Trucks on their way to GT5

As Forza 4 was released on the Xbox, PS3 users rejoiced in the ‘Spec 2.0’ update given to Gran Turismo 5. Alongside this release, developers Polyphony Digital released the first paid-for pack of downloadable content for Gran Turismo 5.

The downloadable content, or ‘DLC’ for short, featured the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium along with a few new cars, a kart track and some more helmets and paint items. Not that you had enough already. You can get the whole lot for ten pounds, twelve dollars, and by the current exchange rate, eight hundred million Euros.

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Gran Turismo 5 DLC will include truck racing for the first time

Whilst the addition of Spa to the game is welcome, one might argue it is the only part of the DLC worth paying for – given there are already a thousand cars to choose from – but players have clearly voted with their wallets, the DLC reaching more than a million downloads in the first two weeks of being on sale.

In an interview with IGN, Gran Turismo’s creator Kazunori Yamauchi has confirmed GT6 is in the pipeline (although that’s little surprise given the success of the series) and that DLC for GT5 would continue to be released every couple of months:

“…we’re ready to release more expansions and content to add to the game. I think that will include cars and trucks that we’ll be releasing maybe once every two months or so from here on out.”

So PS3 players can look forward to racing trucks for the first time in the series (hopefully they’ll be as fun as the ones from Toca Race Driver 3) but will have to fork out for the privilege. Fingers crossed Polyphony Digital offer players some decent new tracks and value for money, rather than a thousand new truck horn sound effects. Honk honk.

F1 2011 patch makes game playable online again

Despite being a fantastic game, F1 2011 has felt incomplete until now due to a bug that ruined the online racing. Thankfully though, it has now been fixed.

For the uninitiated, players could set up their cars’ springs at a certain stiffness (called the 11/11 bug, you can probably work out the ratio) and receive stupid levels of downforce, enabling them to dominate online races at the expense of those who were unaware of how to cheat. This video is an excellent demonstration of just how much advantage could be gained.

Thankfully Codemasters have now released the excitingly-titled ‘Patch 2‘ for the game, meaning players that previously joined a server only to think they were the worst player in the history of racing games were not so bad after all. They can now return to the online arena on a level playing field, and no longer will a player resisting the set-up cheating and not using driving aids be six seconds a lap off the pace. With leaderboards also being wiped in the coming week, it’s a new start for all – but it remains to be seen if players will flock back to playing an online mode which would have felt impossible for many to compete the first time they tried it.

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Patch 2 aims to fix the 11/11 downforce bug in F1 2011 online play

Whilst some have made good progress through the career mode in the meantime, many have been put off and feel something should have been done sooner to remedy the issue. I am not a developer, but I would suggest something such as banning set-ups online in the interim might have helped. It is also still not possible for players wanting to play without driving aids (such as traction control which can be worth a regular 2-3 seconds per lap) to filter the online lobbies to find like-minded players – a potentially small fix that could make a huge difference to players’ enjoyment.

Codemasters have now released an effectively unfinished/untested product for two years in a row, which has detracted from the success of the award-winning and highly playable game engine. Fans will be hoping F1 2012 does not suffer a similar fate.

Codemasters have also fixed further issues in the game, such as the A.I being too fast in wet conditions, details of which are below:

 

F1 2011 Game Improvements for Patch 2:


o A connectivity rating display has now been implemented for each player in an online session lobby. This appears as coloured bars (red, amber, green) to indicate the expected online performance of the player in the game session.
o More network bandwidth is now reserved for game-critical systems in online sessions. This may result in low-bandwidth users having their voice chat restricted to fewer players, but should result in a smoother online experience.

Strategy & Setup:
o Fixed 11/11 car setup bug.
o Fixed issue where your race strategy uses the same tyre compound three times in a row & the final set are worn.
o Fixed issue where wear-based punctures would occur too often.
o Fixed various issues with the race engineer speech logic.

