Dirt 3 Xbox 360 Review
Graphically, however, Dirt 3 is a mixed bag, with the lack of clear technical progress balanced out by a wider range of environments than previous games in the series, including snow and ice levels. The spectators still look like they were hammered together out of wet cardboard, though.
Thankfully, the environments bring more to the game than just pretty art; they also supply a challenge when it comes to car handling. There are times when, between the snow and ice Landrushes and the delicate agility of gymkhana, Dirt 3 starts to feel like something of a platform game. On higher difficulty settings, so much of the experience is defined by the road surface that a qualification in physical geography will provide a definite advantage.
At the other end of the spectrum, however, are locations such as Battersea Power Station. Used mainly for gymkhana events, but also appearing as a mission-orientated sandbox into which you can drop at any time, Battersea is depressingly grey when compared to Dirt 3’s other races, but compensates with a focus on utility. Battersea may not be pretty, but it's easy to forget London's dreariness when you’re driving through a slalom of destructible blocks and power-sliding under trucks.
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The real excitement comes from Dirt 3’s multiplayer modes though, which include a new zombie mode for when players get bored with just doing laps. In this mode, one player starts the game as an infected driver and their aim is to pass the curse on to as many other players as possible by slamming into them.
The zombie mode is clearly incongruous with Dirt 3’s otherwise realistic tone, and we reckon it may have been added as a last-minute attempt to be a part of the zombie fad that began with Left 4 Dead
and World at War
, but it's entertaining nonetheless. It’s just a shame that Codemasters didn’t add actual zombies into the game – a cut that was reportedly made because of complaints from Dirt 3’s sponsors.
Speaking of which; if you’re at all allergic to brand names appearing in your games, you would do well to steer clear of Dirt 3. While there's a strong argument that having real-world brands' badges plastered over in-game cars and race scenery is representative of actual racing, we still found Dirt 3's advertising a bit excessive on this front. It's mainly the fault of the incredibly long loading screens, which force you to stare at ad-covered cars for extended periods; often longer than it takes to complete the race you’re loading.
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These loading screens are made even more frustrating by the Dirt 3 soundtrack, by the way. For some reason, despite Codemasters signing some excellent bands for the game, the most popular songs are only played for the ten seconds it takes to display the score table. There’s no music played during races, and the loading screens only get tuneless techno loops. You’re also oddly unable to reduce the volume of any individual element (music, engine noise or effects) to less than 50 per cent.
Faults such as this may only be tiny niggles, but over the course of the entire game they still take the shine off Dirt 3 – a game which, at its best still merely feels like more of the same. It’s a blessing, then, that ‘the same’ is still good. The Dirt series started from such a highpoint that even a 50 per cent dip in quality still puts it ahead of the competition.
Thus, while Dirt 3 fails to offer much in the way of surprise or innovation, it remains a solid racing title – provided you can cope with the constant barrage of moronic and needless dialogue, the excessive advertising and the painfully long loading times.