DiRT Hands-On Preview
Xbox 360 | PS3 | PC
DiRT box art
System: X360, PS3, PC Review Rating Legend
Dev: Codemasters 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Codemasters 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: June 19, 2007 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: Multiplayer 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
So realistic you will have to take a bath afterwards!

by Matthew Walker

June 1, 2007 - It only takes a few things to make a good racing game. One being that the selection of cars has to be vast. Those same cars have to handle well and they must at least appear to be going at break neck speeds. When you have a specific style of racing game, you would think that this would be an easy task for certain titles. After all, these requirements are not that hard to obtain. However, when your specific racer happens to be one that captures the raw vibe of a rally race, there are a few other aspects to making a good racing game you have to address. Recently, I had the opportunity to try out the latest racing game that dives head first into the dirt, Colin McRae's DiRT. So how is it looking so far? In one phrase - awe inspiring.

DiRT screenshot

From the very beginning of the game, you will notice how much detail has been thrown in. The opening movie starts out with the quite melancholic soundtrack similar to the days of Gran Turismo. Slowly, you watch the rally car speed along the dirt track and right at the peak of the tranquil music, the vehicle grips the edge of death drop cliff. The music picks up in beat and so does the insane action on screen. Several cars speed past as the video continues. In fact, the pacing of the vehicles will get your blood pumping. When you least expect it, a vehicle starts to flip and roll in accurate display. The crunching of metal echoes as that vehicle bounces along the dirt track towards the camera. Abruptly, it stops and all you can see is a mud caked bumper and the title DiRT etched out in the mud.

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The menu is easily navigated. The quiet tone of music is a bit misleading though, considering the mass amount of carnage you are about to partake in. I was able to choose between three different vehicles - The Impreza, Evo IX, and the Ickler, which I have to say is my favorite. Each of these vehicles took me to a different location and presented a new type of race for me to get my vehicle dirty. The Impreza was on a German race track, not a rally track, but an actual race track. This is not that big of a surprise considering that several rally races actual do occur on paved tracks. When the race starts, you will notice two things. One: how sharp and crisp everything around you is beautifully rendered. The addictively mesmerizing songs that will play while you race will be the second thing you notice. Both of these immediately noticeable traits are present in all of the races that I was able to participate in. The Evo IX let me traipse around a mountainside in North America crazy speeds. Finally, the Ickler, a bouncing buggy with hyper chaotic speeds, is where I was able to battle it out against ten other challengers for the top spot.

DiRT screenshot

It could simply be said that the cars handle nicely and the gameplay is enjoyable, but that would be a great disservice to the game altogether. Of course, the cars handle nicely. However, this is not where the beauty of the handling comes into play. There have been other games that incorporated the racing styles of a rally race, but with DiRT the accuracy of the vehicles is so well thought out that one could almost believe that this is how the real rally cars handle. This, of course, does not including the several acrobatic rolls and tumbles you will perform, most of the time unwillingly. In several instances where you roll your vehicle, it will just continue to roll until it finds all four of its wheels on the track once more. This little attention to detail makes the games pace that much quicker. Of course, don't try to roll on every track and think you will be okay. For example, while racing with the Evo IX along the mountainside, there were several times that I rolled off into oblivion.

There is one other thing that is a well thought out idea. Instead of the long wait for the initial load of the game, we are given a quick, dynamic rundown of our stats, including how long we have rolled, longest jump, max number of rolls, and a quick reminder of how bad, or great, you are with a total of your races won and lost. This acts as a great relief of the load screen. So well in fact, that you may forget that you are waiting on the game to begin. Then again, once you lay eyes on the sheer dynamic representation of the vehicles and environments of the races, you will quickly dismiss any gripes you had with the loading.

DiRT screenshot

DiRT is definitely becoming the racing game to beat out this summer, in the hearts of rally lovers at least. For those fans that love Motorstorm, this could be the new title for you. Same goes for the Forza fans that need to get a little dirty when they drive. We will have more once the full game releases in the middle of June. Be sure to check back for our final say on this latest racer.

By Matthew Walker
CCC Freelance Writer

Features:

  • Real racing with real consequences. Stay in control or watch as your car crashes dramatically into a barrier and barrel-rolls, crushing every panel and spewing debris across the track.
  • A wide variety of off-road and rally disciplines to experience: Rally, Hill Climb, Rally RAID, Rally Cross, the CORR desert series, and more.
  • Photorealistic tracks painstakingly recreated from real-world location photography and satellite data.
  • Incredibly detailed models of 46 licensed vehicles bring the action to life.
  • Online play for intense multiplayer competition.

  • Screenshots / Images
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