The Colin McRae name may have disappeared from the box, but Codemasters’ rally series is coming back with a bang. After the critical acclaim of Dirt 1 and the lukewarm reception for Dirt 2, the arrival of the Dirt 3 on May 24th is a make-or-break moment for the series that debuted back in 1998. This is now the eighth in the ‘Colin McRae Rally’ series, barring the bonus version created for Mac users, and the signs look very promising indeed.
After being present in the first two games of the ‘Dirt’ series, McRae’s name is now gone but not forgotten. Following the legend’s untimely death in 2007, Codemasters have decided to drop his name from the game’s title in the UK (having done so already elsewhere), and to me it seems about the right time. It would have been wrong to drop the name from ‘Dirt 1’ that was released so soon after his fatal helicopter crash, and not enough time had passed when ‘Dirt 2’ was released two years later in September 2009. Ironically though, the dropping of the McRae name comes as the game is being re-focused on rallying – the part of the game that made the series what it is and the lack of it the thing most vehemently criticised in Dirt 2. Dirt 2 was a departure from the series’ roots, with more Motorstorm-style off-road buggy racing and more arcade-like handling; it didn’t feel like a proper McRae game. But Codemasters have listened to the fans and Dirt 3 is going to be at least 60% rally mode – more than double the amount of its predecessor. Core fans wanted a rally game, but got a mainly off-road driving experience selection box.
Not to say that all of Dirt 2 was bad, in fact the game scored highly in reviews, but fans of the series were unhappy with the change in direction. Codemasters’ award-winning EGO engine was developed for the game, and has gone on to be used superbly in other titles such as F1 2010. The game’s damage model, track design, surface modelling and weather effects were all top of the range. Two years down the line, one can only assume Dirt 3 will showcase the best yet.
Some of the best parts of Dirt 2 were the Multiplayer modes. Eight-player online racing returns for this game; alongside something I personally have been anticipating for a very long-time in the modern era of motorsport gaming – split-screen online play. You and a friend can now take on six other drivers from the same room, which for me is enough incentive to buy the game in itself. Split-screen enthusiasts have been poorly treated by developers in recent years in favour of the ‘people just want to play online’ brigade, but Codemasters are taking the plunge with this feature and I believe this should be applauded. Playing with a friend in the same room is a big part of gaming, and I warmly welcome its return.
There are also many multiplayer modes available including a ‘capture the flag’-style mode, one where aliens invade and another called ‘Cat and Mouse’ where two teams of four players in high-powered cars battle one another to protect their teammates trying to reach the finish line in a Mini Cooper. It’s a far cry from the original Colin McRae Rally and the game modes borrow heavily from titles such as ‘Motorstorm’ and ‘Grand Theft Auto 4’, but these game modes should provide a fun distraction from the pursuit of shaving tenths of your best time on your favourite special stage, especially if you are playing with friends.
Career mode is back, Ken Block’s gymkhana mode (which looked good even in early builds), night racing, snow, a hatful of legendary cars (including Group B), a full WRC license and the fact Codemasters have described it as their ‘biggest-ever driving game’ are all things that should mean virtual petrolheads will be lapping it up for a long time to come.
Buying Dirt 3
The game is released on May 24th on PS3, Xbox, and Windows.
Selected retailers will have the Superteam Pack as a pre-order bonus, which includes four exclusive teams ( Texaco Racing Team, Brembo Racing Team, Team Yokohama and Mobil 1 Performance Team), and unlocks 14 cars, including the Ford RS200 Rallycross, Fiat 131 Abarth, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X Jun and the iconic Lancia Delta HF Integrale.
You can order it now at:
Want to find out about the latest titles in the DiRT series? Check out our dedicated DiRT coverage, here.