Codemasters have really excelled at one thing over the past decade, and that one thing is rally games. They have tried their hand at other types of titles,
but rallying is really where it is for them and when DiRT was announced for next generation consoles, it was an almost certainty that the first excellent
next generation rally game was coming and, while DiRT certainly has its problems, it still remains a robust, high speed thrilling ride through the rally
world championship and other racing disciplines.
The philosophy that Codemasters has employed with DiRT is 'throw everything in bar the kitchen sink'. If you want to be a cynic, the better name for this
game wouldhave been Race Driver: DiRT
Edition as it does replicate many features of the phenomenal Race Driver series, known locally here in Australia as V8 Supercars. You have a number of
options to choose from when you first start out such as Career or Rally Championship with more becoming unlocked as you progress through the game, which is a
huge departure from the usual Colin McRae style where only rally stages and rally cars existed and for some people it may be too much of a departure.
The main game mode on offer is of course the Career mode. As you'd expect, you start off with some money to buy a relatively modest car and then challenge
the world's best fictional drivers in some of the toughest racing disciplines around. Before the end of the career mode you will have raced trucks, rally
cars, buggies and hill climb cars just to name a few. One thing that remains very interesting about this is that in many instances the racing includes
multiple cars rather than the traditional one car format, and with Colin McRae being primarily a rally driving game, you will find yourself generally
enjoying the rally sections the most as the engine was definitely built with this in mind.
Once you do progress past the career mode or decide that the other rally modes are for you instead, there is a plethora of options to choose from. DiRT
really is two gamesin one; a lengthy career
based game with multiple options and a highly authentic representation of the world of rally driving. One thing which surprised us is that you can't jump
into the World Rally right away - you have to progress through the British and European rally championships first before you are asked to join the main game.
This is one area where a few cracks begin to show with the title. First of all, apart from the cars and one driver
(guess who), none of the game is officially licensed. You will be racing on fictional tracks with fictional drivers and, for a game which could easily claim to be the best rally title around, this
is a little disappointing. There is no doubt that the stages Codies have built are inspired by the real world circuits but there is just something about
having the real world tracks in the game which gives it a higher level of authenticity than what is present here.
Another problem is that the other disciplines in the career are really quite boring to play. Due to its blistering speed and dangerous obstacle dominated
tracks, the rally stages really are the highlight of the package. Going from breakneck speed to slow trucks in a race really is not fun
and unfortunately to unlock more cars you have to go through the career mode. It would have been nice to be able to completely ignore the career mode if a
gamer so desired but it was not to be.
One area where the game shines beyond belief though is the graphics. This is the best looking racing game available on the market today and it's not just the
visuals either - the options on offer are incredible. For example you can view the rally from outside or inside the car and, when inside, either the
dashboard or from the 'visor view' which is apparently how it looks for the real world drivers. The cars also take a huge amount of damage and depending on
the difficulty level this has a direct impact on how the car performs. It is very easy to even get terminal damage which puts you out of a rally.
When it comes to multiplayer, Live is naturally supported, although DiRT actually manages to stretch the truth slightly regarding its capabilities. On the box Codemasters proudly proclaims up to
one hundred players can participate in multiplayer and while this is technically true, it's not 'true' multiplayer. Basically, it is structured so up to 100
players can try and set the best time on a particular course. It would have been nice to see some direct versus competition on Live but if you want that, go
and buy Forza Motorsport 2.
Colin McRae: DiRT had a lot to live up to and overall it has done so. There are a few problems with the game and the career mode could have been better but
there is no doubt that DiRT is second to none when it comes to current rally game offerings, not to mention this is the most visually explosive racing game
on the console today. This is highly recommended racing.