a game and your vehicle is all bright and shiny, then by the time you reach the finish line, your car is all banged up, with broken windows and soaked with mud. It would have been nice if the crowd that watches the race was animated and didn?t look like cardboard cutouts as you speed by them, but this is minor compared to what this package has to offer. When you?re racing against other cars, there are some frame rate hiccups, which is odd, because other racing games have more cars on the track at one time without any hiccup issues. It seems like DiRT may be pushing the Xbox 360?s processor to the max, practically making your console sweat, but it?s worth it.
To say this game has great sound is an understatement. Besides the obvious vehicle and racing audio effects that fill the game, dialogue is also handled with high standards. Travis Pastrana?s voiceover on the menu screens, and the constant chatter from your co-driver during races is top-notch. Also, notice that when your vehicle drives over different types of terrain, the sound effect changes with a smooth transition, instead of the manner in which the audio abruptly shifts in most racing games.
replay value
The heart of the game is the career mode, which will keep you busy for a while, especially at higher difficulty settings. Probably the only disappointing feature with DiRT is its online multiplayer mode, which doesn?t even make you feel like you?re actually playing online. On the box it says up to 100 players, but the problem is that you never see any of the cars you?re competing against. You race in a point-to-point rally alone, just like in the single player mode, with the positions of the other racers listed on your HUD. Voice chat is available to talk with the other players, but when you can?t actually see the person you?re racing neck-to-neck against, the thrill is greatly diminished.
bottom line
DiRT demonstrates that with a lot of care, developers can deliver an excellent racing experience without falling into the cut and paste category of most racing titles. It would have been better if the online mode was beefed up, but there is so much to do off line that you may not miss it that as much as you think. Sega Rally Revo is coming out soon, and offers some prime competition for DiRT, which will make for some interesting comparisons. Bottom line, DiRT is a game that must be added to your collection.
Review by: Johnny McNair
Posted: 11/30/1999
Replay Value:
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