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Colin McRae: DiRT

Colin McRae: DiRT pack shot
Developer:Codemasters
Publisher:Codemasters
Genre:Racing
Platform:Xbox 360
Official Site:http://www.codemasters.com/dirt
Release Date:June 15th, 2007 (UK)
Reviewer:Scott Smith (poog)
 

Colin McRae rally games have been around for as long as I can remember (1998 on the PC and Playstation was the first instalment). Providing fast exhilarating twists and turns around a bumpy mud-ridden track, the franchise has proved popular over the years giving people something slightly different than your average arcade racer. DiRT is the first instalment on today's 'next gen' systems, which makes sense in some ways.

I'm sure like many others DiRT slipped under the radar with me, the first I heard of it was a news post here on gameSlave showing some screenshots a couple of months prior to its release. The screenshots in question where nothing short of stunning, and since that news post I tracked its release like a hound dog. While I'd always appreciated the older Colin McRae rally games, I hadn't played one for quite some time. But the level of detail shown in the screenshots and then the trailer released shortly after was mind boggling - combine this with my memories of how much fun the older games had been, and I was rather excited to say the least.

Colin McRae: DiRT screenshot 1 Colin McRae: DiRT screenshot 2 Colin McRae: DiRT screenshot 4 Colin McRae: DiRT screenshot 4

Then came the demo on Xbox Live, and again I'm sure like many others I was a little disappointed. Sure the game looked beautiful, and played reasonably well, but the excitement wasn't there. Also, while Colin McRae games had always been 'arcadey' the steering felt a tad loose. None the less, I still decided to purchase the game, hoping beyond hope that like many other demos, the true game would be better, much better. Thankfully, with assistance from the wireless steering wheel which I purchased with it, Colin McRae DiRT proved a success.

Now enough of the babbling - let's get down to the nitty gritty. When you pop DiRT in and load it up, the first thing you'll probably notice is how great the menu system is. The slightly annoying American aside, this is probably the best menu I have ever seen in a game. It feels open and trendy, flowing nicely - inspiration probably taken from the good old internet and the abundance of slick flash menus within it.

As far as racing goes there are three main sections to the game - these are Career, Rally World and Rally Championship. Career is the main part of the game and takes a long time to complete, presenting you with a pyramid of over 60 races. Progressing to the next tier requires you to attain a certain amount of points from the current tier's races (1st = 10pts, 2nd = 8 etc). As you progress the vehicles available to you increase, and get faster. These have to be bought with money earned from placing in the career races. This is where DiRT has become a totally different game. In previous titles you would have the rally championship where one would compete in rallies across the world. DiRT, on the other hand, contains all sorts of racing options, many of which involve racing against other cars. And it isn't just rally cars you'll be racing with. Along with the FWD, RWD and 4WD rally cars, you can also use race cars, buggies and a range of trucks (of all sizes).

Colin McRae: DiRT screenshot 5 Colin McRae: DiRT screenshot 6 Colin McRae: DiRT screenshot 7 Colin McRae: DiRT screenshot 8

The types of race available are impressive and I'll do my best to explain them to you. First up is your standard rally, racing against the clock, trying to get the best overall time. Hill Climb, basically a rally going up. Rallycross, contains both dirt and tarmac race surfaces, competing against others. Crossover, a racetrack which contains two laps within one, racing against another driver and 'crossing over' in the middle to race on the part of the track they just drove on. CORR (Championship Off Road Racing), using buggies and trucks racing across bumpy off road race tracks against other drivers.

Rally World is simply a quick race option. You have all the tracks and vehicles you have unlocked in career available to you, and can choose to race or time trial. Rally Championship is what you would find in the previous Colin McRae games. Choosing between Europe, International and Global Championships you race in rallies across the six rally countries, depending on your choice. You build up points for placed finishes like a typical rally season.

Colin McRae: DiRT screenshot 9 Colin McRae: DiRT screenshot 10 Colin McRae: DiRT screenshot 11 Colin McRae: DiRT screenshot 12

Graphically DiRT is head and shoulders above any game I have played on a next gen console. Easily the best visuals around at the moment, it's helped by the vast array of environments to show off its muscles with (sandy mountains, tree filled forests or damp country roads to name a few). It does help add huge immersion when racing, especially from a cockpit view (which can be quite scary at times!). The game does suffer from the occasional bit of slow down, but it didn't seem to happen too often. The quality of sound in DiRT is also of a good standard - the engines sound real enough to me and each surface you are on also has its own unique sound.

Now we come to how the game plays and I'm afraid my opinion may be slightly biased here. You see, as I mentioned above I bought the steering wheel with this game and it works beautifully. The extra finesse for cornering is great, the added feel of immersion from the force feedback and the sense of success from mastering what at the start is a rather difficult thing to get used to is amazing. I cannot stress enough just how much the steering wheel adds to a game like this. Being able to feel your back wheels sliding through the wheel, or having to fight it for control while skidding or going over and landing a big jump just adds to the experience.

The multi-player is its biggest let-down. You can only race in rally stages, hence never actually seeing an opponent, just racing against phantom times. This distances you from the whole experience that is online gaming, and didn't do much for me at all.

Summary

On a whole I found DiRT a lot of fun, the varying race types all add a little something, but racing down a winding path at 100mph with trees or a cliff edge either side is absolutely exhilarating. Add in the wheel with the force feedback helping you feel your way through the slides and the cornering, and racing fans of all types are onto a real winner with this title.

The bottom line
9.0 / 10

Good stuff

  • Amazing graphics
  • Fun, fast paced action
  • Long career mode

Not so good stuff

  • Occasional slowdown
  • Poor multi-player
  • Perhaps not as good with a pad?


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