AI:
o Fixed an issue where the AI run on Intermediates for too long.
o Fixed issue where AI cars would be too fast in the wet.
o Fixed an issue where AI vehicles pitted too often during dry, online races .
o The AI has been tuned on several circuits to provide smoother and faster driving.
o Fixed issue where the AI’s sector 1 times in Malaysia were too slow

 

§ Co –op Championship:
o Fixed an issue with the save becoming corrupt / not able to invite the other player when playing long race weekends.
o Fixed an issue where AI difficulty was reset to “Amateur” level when resuming a Coop game.
o Fixed an issue with tyre wear in Practice/Qualifying not being carried over to Race.
o Fixed an issue with the penalties accrued in Practice/Qualifying not being applied to the Race.
o Fixed an issue with the Race Results where lapped AI are causing player to drop positions.

Online:
o Vote to Skip in Qualifying now requires 100% vote.
o Various Penalty system improvements have been made.
o Quick Race countdown timer is now set to 60 Seconds and no longer resets when a player joins the session.
o Fixed issue where host and client machines would report different qualification results during online games
o Fixed an issue where online players would sometimes see other players or AI cars using the wrong tyres.

Graphics & Performance:
o PS3 – Improved frame rate & performance.
o Xbox360 & PC – Numerous performance improvements have been made to increase frame rate and reduce stuttering.
o All Platforms – Numerous graphical improvements have been made.
o All Platforms – Fixed various issues to improve general game stability.

PC-specific:
o Fixed several functionality issues experienced when using DX11 cards.
o Fixed issue where users could hack specific files to increase car grip.

Other:
o Fixed a very infrequent issue where some sessions would be skipped over when progressing to the next session during a Long Race Weekend.
o Korea tyre compounds have been changed to those used in the 2011 race.
o Fixed an issue where in career where the “on the bounce” achievement was awarded after 11 race wins instead of 9.
o Fixed an issue where all users would be awarded the fastest lap XP and stat during some online races.
o Fixed an issue where driver’s hands & head popped in a few frames late when switching cameras.
o Fixed issue where players were able to post extremely quick Time Trial times
o Introduced option to have 30%, 40% & 75% races.

F1 2011 review 9/10

First of all, an apology. This review is late in comparison to a lot of other sites around and there are two main reasons for this: Firstly, we didn’t get a preview copy of the game, and second, it has taken a while to get used to.

I didn’t want to rush out a review until I had the chance to play the game properly – I wanted to be able to say what it’s really like and to do so I had to spend a couple of weeks playing it. I hope you’ll forgive me.

So first things first – it takes a while to get used to. And as I said, it takes a while to get used to. Got that? Good. For someone that played 2010 to death, the changes initially appeared terrifying and dislikeable. The handling model feels very different, and I felt like a really bad/incompetent/pitiful driver when starting a new career (now set to a default five seasons in length) and when the rain came down I was ready to throw my controller across the room in frustration.

The reason for this was F1 2010 had an amazing ‘bug’ where one could grab hold of the brake as soon as they started spinning and the car would automatically right itself. I don’t think I realised how much of a difference getting rid of that would be, or how much I had come to rely on it. F1 2011 truly punishes you for being too early on the throttle or turning in that bit too fast, and is all the better for it.

The car now feels ‘alive’ and is so much more satisfying to drive. Take it for a few laps around Monaco and you’ll see what I mean. The ‘groove’ and rhythm you can develop is astonishing, and whilst there is a steep learning curve to F1 2011, it’s well worth the climb.

The rules of F1 are again implemented excellently, including the new safety car. When an incident occurs and a car is left stranded on the racing line (see Carlo, Monte) the Safety Car gets deployed. In practice, this means being part of a ‘snake’ behind it where you can weave to keep up your tyre pressures but don’t have full control over acceleration. The game will ‘auto brake’ if you get too close to the car in front, and ‘ghost’ you if you fall too far behind. I think it works pretty well and is a nice addition to the game, especially your engineer coming over the radio reminding you to “save fuel” and turn your engine mix down to the lowest of the three available pre-set options.

Having previously featured only in the Wii version of F1 2009, split-screen racing makes a debut on PS3, Xbox and PC. It works very well too, and is a long overdue addition to the series. There’s no official ‘championship mode’ in split-screen however, although you can create your own custom season where points will be added up. It seems a little strange when you consider the inclusion of the spangly new ‘online co-op championship’ mode where you and a friend can play through a season as team-mates. I don’t see why this wasn’t made available offline, but then I’m not a games developer so I probably wouldn’t understand.

