DiRT: Colin McRae Off-Road Review

Ever since I first laid eyes on Gears of War, a whole new bar was set for the future of video games in my perspective.

From that point forward, every so called "next-generation" title I had the chance to play would be in direction comparison to Gears in regards to the title’s graphical and audio qualities; anything less wouldn’t "wow" me anymore, and anything above Gears …well…to be frank I have yet to see a game reach the same level of awe that Gears swept me away with…until now.

DiRT is that one game that you’re going to be dying to show to your friends. While Gears may have been the first to showcase the capabilities of the Xbox 360, its "300" or "Sin City-esque" feel gave it more of a gory and graphic appearance. DiRT on the other hand is the "Lord of the Rings" of video games — visually true in physics and appearance.

The textures are outstanding, the environments are rich in detail, and the car and human models are truly photorealistic; a pleasure for anyone’s eyes. But once you get past how mind-blowing the game’s appearance may be, DiRT shows its true colors as a unique and solid racing package that will keep players coming back for more and more.

Let’s get this straight though, DiRT is no Gran Turismo or Project Gotham Racing. The game feels similar to an arcade title, unrealistic in physics, which is in contrast to the game’s stunning looks. While not in league with the Ridge Racer series or other renowned arcade racers, DiRT doesn’t require an overabundant amount of racing skill to master its wheel, which may have some clamoring in joy and cause others to shutter.

However, DiRT manages to get past its flaws and easily outshines most of today’s racers. When a game is all wrapped around some of the industry’s richest visuals ever; DiRT is a must-buy package for even racing-sim enthusiasts.

DiRT is one of those rare games that catch your attention even before you get to the gameplay, and that is performed through the game’s stylish interface. The menu system is very clean and sleek, making the entire game easily accessible; all the way from your basic racing stats to checking up on your lengthy career mode.

Another pretty cool thing about the game’s presentation is the way the game manipulates the incredibly long loading screens by pulling up "Stat CheckUps," which inform you with numerous bits of information about your last lap’s time and how it stacks up to your previous performances. This really helps to push the game’s pace along in a smooth manner, hiding the long loading times very efficiently.

The bulk of DiRT’s gameplay can be found within the game’s lengthy and surprisingly unique career mode. Offering six types of rally racing experiences, you will be spending months of your spare time trying to complete DiRT to its fullest, as the game has a large amount of lasting appeal.

While the career mode is much more of the same with the standard "Climb the ladder" experience, DiRT breaks away from this precedent thanks to its enticing race modes. These will keep you entertained for a long time after you first pick up the game.

The race types given in this Colin McRae venture are: Rally, Crossover, Rallycross, Rally Raid, CORR and Hill Climb; all equipped with unique styling that will have you begging for more.

My personal favorite is Hill Climb, which instantly jumped out to me as the more daring and most challenging aspect of the game. This particular mode involves climbing up steep peaks at high speeds, than suddenly being forced to whiplash some hairpin turns around tall sinking cliffs.

Overshoot the turns and you’re done racing for the day. Be over cautious, and you’re going to be left in the dust. Overall, it is the most fun that this game has to offer and you’ll be playing this one repeatedly; mainly because it’s pretty hard to nail down. Or in more simple terms, you’re going to fail quite a bit.

DiRT is very much a single player experience and fortunately for us, the game is stacked with some pretty nasty and intelligent AI. These guys are very aggressive from the get-go and even on some of the easier levels; it will surprise you with its grinding and steering strategies. It definitely adds a bit more of a challenge to the game, and it also triggers some of the game’s brightest yet most arcade-like feature: damage.

The damage system for the game may be over the top at times (seeing a car’s windshield flying about and still dragging on isn’t what people would call "realistic"), yet it adds a whole level of fun to the game that makes each race refreshing and unique. The damage system is so varied and outstanding, it really turns the game into a great racing experience. The cars are going to jump over each other, flip through the air, and beat the engine cranks out of themselves over and over again…and thanks to the wonderful variation of effects, this will never get boring.

Something that is a bit bothersome about DiRT though, is how sluggish it is. While the visuals are fantastic in every sense of the word, the game’s framerate clips way too often. Most people simply expect something higher than 30 FPS these days, and while the game does hold its own for the most part; the instances when it doesn’t are easily noticeable in a very bad way. Bit of a letdown here, but luckily the game’s visuals can keep you distracted from the framerate problems.

What you have to understand about DiRT is that while it’s an "arcade" racing game, it’s also a rally racing simulation too. With that said, DiRT’s amazing visuals propel the game into an atmosphere of rally racing that will be difficult to match. Smoke chugging from the dirt past your wheel, mud splashing by your camera, and some excellent audio effects from the engines will place you in a chroma of pure rally goodness.

Hearing the engines rev up and your tires screeching against the rough rocky surface will be like music to the ears of any rally racing fan. While some generic songs from the game’s odd soundtrack may put you off a bit, it doesn’t do too much damage to dampen DiRT’s uncanny spirit.

This game is fun in everyway, and while it suffers from being arcade-ish at times, this shouldn’t prevent you from experiencing the game’s lengthy and excellent single player mode.

dirt3However, you might want to skip out on the game’s entire multiplayer section, which is force-fed to you in a manner that seems to be either a late April Fool’s joke or simply an act of travesty. I’m going with the latter, since April has been gone for three months and only my Aunt Irene has that bad of a memory and thinks it’s still April.

Instead of choosing which race types and who you want to race with, like most online racing games, you’re forced to jump in a lobby with 100 strangers and then rally simultaneously around a track to be timed. This causes you to check how you stack up against your competitors after each lap, but this doesn’t give you any sense of reward because once the session ends, no stats are recorded anyway.

There is absolutely no chat feature in the game and what you get is a bad idea turned even sourer. It’s sad to see such an excellent career mode being complimented with a lumpy multiplayer like this. It comes off as more of a burden than a positive attribute of the game.

Great games can surpass their flaws though. Luckily, DiRT is one of them. To me, this is probably my favorite of the Colin McRae series, and easily will have me thirsting for more during the months to come.

Every racing fan should check this one out. Every racing sim enthusiast needs to buy it and every rally racing fan should definitely grab a copy. While some things do pull it down such as its unsavory framerate and bare bones multiplayer, DiRT’s overall feel and addictive arcade-type gameplay makes it one of this year’s best racing experiences so far…let’s hope we see a less choppy version from Colin McRae next time though.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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