DiRT review


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Buy your copy from Amazon.com DiRT (2007) starstarstarstarno star Publisher: Codemasters
Category: Racing
Available for: Xbox 360
Buy from Amazon.com

First things first. I want to say that I’ve had more fun racing the cars in “DiRT” than I have in “Forza Motorsport 2.” However, this game gets the lower rating of the two because of a couple of things. First, the graphics, while really beautiful, do show a bit of pop-in on some of the tracks when shadows and terrain are being loaded into the horizon. There’s also a noticeable bit of jagged lines on the cars when the camera is zooming around the car before the lights go green. Second, the online portion of the game is just a little bizarre. “DiRT” claims that it can house 100 people per online race, and while this is true, it’s not 100 people on the same screen. Instead, every player is doing their own thing on their own screen while stats are produced in real time. It’s fine, but “Forza 2” absolutely kills in this area.

Now for the good stuff. “DiRT” is an all-out freakfest of rally racing fun. The sport of rally racing isn’t as huge over here in the states as it is in Europe, but no matter. What you have here is a game that gives you all the wild thrills of the sport while not being super technical about it. If you like, you can go in and change settings for your car, but you can have a blast right off the starting line not touching a thing under the hood or chassis. “DiRT” has that fun, arcade feel that invites everyone to play while still retaining a strong sense of realism that makes it enough of a challenge.

The single-player career mode features a tiered pyramid filled with races and challenges that the player must complete to unlock more cars and the like. Each event in the tier is broken up into five difficulties, each with its own cash prize. The rookie setting is lowest, followed by clubman, amateur, pro-am and then pro. Events include regular rally courses, which are point-to-point races where you have a co-driver giving you directions and the shortest time wins; hill climb, which is like rally, only without your partner and going up the side of a mountain; rallycross, an all-out classic race where everyone tries to not pile up on each other while going around the track; crossover, perhaps the most fun of all the events, featuring a two-lane circuit where drivers go head to-head; and rally raid and corr which feature off-road vehicles on courses of varying lengths.

Part of the fun of “DiRT” is watching your car get dirty and/or trashed along the way. Huge chunks will fly off, glass will shatter in all the windows, and your engine will start to smoke heavily. The damage detail is simply impeccable in this game, making this feature better than a similar kind in “Forza 2.” Depending on the skill level you’re racing at, the damage will vary from only cosmetic to doing serious harm to your vehicle (soon enough you’ll find that your transmission, engine and the rest are in need of repairs). Have fun limping to the finish line.

“DiRT” also challenges its racers to become accustomed and skilled at driving on various surfaces. Just as soon as you feel comfortable driving sideways on a slick, paved surface on a rainy day, the next thing you know, you’re driving on dirt and losing all control. The dirt tracks are indeed probably the most challenging in the game, as you often feel like you’re losing control of your vehicle, especially when coming off of huge jumps and trying to over-correct for the landing. But this is part of the fun. Learning how much speed and hand brake to apply around the turns and over the bumps is definitely a skill that comes in time.

For all the things “DiRT” does well, this should definitely be a game you check out, whether you’re a casual race game fan or one of those gearheads. It’s a different kind of racing altogether, which makes it more refreshing than redundant. It’s not a game about customizing hundreds of cars. While there are a few liveries available for each vehicle that you can apply, you can’t go in and tinker with them, or do a custom paint job. But this isn’t that kind of game. Instead, “DiRT” is a great time for those who like their races wild, wooly and with enough challenge to keep you coming back for one more race. And really, that’s what any great racing game should have at its core – that need for just one more trip around the course.

~Jason Thompson