It’s another good addition to the series, but the largest disappointment of F1 2011 and the thing that stops it scoring a full 10 is the lack of the promised online revolution. You can now race a full grid online, with 24 cars (16 human, 8 computer-controlled), the safety car is available and it generally feels good, but it still suffers from the same problems it did last year – let me explain:

I race without driving aids (ok, sometimes I use automatic gears, shut your face) and the online experience was ruined for me last year by constantly racing against people using traction control. It makes the game much easier (and less fun) but people that want to ‘win’ all the time rather than ‘race’ all the time will always do everything they can to take the chequered flag first. Codemasters promised a penalty system for F1 2011 where players using driving aids would be penalised by carrying extra ballast, but from my first few forays online, nothing appears to have changed.

This could also be sorted very easily, perhaps with a server search filter to get rid of specific driving aids, instead of the standard ‘allowed’, ‘banned’ or ‘custom’ – there’s not enough choice. A ‘no driving aids but automatic gears’ filter would probably earn the game another point in this review, but as things are I spend more time refreshing the ‘available servers’ page than actually playing the game. I know this is a personal thing, but I truly believe it would make a big difference to players who don’t wish to be four seconds a lap slower than those playing with ABS and TRC turned on.

So it’s not quite perfect, but only a couple of gripes stop F1 2011 getting top marks, and it is still a positive step forward from F1 2010. The general feel of driving, speed and danger (I’m presuming no-one plays with damage off? If you do you are an idiot) is second-to-none in the racing genre and it’s a worthy addition to anyone’s games collection.

To be good you have to learn the tracks and spend time getting used to controlling the car on each corner and in different weather conditions, but the more you play the more rewarding it is – and that’s the mark of a great game.

 

It’s available to order at:

Gran Turismo 5 major update and makeover

Forza 4 is coming out shortly, and by complete coincidence, Gran Turismo 5 is now getting a makeover.

In what Polyphony Digital are calling a screamingly unsexy “Functionality Update”, there are some major changes afoot. So is it going to be snog, marry or avoid? The early signs are it may be a candidate for marriage, and the date is already set for 11th October.

GT5 is now a year old, and whilst it’s still a fantastic title there have always been some major gripes with it. For example, the inability to save the game during endurance races – in order to complete the Le Mans 24-hour race, you would have to leave your PS3 on for at least 24 hours, and factoring in things like screen, toilet, sleep and food breaks. You would be lucky to do it in much less than a week. But good news – the 2.0 update will let you save your game DURING the races. Hurrah!

The other big changes are that all ‘standard’ cars will now feature an in-car view (previously only ‘premium’ cars did), some tweaks to the driving physics, and weather settings will now be much more customisable – with players able to “incrementally adjust weather settings for race start and race end”.

I believe GT5’s main weakness to be the clunky menu interface and loading times between screens, and this too is being addressed, with “shortening of load times and improved menu response” and “improved and enhanced user interface” in the pipeline. There will also be 11 new NASCAR’s added to the game (surely these are just liveries?), some new online features and the thing everyone has been screaming out for – updates to the ‘Travel Photo Mode’. At last.

One might argue that these things should have been in the game from the start, but there’s no denying this is an improvement, and fair play to Polyphony Digital for not making everyone pay extra for it… oh, hang on a minute… what?

Gran Turismo creator Kazunori Yamauchi says: “I can also advise you of more great news – very shortly we will be sharing with you details of a forthcoming package of exciting DLC [downloadable content] for GT5 that will include new vehicles and tracks plus a host of other additional new content.

Oh right, butter us up with the free update news and then reveal it’s just to make room for all the new stuff we’ll have to pay for. Great news indeed.

Needless to say when we have any more details on this we’ll bring them to you, but maybe don’t book the church just yet.

The five most exciting things about F1 2011

We here at ORD love F1 2011, which is impressive considering it’s not even been released yet. But with the game’s launch less than two weeks away, we thought we would share with you the top five reasons our collective pants are so wet.

