Rally games are so much fun.
Well if there is one type of game that suits us gamers it has to be that of the Rally game. It’s been a bit of a drought on the Xbox 360 for Rally games and gamers everywhere have been hanging out for some time to get sideways on some gravel.
To start things off DIRT appropriately named for its muddy off-road racing is a title that most will be able to pick up with no trouble. There is no doubt about this game, it’s fun; and it’s fun for everyone. The controls are easy and on the novice levels the driving is forgiving so you won’t feel frustrated handing the controller to your little brother or sister. If you decide to tackle the harder difficulties, you will soon learn that the collisions aren’t as forgiving.
This leads us into the how DIRT can be played. It’s a big improvement from previous Colin McRae titles and features much improved game modes, event types and many more vehicle classes ever seen in a Colin McRae title. This just shows you that Codemasters were serious about bringing a solid racer to next generation platforms while they established their NEON engine which I’ll touch on later. So I jump into the game and I'm immediately impressed. The games presentation is 5 stars. The menu system with its floating menu tiered structure is pure eye candy. I haven’t seen a menu system or load screen done as good as DIRT, ever. The load screen even keeps you entertained showing us your career stats on the screen spinning around in a very impressive manner while you try to remember what the longest time you spent on two wheels was.
Once you get over actually how good the menu system is you then find you ask yourself where you should start. Most of us will jump straight into the career mode and that’s a good start to learn the game. In the career mode you’re presented with a flashy tiered menu that appears as a pyramid of achievement. Racing and winning different rally events will see you earn points which go towards your total. As your total points increases more events are unlocked higher up the pyramid. This works very well as no-one will struggle getting through the career mode as the points can be earned to unlock all the levels by simply playing the earlier levels over again if need be. This is complimented by a great audio help and prompt system. If the game thinks you’re getting better it will prompt you wether you may want to try the harder difficulties, not to go without saying it’s of great assistance in any menu you’re in with very valuable information to learn.
Winning races will also win you cash to bank, and if you have what it takes you can race on the higher difficulty setting for bigger cash prizes. With the money you earn you can then afford to buy cars for upcoming races as well as purchase different liveries for your car, allowing you to best choose that exact design you want. What makes the career mode so good is how balanced the game is. For starters you can choose what you want to do and when you want to do it. You are also presented with a number of race types on each tiered level which makes the game last and stops it from going stale. You will go from racing crossover events, Dakar style racing with opponents on wide open tracks, off and on road point to point races in different weather types, truck racing and not to forget hill climbs and buggy races. DIRT simply has it all. You also won’t sit still for long in a specific country either as you travel around the globe competing in different events. To sunny outback Australia (Yes Codemasters we love you too) featuring its cattle gates and tree stumps as obstacles, to tracks that go from slippery wet roads to muddy right hand turns in the U.K.
In regards to the games AI, it can be tough at times, especially in the higher grades. AI cars seem to think they own the road and tend to think you’re sitting in dodgem cars, often bumping the back of you spinning you out of control. Thankfully a lot of races you see yourself on your own. Often pushing them back shows them who’s boss and they tend to back off. Time trial and point to point races often get a little tougher as you climb the ladder also. One thing I also like about the game is the customisability of the controls and game options. Plug in a force feedback steering wheel and you’ll find it 100% compatible. With the amount of options and setting changes you will be sure to have the game behaving just the way you like quickly enough. This extends to sensitivities, dead zones and saturation settings that can really compliment the game with the racing wheel.
If the career mode isn’t for you, you may wish to tackle the Championship or Rally modes. The Championship mode allows you to choose a series of races which feature tracking around the globe in point to point staged races consisting of repair zones just like real Rally. It’s fun to see how far you can progress before totally writing off your car. If you have what it takes you can progress through the National, European, International and then Global series to win your place on the final podium. In between stages you can finetune your car and repair any damage made in he previous stage. This is simply indicated by a 60 minute time limit where damage can be fixed but may take up more or less time depending on the area that’s been damaged. Rally mode is simply free racing, allowing you to customise all sorts of race options, tracks and classes to suit your desire. Here you’re able to compete in time trials, single races or single events.
In terms of Multiplayer for DIRT this is where the game seems to fall behind and really is only one of the let downs to the game. The multiplayer mode allows gamers to race system link or Xbox Live only. What makes this not as pleasurable is the fact you never actually get to race someone on the same screen against them. How it works is you get to race and start at the same time on a particular race. On the left hand side of the screen a distance bar is shown. Indicated on the bar it simply states which car (out of 100) is where and who’s in front. While having 100 racers in a game sounds good, you quickly discover it’s not so fun when you can’t speak with them and it’s simply a glorified Xbox Live time trial race being raced at the same time. Once a race is over you return to the lobby only to find you can’t communicate with anyone unless you go into a separate chat screen, once again what’s the point of that when we might as well use private chat. The online leader board updating and ranking is something that has been executed well, offering gamers who like to play quietly in their living room against real opponents some fun.
In regards to visuals it’s simply no mistake, this game rocks. The game looks amazing and the detail that’s gone into making a great looking game as well as making it interactive must have been a challenge for the Codemasters crew. DIRT if you don’t know uses a new engine called the Neon engine which will be used in future Codemasters titles, and if DIRT is an indication of what’s to come then we’re pretty excited about the future. Especially seeing the next V8 Supercars game will use the same engine. The Neon engine simply delivers incredible handling, detailed vehicles and beautiful living environments. It is also responsible for weather effects from wind to rain and another noticeable area particle effects used for incredible damage details.
Crashing your car will never be the same and looks realistic. Colliding with fences, tree stumps, trees and small bushes all behave differently and if you’re going fast enough you can wrap the car around a light pole and put yourself out of the race. Visually the game is a masterpiece, apart from its occasional popup and lighting issues which should be resolved on final copies (so we’re told) the game is simply breathtaking. The racing views come in he bucket loads too. All gamers should find that they’re favourite view will be easily found in DIRT. In regards to the tracks the draw distance is amazing and can shine at times depending on the level you’re on. It looks great there’s no disputing that and while some people may worry at the news it was only running at 30fps I would call them fools as in my eyes as it looks nicer then the 60fps Forza 2.
In the audio department the game also is rewarding to your surround sound systems. The engine noises and gravel flicking up sounds realistic and they’ve done a good job in immersing the gamer into the seat of a rally car. The audio help system and in game commentary has been delivered well, with feedback dialogue varying depending on the current situation. Blow off valves can be heard and each cars distinct sound has carefully been captured to please any motor-racing fan that will be quick to determine how good of a racer this game really is.
Even though it really lacks a decent online multiplayer mode the single payer has last ability and keeps you interested for a long time. DIRT may not be as full on as FORZA 2 but I would say it offers a lot of fun. It’s a much better game then Motorstorm for you PS3 owners out there and seeing it’s the first rally game in a long time I’m sure many will be hungry to play this. It’s also worth noting that it’s amazing what we’re seeing on the new consoles. With next generation hardware and much improved processing power it can only get better from here. DIRT is so much fun to play and flying in to a corner and sliding around it is always rewarding if done right and Codemasters have done right. To put it simply DIRT is a must buy racer this year, don’t forget it.