DiRT 3 Xbox 360 Review

Loathe as I am to drone on about myself (not really) I’ve something of a confession to make… racing games sort of aren’t my thing. Well, not unless they involve throwing reptilian projectiles at the opposition or ramming into traffic for a speed boost.

I approach racing games like I’m playing a Hideki Kamiya game. If I’ve had to brake or slow down drastically at any point, I’ve messed up. My idea of a considered approach in a racing game is trying not to run over a dog in Carmageddon. It’s this action game mind-set to the genre that’s ensured the more sober simulations often pass me by. Many moons ago I borrowed Forza 2 off an acquaintance, and I gave up when I realised bombing it full pelt around corners was only going to result in a harrowing, potentially fatal computer game car wreck. Back in the box it went, and on went Burnout Revenge again.

I tell you this, because DiRT 3 represents my attempt at a reconciliation of sorts with the brake pedal. Not that DiRT 3 is a Gran Turismo style exercise in engine twiddling tedium by the way. DiRT 3 is still very much an arcade experience, but one where a little bit of consideration and patience is required, rather than a ‘sink 10 cans of Red Bull and crush everything in your path’ attitude.

The first thing you realise is that playing this on the easiest setting is essentially pointless. The game does all the braking for you and you end up literally 20 seconds ahead of the competition every time. I recognised this after bombing through the game for about an hour, thinking I was shit hot, before some cheeky bastard essentially called me a pussy for playing on easy. In order to sate the chiding oaf (tears streaming down my face) I did as he asked, and knocked the difficulty up to intermediate, and proceeded to crash everywhere like a divvy.

Make no mistake, DiRT 3 is monumentally annoying. Its presentation is a horrendous concession to bloody horrible children. Having never played DiRT 1 or 2 I have no frame of reference, but they surely couldn’t have been this bad. What happened to the relative sobriety of yore, where all you’d have were the curt chirps of a glorious midi track? I’m pretty sure V Rally or TOCA Touring Cars never had terrible metal or dubstep sound-tracking the exciting process of choosing what car to prattle around in, did they? They certainly didn’t have a trio of degenerates commenting on your progress throughout the game, telling you ‘you’re awesome’ or ‘you’re rubbish’ or ‘you’ll die alone.’ You can skip past this nonsense, but wouldn’t it be nice if the nonsense wasn’t there to skip in the first place?

Oh well. Once you dig into the meat of the game it’s fine. Of course I’m diabolical at it and crash all the time, but heck, that’s my fault, and unlike some reviewers I’m not going to mark something down because I’m useless. When I do manage to not screw it all up it’s pretty satisfying, and the OCD prone amongst you will have fun repeating tracks, shaving seconds off your lap times.

DiRT 3 you see, is slowly but surely trying to teach me that it’s absolutely fine to use the brakes, and not just a mild dampening (matron) to initiate a wild drift either. Of course with the obnoxious presentation it’s like getting a lesson from a teacher who likes Limp Bizkit and says ‘dude’, but underneath the nonsense, you find out the teacher really knows what he’s on about.

There are plenty of tracks to race along, as well as something resembling a career mode, where you’ll get offers to race for new companies. Although disappointingly Lada haven’t expressed any interest in me yet. There’s also Gymkhana mode too, where you can traverse something like an assault course, scoring points for doing wild handbrake turns and letting your inner Jeremy Clarkson come out, without resorting to jokes about foreigners. Of course there is multiplayer, but I haven’t even tried that yet. With my skills at the minute it’d be like the drummer from Def Leppard having a shot at Ikaruga.

Absolutely my favourite feature of the game though, is the ability to record your nonsense and upload it to YouTube. I have done this a few times already, and it’s quite fun watching your car spin off wildly because you turned the wrong way over a blade of grass. It aids in such a way that when you do crash, you don’t curse the game, but instead think ‘hahaha I will record that and upload it for my friends.’ It’s an exercise in self-deprecation and humility. Of course you’ll get some loathsome individuals that record perfect handbrake turns and amazing times, but sod them, they’re doing it wrong and I hate them for being competent.

Here’s the thing though. I plan to be that excellent at DiRT 3. Like the best games, it rewards patience, skill and attrition, and not even the obnoxious presentation can ruin things. It’s like pulling up to a Little Chef because there’s nowhere else to eat, steeling yourself for salmonella and chips, but then finding an exquisite all you can eat buffet inside, with great big slabs of meat and Fentimans on tap. DiRT 3 transcends its day glow, dumbbell outer shell and proves itself to be an addictive, feature-packed racer.

In conclusion, I highly advise you take a trip up the old DiRT path and give this game a shot. If there is to be a DiRT 4, may I make one suggestion? Ditch the morons and get Brian Blessed to do the voice stuff.

And lo, I leave you with a few highlights of my DiRTY career thus far. For maximum effect, I suggest you crank the volume up, wear your Sunday best, and think of England.

8 out of 10