1. Revised handling model

Don’t take this the wrong way, F1 2010’s handling was great but there were a few glitches. For example, you could magically correct oversteer by simply grabbing hold of the brake and the car would somehow right itself again. This time around the handling model has been re-built from the ground up, giving racers a chance to really drive the wheels off their cars in search of those extra tenths of a second. If you push it too far and lock up your tyres will get worn and you’ll be forced to pit early and compromise your strategy. Sounds fun.

2. In-game strategy

F1 2011 features more dynamic in-race tactics, such as showing how much fuel you have left available and a great new feature revealing where you will emerge back into the race should you decide to take a pit-stop. There will be no more ‘gambles’ on pitting as you’ll know exactly how fast you need to be in order to keep that vital position. Woop.

3. The Safety Car

Yes, it’s in. The Safety Car’s inclusion has been the subject of much speculation, mainly by myself, but it has been given the green light and could revolutionise the way the game is played. The SC is available in races of 20% distance or more and online, huzzah! Codemasters’ communications manager Andy Gray revealed players will “have control behind the safety car but there’ll be some restrictions.” It remains to be seen exactly how this will work, but players won’t spend long periods behind it as the red flag, another new inclusion, will be brought out for major incidents and the race be re-started. Exciting.

4. Co-Op Championship and online re-vamp

Yes, you heard. Co-Op Championship mode. This is a little teaser for it. The basic premise is you and a friend battling it out to be your team’s number one driver over the course of a season. If you’re in front, you’ll get upgrades first. If you’re behind, your friend will tease you cruelly. Plus you can save your game after each session, meaning if one of you has to rush off and can’t finish your current game you won’t be penalised – the last person to exit saves automatically. The rest of the online experience has had a re-vamp too, and Steve Hood (the chief designer of the game) has revealed that using driver aids like Traction Control and ABS will now carry weight penalties, so as not to disadvantage players with more skill that race without their hand being held. If the balance is right, it will make online mode playable again for a lot of demotivated online racers. Watch out, noobs.

5. Two player split-screen

The ability to battle a friend in the same room and on the same machine is a long overdue inclusion that so many modern racing games miss out. It allows gamers to be social again and enjoy racing each other without the need for broadband and Bluetooth headsets. Sure, you can’t itch your crotch as much as you would otherwise, but it’s a small price to pay for the return of the shared gaming experience. The only drawback is there won’t be an offline championship mode, which seems bizarre, but at least split-screen is in there and you can do your own pretend championship on pieces of paper like the good old days. Retro.

 

And that’s it. Kers and DRS didn’t even make it onto the list, which shows just how wet our pants are. We’re praying the game lives up to our own very inflated expectations and of course we will bring you a full review as soon as we can. Washing machine.

Safety Car confirmed for F1 2011

“Okay, okay… Safety Car is in this years’ game… Going to be awesome!!” tweeted Steve Hood, the lead designer at Codemasters for the forthcoming F1 2011. In doing so he confirmed for the first time that the much-rumoured inclusion of a Safety Car had indeed been given the go-ahead.

Codies’ communications manager Andy Gray then posted a picture of the virtual Mercedes Benz SLS AMG 2011 - http://t.co/hKLq2U7.- and went on to reveal the first details about it’s implementation in the game. Gray said on Twitter: “… you cannot drive it, it is available online, you keep the same camera when the SC is out…. you have control behind the SC but there’ll be some restrictions. More details once everything is concrete…. Safety Car is available in races 20% or over and can be turned off if you don’t want it.”

So some key questions remain unanswered (will it be possible to crash into? Overtake the cars in front? Alter your pit strategies at the last minute to take advantage of a Safety Car period?) but nevertheless it is a pretty bold step for Codies to take. As I argued here a couple of weeks ago, the implementation of the Safety Car is a very risky business for the game and could define the future success of the series – especially if it is possible to use it tactically in online races, or too easy to mess up a hard-fought race by making errors while following the Safety Car. The proof will only be in the pudding, and the wait for this particular pudding, released on September the 23rd, just got a little harder.

We’ll bring you the latest news and further updates as we get them, but in the meantime you can follow Steve Hood’s tweets on @T4RG4, and Andy Gray’s on @AndyGray_. Most importantly, you can also follow us – @ORDNews and me @tombowker.

