Owners of the so-called ‘next-generation’ videogame consoles have been hanging out for a really good rally game – actually, any rally game – for their consoles and very few games publishers are better placed than Codemasters to provide that game. With their long-term association with former world champion rally driver Colin McRae continuing long past his glory days on the dirt track, Codemasters have wisely promoted this game with more emphasis on the ‘DiRT’ aspect, stupid typography aside, than the ‘McRae’ one.
So in looking at DiRT, it all really comes down to one question – not "do you like rally games", so much as "why do you like rally games"? And if the answer is because they’re exciting and look terrific, so you can showcase your fancy new flat panel TV to your mates, then DiRT is definitely the racing game for you.
The graphics in DiRT are superb – sitting back and watching this game as a spectator, it looks maybe even better than the real thing, thanks to ambitious landscapes, gorgeous sunset hues and excellent particle effects. DiRT is a real graphical showcase and the racing, while lightweight, means you’re going to derive a lot of satisfaction out of this title.
On the other hand, if you’re the rally purist type of gamer, there are some serious flaws. Number one has to be the company’s weird decision to revert to the ‘spindle’ steering system, with the whole car turning on a single axis rather than individually reacting axles, making for very arcade-like handling. There are no weather effects either, a massive step backwards for this type of racing which, along with the virtually identical handling regardless of road surface, virtually removes what’s unique and compelling about rallying in the first place. Loading times are frequent and too long. Multiplayer is shallow. The cars don’t really give the impression of being in constant, constantly perilous, contact with the racing surfaces but glide gracefully over the top of the surface like ice skaters.
Also, while many vehicle types look the part, all big, burly and weighty, so you’d step smartly out of their way if you saw one of ’em barrelling down towards you, they’re strangely light and flimsy in-race, easily flicked out of the way or redirected by the lightest of touches from your competitors (while they hurtle merrily on their way).
So it really boils down to what you want out of a rally videogame. If you’re happy with amazing graphics and fast, challenging, arcade-like racing, DiRT is great choice. Those 360 owners looking for a more ‘weighty’ and realistic driving game might want to put their cash down on Forza 2 instead.
Colin McRae: DiRT is available for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 andÂ PC.