Colin McRae: Dirt PS3 Review

Since its inception the Colin McRae Rally series has been one of the finest for nerve shredding driving, and its rather lengthy lifecycle is testament to this. Colin McRae Dirt is the latest game in the series, and the removal of Rally from the title suggests that the game is more than a rally game. This evolution isn’t really surprising since the man himself had retired from the WRC and branched out into more motor sports events before he was sadly killed in a helicopter crash.

The latest game in the series was obviously made with the American’s in mind, as DIRT seems like it has been abducted by them, such is all the annoying over the top American accents that have been included in the game. There’s an American co-driver, an American driver (Travis Pastrana) who enthusiastically explains the rules of each event to you, and congratulates you for finishing in good positions and more. In spite of it still being developed here in the UK, the American’s have landed and taken over. Some won’t like this, although we can live with it, as there’s such a great game here.

DIRT may be much more than a rally game, although various rally championships are still available to you, and you’ll also be rallying in the huge 11 tier career mode in the hope of becoming the Champion of Champions. We have never played games in the hope to lose, so being crowned The Champions of Champions sounds rather nice. Like we mentioned in our opening paragraph, it’s still a rally game, although it’s also so much more, obviously taking inspiration from McRae himself and perhaps Codemasters other superb multi-event motor series, TOCA Race Driver.

Before we continue onto any further comments on the game itself, we thought that the basic presentation was worthy of a mention. Normally we would pass by commenting on presentation in our reviews, as we don’t usually get excited over menus and loading screens, and whilst DIRT has some clean and quiet menu screens it’s the stat filled loading screens that inspired us to write this paragraph. We’ve seen so many untrustworthy loading bars and spinning discs in our time, so being told our average speed, favoured track and car, how many cars and liveries unlocked, miles travelled, longest distance without crashing, time played and more certainly gives us something to look at and perhaps be proud of whilst the game goes through its rather lengthy loading motions.

DIRT has a pleasing amount of options, and if you are a fan of off-road racing in general, then the excellent and diverse career mode should make you want to roll in some mud. There’s rallying, hill climb, crossover, rally cross, rally raid and some US C.O.O.R events. Most of the titles of the events are much more clear than the mud that you‘ll be speeding across, although we’re not ignorant enough to think that everyone is clued up on each and every event, thus we’ve decided to mention the lot. Rallying is the roots of the series, and rather then physical bumper-to-bumper racing, you’re racing against the clock and attempting to finish some very muddy and dangerous stages with car intact and the fastest time. Hill climb is basically rallying all over again, although up some very big hills and without the American tones of the co-driver to keep your nerves from going through a cheese grater. Crossover is basically a one-on-one contest on a, wait for it…crossover track. Rally cross is a physical racing event and combines mud and gravel. Rally Raid brings the Paris Dakar Rally to mind, as you’ll be racing through baking hot dessert land. Finally the C.O.O.R involves some very volatile buggies (watch those bumps!) and trucks.

In a nice touch you’ll earn more money in the career mode dependant on the difficulty you choose. If you are finding a certain event difficult on one of the tougher difficulty settings, you could always give in and lower the difficulty to something a little more merciful, although of course the penalty is a lower cash reward, thus in no way does the game encourage you to plump for the easier settings. If you’re wondering, cash winnings are used to purchase new motors as well as liveries, and it’s oddly satisfying to see the number of each rise on the fabulous loading screen.

The most important thing on a driving game is of course how the cars feel to drive, and the Colin McRae series has a proven track record of giving us all a wonderful ride, albeit a bumpy and a very mucky one. DIRT moves at a cracking pace, is just as satisfying as previously, and this time the vehicle diversity means that you’ll have to get used to many different vehicles, which all handle differently or don’t handle at all if it’s a buggy flying over a bump taken at the wrong angle for example.

Those going into the game expecting physical track racing against other players will be disappointed with the multiplayer mode, as the only options that are available to you are rally and hill climb, two events that only involve a single car on the track at any given time. Apart from this, it’s a good online and LAN mode, and you can still witness your race position going up and down determined by your driving performance and of course your opponents. Up to 99 others can join you online, and before each race, participants can vote on the track and car, which can sometimes bring about a rather lengthy wait if votes are split and tied over and over again. As for any other form of multiplayer, well you‘re all out of luck, and we’re totally appalled by this omission, as contrary to popular belief, some people do still actually like playing with family members and physical friends without having to hook their TV’s and consoles up to do so.

Grumbles aside and back onto the good stuff, lets talk about those amazing visuals. Colin McRae: DIRT sees the debut of Codemasters spectacular new Neon engine, and if you can ignore the annoying screen tearing and the blatant lack of weather effects, the visual package on show here is one of the best gifts that your eyes could witness. The vehicles and the environments have certainly benefited from the young, but obviously very wise engine, and just wait until you see those crashes, the mere sight of them will shatter your bones. This isn’t going to be the last we’ve seen from the fantastic engine either, as the upcoming Race Driver One is also going to benefit from its use.

Colin McRae: DIRT is a natural evolution of the series, but more importantly it’s a fantastic game. We’ve got to wonder if the series will continue in its current form, following the tragic death of the Flying Scotsman, although if this is the final game to bare McRae’s name, it’s certainly a fantastic send-off for a fantastic series, and you could say for the rally legend himself.