F1 2011 secrets revealed on Twitter

Detailed information about inclusions, tweaks and updates for the forthcoming F1 2011 have been few and far between, but Steve Hood, Chief Game Designer for F1 2010/11, has revealed many snippets of information via his Twitter account (@T4RG4) not mentioned in official press releases.

Hood is preparing for the first public screening of the game at Gamescom 2011 in Cologne, and has revealed that co-op championships will only be available online rather than via split-screen, the career mode will be five seasons rather than seven.

Perhaps most interestingly, it seems using driving aids whilst racing online will now carry weight penalties – meaning more skilful drivers will no longer be disadvantaged compared to those using ABS and traction control.

F1 2011 News on Twitter

Hood also reveals his team would like to include additional downloadable content and that he would like to include helmet designs of classic drivers in the game.

Here is a select sample of Steve Hood’s most revealing tweets:

“Co-Op is a single season” … “Co-op Championship is Online only, not in Split-screen (although you can run a 1-19 races if you wish)”

“And the Stats have shown few people went all the way through 7 seasons so I’ll put up with it as long as it’s 5 decent seasons in Career.”

“Truth in DLC rumours? Hmm… well. We’ve talked about it and talked about it. We do want to do it. It’d be so cool!”

“TC and ABS carry weight penalties (for experienced drivers and the penalty goes up with rank).” … “Assists = extra weight issue. it’s not to penalise players using assists but demotivate/equal good players using assists to be even faster.”

“…we’ve gone way past the point of being able to add Ricciardo to HRT”

“No flag helmets this year. Because I get so many requests to add more nations! So it’s original designs in’11 :)” … “I’d love to include classic driver helmets but it’s a license minefield. Will still try!”

You can follow Steve’s tweets on @T4RG4, and also the official feed for the game @formula1game. You can also follow us – @ORDNews.

Looking to pre-order F1 2011 before it’s released on September 23rd, 2011? Then check out:

Do we need a safety car?

Since the brilliant F1 2010 was released, Codemasters have also been inundated with fans’ requests for the inclusion of a safety car in the sequel. Indeed, if 1994’s Indycar Racing 2 managed to include one running on MS Dos, surely the inclusion on one of today’s superconsoles or superfast PC’s is long overdue. However the inclusion of the safety car is not quite as cut and dry as it might seem.

Simulation fans (myself included) want everything in a Formula One game to be as realistic as possible, with all the correct drivers, cars, circuits, flags, penalties and rules in place. We want it to rain, tyres to wear out and Michael Schumacher to drive erratically – it’s all part of what makes us love F1 and what makes following the sport so fun and exciting.

However, the least fun and exciting part of F1 is arguably watching cars tip-toeing around behind the safety car for lap after lap. You only have to look back to last year’s inaugural Korean Grand Prix or to this year’s (eventually amazing) event in Canada to find a race being started behind a safety car in wet conditions for so long it began to detract from the spectacle and become rather dull.

In real life there are good reasons for having a safety car – the main one being safety. If a driver is seriously hurt, there is debris on the circuit or the weather conditions make safe racing unrealistic the presence of a safety car makes a whole lot of sense. In a virtual reality, the dangers are practically nil. No-one is going to get an injury worse than a sore thumb from playing too much, and the risk of death is minimal.

Then there are issues surrounding implementingF1’s complicated rules correctly – and for those of you unfamiliar with the F1 rulebook, it’s no simple piece of toilet reading. Drivers must adhere to a strict set of regulations including staying within a delta time set by race control, remaining within ten lengths of the car in front at all times and not overtaking under any circumstances. Indeed, rule 40.5 of the FIA’s sporting regulations state: “No car may be driven unnecessarily slowly, erratically or in a manner which could be deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers or any other person at any time whilst the safety car is deployed”. I can envisage a few problems with online rammers players sticking to this code of conduct.

Nevertheless, the safety car is part of the real life Formula One experience, and some gamers would like the opportunity to replicate following one at low speeds and making sure their tyres and brakes don’t get too cold.

