DiRT 3 Hands-On Preview – Careering Out of Control
Written Thursday, May 12, 2011 By Dan WebbView author's profile
As a precursor to next week’s DiRT 3 review, we thought we’d take a minute to sit down and run you through the meat and veg of Codemasters’ latest iteration in the franchise: the career mode. With 4 years to delve into, we went hands-on with the first year to see whether DiRT 3 could learn from DiRT 2’s mistakes and provide a much more robust and rally-driven experience. It appears that they might just have done so. Emphasis on might.
Deciding to do away with the festival-esque menu system and X-Games structure of DiRT 2, DiRT 3 proves that Codemasters is still the king of menus with its slick new interface, including the usual array of great music – Chase & Status? Don’t mind if we do! The career mode itself is presented using triangular prisms, with 4 main events in each: the Alpine Stars Trophy, the Bremo Blast, the Rockstar Energy Drink Transworld Blast and as a finale, the Gymkhana Academy – more on that later.
DiRT 3’s career revolves around two types of XP you can earn: driver rep, which you use to unlock better cars; and event XP, which unlocks new events as you progress. There are various ways to earn driver rep, whether you’re winning events, getting points for the flashbacks that you don’t use or performing bonus objectives in an event – like finishing a second ahead of your rival. Event XP is as it sounds, awarded for your performance in the game’s events.
While flashbacks make a return from DiRT 2, DiRT 3 also says hello to racing lines and braking points should you wish to use them. Even without them though, DiRT 3’s ‘Intermediate’ difficulty level seems infinitely easier than DiRT 2’s. Whether that’s because it’s the first season of the career, the tracks are easier early on or I’ve actually become accustomed to the death defying roads remains to be seen. That being said, the handling for the most part feels almost identical to DiRT 2, so maybe we picked up where we left off. Incidentally, the handling not changing isn’t a negative point, as our issue in DiRT 2 wasn’t with the engine, but the focus itself.
In the first year of the career, you’ll get the chance to race through Finland and Kenya’s multi-staged rally course, with the former being a rather simple route surrounded by plenty of greenery and log cabins, and the latter has you racing through the desert plains, tackling the windy cliff side roads. The rally circuits also play home to the game’s new Drift Showcases, where you must score points up and down a section of one of the tracks. An interesting addition and a neat way to learn to control and master the powerslides, but getting platinum medals on them can prove a tad tricky.
From there you’ll also head to the snow-laden tracks of Aspen and scuttle in the delights of Michigan’s Smelter course, which has an industrial vibe with very grey and dark overtones. Even the night can’t cover the grit and grim that oozes out of every pore of its exterior. Aspen and Smelter play home to the game’s Land Rush circuits, while you can expect the usual array of Rally X and Crossover events, which are much more welcome than the former.
Unfortunately then, despite our complaints surrounding the pointless inclusion of the Land Rush race type – racing trucks and buggies – they still make a return... and guess what? They’re still as boring and uninspired as ever. It’s like stepping out of a Ferrari to drive a Plastic Pig. Even racing these through the rain at the Michigan Smelter course – which is a miserable but equally enthralling place to race around – and through the snow in Aspen – which has snow... lots of snow – can’t save their miserable existence. The new weather effects though are a very welcome addition to the franchise, with the snow offering particularly gripping gameplay... I use the term gripping very loosely, of course. With all that said and done though, out of 12 competitive events in the first season, only 3 of them are Land Rush, although that is 25% too many. Why they’re in there to start with, I’ll never know!
The finale of the first year’s career is one of the game’s new defining features: the gymkhana. For those not up to speed and down with the lingo, gymkhana is basically a playground for drivers. No, Ken Block won’t be swinging from the monkey bars; I mean, with their cars. Before you get into the main event itself, you’ll have tutorials on the gymkhana’s main disciplines in the DC Compound at the Battersea Power Station in London where you’ll be smashing blocks, jumping, drifting, spinning and doing donuts around pillars. From there, after getting medals and XP for your performance in those short tutorials you’re off to Monaco for the main event.
This competitive event sees you facing off against other racers in a bid to outscore one another. If you can manage to secure third place – which we failed dismally on with the first attempt – then you can unlock season 2 and continue on the path to enlightenment... or more XP. Simply put though, it’s not going to be something you pick up from the off and the key to success is not only performing successful slides under trucks, making good air and distance on the jumps and donuting round poles more times than a stripper on speed, it’s about chaining them all together and keeping that multiplier going. Something that we also managed to fail dismally at. With practice and learning the nuances of the car though, these things can be a reality and I suspect that performing a perfect gymkhana run with trickery galore could be one of DiRT 3’s highlights. We need to get a lot of practice in before that’s a reality though!
Check back next week for our definitive DiRT 3 review. DiRT 3 is scheduled for a May 24th worldwide launch.