popskinz's Dirt 3 (Xbox 360) review

This gorgeous, accessible and exhilarating off-road racer rocks.

There's definitely no shortage of destinations for anyone who fancies off-road racing and if you happen to be that type of a person, then you have likely been keeping up with the Dirt series over the years. After all, these games have brought the joy of knocking opponents out of commission, racing through muddy tracks and up steep hills to the forefront and the latest iteration in the series -- Dirt 3-- tries to capitalise on the success of its forebears while also introducing a plethora of new event types, improvements and multiplayer modes and the result is a wholly enjoyable racing game that caters well to inexperienced and veteran drivers alike. So if you even have a passing interest in racing games, take Dirt 3 for a spin.

Ken Block's Ford Fiesta
Dirt 3's tour mode is as varied, lengthy and accessible as racers come and go: you start out well enough with a limited stock of cars and liveries but as you progress through the various seasons and events on offer, you'll earn reputation points which in turn will increase your level and give you more cars, all of which look fantastic are an absolute bliss to drive -- because the best thing Dirt 3 has going for it is just that: the racing. Turning corners, drifting past opponents and catching air from ramps is a snap and the controls feel extremely natural and immediate. Also great, is the way the game allows you to tailor the game to suit your skillevel; you have a bunch of different assist options to turn on and off at your leisure and you can even opt for a realistic damage model, in which your car breaks apart in convincing ways should you ever sustain too much damage out on the tracks.

If you do mess up during a particularily tense race, you can utilize the game's flashback mechanic which lets you rewind a few seconds of the race and correct any mistakes that could prove fatal to your chances of winning. The catch is that you're only allowed to avert up to five mistakes per race and you get more reputation points for not using them. It's an extremely balanced system -- preventing frustration while avoiding hampering the difficulty.

And what's a racer without a slew of different event and race types? Dirt 3 has plenty and chief among them are point to point races, rally events, head to head competitions aswell as the new Gymkhana modes: these are all about performing stunts made famous by driver Ken Block, who coined the term Gymkhana and ushered it into the world of racing, and it's a blast here. You'll smash obstacles, spin in place, catch air, perform donuts around stationary objects and --soon enough-- chain these together in all manner of different time attack and sprint modes and these events grade your performance through a medal system. They can be a hefty challenge at first but they do provide a nice break from all the standard race types and earning a celestial platinum medal is immensely satisfying. You can even practice in the infamous L.A. Batterypark if you want to hone your gymkhana skills.

Dirt 3's Tour mode should take you a satisfying 20 hours or more to complete and there are plenty of branching races and events and
Group B Audi Quattro S1
every race also has a challenge to complete: such as finishing a race without rolling or spinning out of control, beating a certain lap time and more and these will grant a good amount of reputation points should you fulfill them.

But if you're more into the human competition, you can always dive into Dirt 3's sweet of multiplayer options. All of the event types from the tour mode can be played here and there is also a Pro Tour mode that let's you level up separately from the singleplayer and unlock cars not contained therein and experience points come in the form of fans, which you'll garner after each race. If you're good at keeping your wheels down during Dirt 3's hectic online races, you'll also receive a respect bonus --making driving clean and proficient a worthy endeavor. You'll also unlock different types of horns as you level up, which is a great touch.

Then, there are the party modes which are great fun: these are Dirt 3's own take on standard multiplayer modes like Capture the Flag, Infection and so on and they can be incredibly fun with friends and strangers alike. The Transporter mode has you collecting flags strewn about each track before reaching a capture point to score while Robot Attack has you destroying cardboard cut outs of robots, but if you happen to decimate a cardboard building, you'll lose a point. I personally enjoyed these a lot more than the core modes and they ensure that Dirt 3's multiplayer has something to offer for just about every racer and you can also do it all locally, in two-player split screen.

Dirt 3 is a gorgeous game on so many levels -- the cars look and drive like real thing and the track designs are excellent, often alternating between different surfaces like dirt and concrete, forcing you to continuously adapt to avoid a calamity. The lighting and scenery is beautiful and the game always maintains a solid frame rate throughout. The sound design is equally outstanding with rustling engine sounds and a fantastic soundtrack that complements the game's slick and stylishly presented menus just perfectly.

Dirt 3 is an excellent racer all-around, offering a ton of content both in its varied and challenging Tour Mode, aswell as in its incredibly robust multiplayer options. It's a beautiful, engrossing racer that has something for everybody and it's also a truly great sequel that explores bold ground its predecessor dared not tread. So if you adore speed, accessibility and competition, then drop the cash to experience Dirt 3 right now -- it's a looker, aswell as a keeper. 
Ken Block's Ford Fiesta
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