If it is included, there are a lot of questions for Codemasters to answer – how will it be implemented in online races? How can casual gamers avoid being bored and frustrated? Will we get to lobby race control over the radio about when the race should be re-started?

The good news is we won’t have to wait long for the answers, with the Birmingham-based developer revealing via the game’s official Twitter feed that “… we’ll be able to tell you whether it’s in or not by Gamescom in August… If the safety car makes it into the final game it won’t be via a cutscene. Like we said if we’re going to do it we’ll do it right!” So the feature is still under consideration, and reading between the lines I would take that to mean ‘we’ve got it in, but it doesn’t quite work yet’.

Their desire to “do it right” should be very reassuring, as Codies are clearly aware this feature has the potential to disrupt the flow of the game, the player’s immersion in it, and ultimately their overall enjoyment of the product. They will be rightly wary of potential reviews saying ‘great game, but it keeps stopping for a safety car period which is really annoying’.

We virtual racers need to have a think about how far we really want to take the ‘realism’ of a simulation and about the point at which playing the game can stop being fun. I have read posts on forums from knee-jerk reactionaries claiming they’ll refuse to buy the game if the safety car is not included in the final release, but they should be the ones thinking hardest.

How far do we really want to take it? When you’ve finished the main game can you decide to retire your driver and take over from Bernd Mylander in the safety car, spending an hour sat in the pit lane praying for an accident? Should you have to train up as the medical car driver first before you can drive it? Will players soon be demanding they are able to play as Charlie Whiting in race control? Probably, but let’s get the racing right first.

If they do decide to include the safety car, the perceived success or failure of it’s implementation could be the defining point of the series. The reason F1 2010 won awards is because much of it was spot-on, and I personally am very happy to trust the judgment of the team that developed such a great game to conclude for themselves as to whether their safety car system really works for the player.

F1 2011 preview

After waiting so long for a good F1 game, it seems like the past year has flow by pretty quickly – mainly because I’ve spent most of it playing F1 2010. But as Codemasters’ BAFTA-winning bestseller approaches its first birthday, some fledgling official details have been revealed about its younger brother: the appropriately-titled F1 2011.

And unlike the Schumacher brothers, the younger one looks set to be a big improvement on its elder sibling.  Many changes are in the pipeline , with a new 16-player online mode (and a full 24-car grid, 8 cars being controlled by the computer), a split screen co-op mode, enhanced cinematics, better opponent AI and a completely rewritten pit lane system, necessary to avoid the bugs that infested part of the last game.

The most exciting element for me is the revealing of the two-player split screen mode. F1 2009 on the Wii has a fantastic two-player mode and I can’t wait to spend a couple of weekends with friends playing through a season trying to win the constructors championship. Developers have for too long ignored split screen fans and I think Codemasters are onto a real winner – I still have fond memories of the split screen mode from Toca 2 and that was released back in 1998. Thirteen years is a long enough wait.

A new handling model has been praised by those lucky few who have had the chance to play it, and the already-gorgeous graphics and weather effects have been tweaked so the game should be even more atmospheric. DRS and KERS will add another level of complication to the driving, and with the new Pirelli tyre degradation issues my expectations are already high.

Many things fans have been requesting on forums haven’t been addressed yet though – the rumoured safety car’s inclusion is still yet to be confirmed, alongside other more peripheral requests such as a helmet editor. It remains to be seen whether the game will include any political rows over the use of hot and cold blowing exhausts, double diffusers or the presence of team orders.

Just as last year, Codemasters are releasing a series of ‘Developer Diary’ videos, the first of which can be seen here.

The game is released on September 23rd, and yes, I have pre-ordered it.

Codemasters Dirt 3 review – 4/5

As fans of my work will know (hello mum), I was a big fan of the original Dirt, but less so of it’s sequel. So here’s the difficult third album – it has to keep the original ‘rally’ fans happy and still appeal to the slick, polished Americanised variety showcase that was Dirt 2. And I’m pleased to say it generally straddles the delicate balance between the two quite well.

