Dirt 3

360 (PS3 & PC)

Out of respect for the renowned rally driver Colin McRae who died in 2007, whose name has graced this franchise on numerous titles, Codemasters have removed his name completely for this latest addiction. Way to go Codemasters, tres sensitive.

In their defence, the series has moved on quite a bit since its first incarnation, but as rallying is still a major part of this game, itís still a little on the inconsiderate side. But hey, Dirt 3 it is.

The first thing you notice when you look under this gameís hood, is its variety. Similar to Colin McRae Dirt 2itís not just about the rally experience anymore. There are now more types of vehicles, including buggies, in a plethora of events.

In Tour Mode there are four seasons to compete in, with each season consisting of a mixture of driving disciplines. Many races appear locked at first, but you open them with the points you gain from winning events. You also get points for not using Flashbacks (which return from Dirt 2); these allow you to do what only Cher can dream about Ė turn back time. Not only do these points open up other courses, but they add to your driver reputation which is where you can access all the vehicles; the more reputation you get, the greater your choice in vehicles becomes.

It also includes an area called the Gymkhana, which is a place for knocking over blocks, doughnuts, jumps and other stunty stuff.

These events take place all over the world, covering sunny, rainy and snowy climes. After racing around a few of them, itís fair to say that the game looks mighty pretty indeed.

boom reviews - Dirt 3 image
You spin me right round baby, right round, like a record baby...

One disappointment was the interface; the last game had a nice friendly setting that revolved around a caravan to hang out in. This time there are just a bunch of floating pyramids to get from one stage to the next. Not exactly thrilling.

So then, it has variety, loads of cars and courses, as well as an attractive look about it throughout. Sounds a winner right? Not quite.

Weíve been around the virtual block once or twice before, in our fair share of racers. Although weíd never consider us podium material, we love to get behind a wheel and put said pedal to said metal. We encountered a few problems with the handling of the vehicles in Dirt 2 and sadly this sequel suffers from the same criticism.

In any game, regardless of the genre, we always attempt to complete it on the average setting. Not only do we think this is the best setting to play through a game for a review, but itís usually the one weíre more comfortable with. Not so with Dirt 3.

To say that we found the handling twitchy on intermediate is an understatement. Driving felt like we trying to push a giant ice block on a bendy road made of ice. The front end always seemed more sensitive than a redhead in the sun. After a few races, we couldnít do any better than seventh place. Out of eight. They were a complete nightmare to control.

So then we had to admit defeat and lower the difficulty level. Oddly enough, the cars then began to behave themselves. Not only did the wheels not behave like giant marbles covered in butter, but the cars actually didnít mind staying on the course. It was the kind of handling we were used to with other driving games, and was well within our comfort zone.

The problem was however, that the races were far too easy. Not only did we win every race, but we did so without having to use the breaks once. No really. Even in the rally sections we were overtaking cars in front like it was the Indy 500.

We then decided to revisit the intermediate setting, only to find the handling still too wobbly for our liking. What we wanted was the handling of the easier setting, with the difficulty setting of the average one. Why thereís such a huge difference in handling between the two settings, only Codemasters know. They certainly canít use the excuse that the average game setting is more realistic, because at one point we managed to get our car air born, with a few spectacular rolls in the air before landing on all four wheels and driving off again. Realistic if Vin Diesel or Jason Statham are behind the wheel perhaps.

Itís a shame that the whole handling debacle marred our experience, because Dirt 3 does have a lot to offer, as it does so much right in other areas. If you live and breathe driving games, then the chances are that the wishy washy handling is something you can handle with ease. However, if youíre anything like us (anything from a casual gamer upwards) then the difficulty arc of this game may be one that simply canít be met.

Weíd just be happy to participate in the gameís intermediate setting without having to drive cars that constantly want to audition for a place on Dancing on Ice.

three out of five