Gone is the irritating daredevil Travis Pastrana playing the role of your in-game menu ‘buddy’ (needed presumably by those who can’t find their own way around an in-game menu with the options laid out in MASSIVE CAPITAL LETTERS), and in come three new irritating voices to replace him and guide me through the game. I also have no idea why there are three of them, and even less idea why one is English, one American and one Australian. They pop up to tell me a new team wants to sign me now and again, as well as to tell me my driving is brilliant, which is nice, although they use a lot of annoying words like ‘sweet!’, ‘cool!’ and ‘wow!’ when you make a selection. It grates. They introduced themselves to me at the start, and I presume they still have names but they haven’t stuck. One sounds a bit like John Torode, so I call him John Torode. The others are known to me as ‘cheesy’ (the American) and Linda, because I like the name. I encourage all players to name these three to make their inane and insincere banter less likely to induce suicide.

Sticking with the aesthetics, the soundtrack is a little strange too. It’s really great in parts – there are some soothing strings, some funky bass and some nice melodies during some of the menus and loading screens. But then some thumping rock will kick in that seems totally out of place. I loved the use of F.E.A.R in F1 2010 because it was a theme, it gave the game an identity. Dirt 3 tries to have the cool soundtrack of FIFA but the musical styles are a little too far apart for it to work. Still, there are some good tunes and the menus are nicely laid out.

You can even change your co-driver’s voice from ‘Scottish man’ to ‘American woman’ in the options menu, and specify they talk in Sega Rally language – ‘easy left!’ / ‘medium right!’ – should you not be able to cope with numbers, or struggle with the concept of counting from one to six.

Oh yes, the game itself. Easily forgotten. It’s divided up into the career mode (Dirt Tour), single races and multiplayer. I haven’t had a chance to play online much yet, but the ranking system seemed quite intuitive – giving you more points according to the number of higher-ranked players you beat. All the game modes are represented and it was quite good fun. I had a few games of rallycross and won, and then did a few rallies and lost. I am yet to try the splitscreen options as I currently have no friends.

The main tour mode is a mixture of the game’s main disciplines. There are some excellent rally stages, challenging rallycross tracks, some fun truck arenas and a few ‘Gymkhana‘ locations where one must perform a succession of stunts in order to gain points. Yes, Ken Block has been digitally recreated to guide you through the discipline. Whilst fun, this mode could prove frustrating to those wanting a pure ‘racing’ game. Gran Turismo 5 players can leave the ‘drift’ mode alone if they wish, but in Dirt 3 it’s all part of the main game – and if you’re the perfectionist who wants to beat every level, you may be in for some hardcore donut practice.

The cars themselves generally feel solid, and the environments are superb. Weather effects look nice, handling is sufficiently different on different surfaces, and there are some nice day/night effects that really show off the lighting model. It’s not quite as pretty as F1 2010, but there is a lot more variety in this game, not to mention cars.

The damage model is probably the best thing about the game, especially when combined with the punishing rally stages. It is entirely possibly to hit a bank, roll spectacularly and come to a rest on a grassy verge. It’s equally possible to total your car hitting a tree, and perhaps most excitingly, you can now fall off cliff edges and plunge to your doom. There are no rock-solid plastic barriers anymore, and the lifelike environments really add to the sense of danger on the rally stages as you hurtle through forests and villages far too quickly.

Flashbacks’ make a return too, so once your car is damaged you can ‘rewind’ time and carry on from just before you messed up. Proper race fans won’t use this feature obviously… except when nobody is looking.

The game has some nice replays, any if which you can upload to YouTube via the clever integrated software. I haven’t tried it myself yet, but I would assume the results look very much like a virtual car being driven round a track on YouTube, complete with comments underneath such as ‘LOOL’, ‘You’re a crap driver, I’m much better’ and the obligatory ‘you’re a racist’.

So all in all, Dirt 3 is a good game. I’d still rather have a pure rally-driving game, but hey, I’m not the mass market and the rally stages within it are still the best yet. There is a real sense of authenticity to many of the rally elements, especially with the HUD turned off and using the in-car view, and many of the other disciplines are a good laugh (specifically via the excellent multiplayer system).  It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s slick, polished and great fun which scores it an excellent 4/5 and a hearty recommendation.

Buy Codemasters Dirt 3 now from:

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