DiRT (360) – Review

DiRT  - Cover

It’s amazing the type of variation that one can get with racing games still after so many years of development. Just recently was Forza Motorsport 2 with highly realistic track racing, and then there’s the Need for Speed series that does street racing. But DiRT, developed and published by CodeMasters, offers yet another bit of variety for racing, this time in terms of motorcross. The game is effectively a continuation of the Colin McRae motorcross series featuring himself helping you through the game. Most of the game is pretty well done and does a decent job of simulating various types of terrain, but otherwise it lacks much of the staying power that other racing titles have, in part to a rather weak online multiplayer aspect.


DiRT - Screenshot Gameplay: B+

The core of DiRT is motorcross racing on various terrains and surfaces. The various vehicles with which you drive with tend to have tight suspensions, which means that every bump and dip in the road will affect how your car drives. Furthermore, the game has reasonably realistic physics when it comes to the types of driving surfaces you race on; you’ll grip easily to dry tarmac for both acceleration and turning, but dirt-covered paths will make it hard to turn accurately, and gravel covered paths can limit your acceleration power.

There are several different types of races within the game, but they basically boil down to three types. The most common is the Rally: you race against other competitors’ times for a point-to-point path, with your navigator helping by telling you the types of turns coming up. Races are as expected, as you perform 2 or more circuits against up to 9 other competitors at the same time. Finally, there is Crossover races which take place on special tracks with two roughly equal loops but with cross-over point, forming a sort of Mobius strip, and in which you race against one other car to make one full circuit on both parts of the track to win. There are variations: Hill climbs are like Rallys but lack your navigator so that you have rely on the on-screen map and your eyes more, and Rally Raids have both the help of the navigator and several other competitors on the road at the same time making things more difficult.

The game has 4 ways you can play it. Multiplayer through system links or Xbox live is expected, and you can set up your own custom matches through the Rally World option. The Career mode is presented as a large pyramid with 11 tiers of events each consisting of 1 or more races. Each event can net 10 points at most along with a monetary reward depending on the level of difficulty that you chose at the time of selecting the event. Starting from the bottom, you open up other events within that tier and other tiers by collecting enough points to progress through. Along the way, you’ll use the money to buy new cars and liveries (sponsorship skins) for those cars, so that you’ll have a selection of vehicles to use for each race ; in some cases, you may have to earn a few more bucks before taking on a race as you may not have the right type of car available for it. Within Rally multirace events, if your car takes damage, you have the ability to repair it but you are limited to the number of minutes for repairs on the car, so you may have to sacrifice a smooth-running engine to make sure your tires are good, for example. Generally, I found it easy to breeze through the first 7 or 8 tiers of the career mode, but the last three become rather tough, partially because a few of the top vehicles that are ideal for those races are only available in those races and cost a good amount of cash to get. But, because this career mode approach is rather well done, it’s always possible to find other races (including those you’ve raced before) to earn money to get the best car for the job.

DiRT - Screenshot

There’s also a Championship event where you race on several tracks with your total cumulative time determining your overall placing; these are much more involved than any of the Career mode events and really are best done after you’ve gotten a feel for the game through Career mode.

 

The cars vary in their class (such as buggies, four-wheel drive cars, and other types) but are basically distinguishable by their engine power (speed) and their torque (how easy it is to steer them). Unlike the drastic difference in cars in Forza Motorsport 2, there’s not a whole lot of difference between all the vehicles beyond these aspects, and they don’t really change all that much as you expand your motorpool, though you will noticed the improved speed and turning as you get up the Career path. As you learn the courses, you’ll become familiar with those where you want to be able to zip along and those that you need the turning control to really make it through. Cars will still bounce around a lot and can be difficult to control on bumpy courses while still keeping the speed up.

The number of courses is quite impress for the Rally modes, with at least 25 such point-to-point paths and a number of reverse ones as well; progressing along Career mode, it felt that I rarely ran the same rally race twice. The number of circuit tracks, on the other hand, is a bit limited, with about 6 to 8 total tracks.

The major problem in the gameplay is that Career mode doesn’t have the artificial barriers to make it challenging. You can “complete” Career mode on the easiest difficulty for every race with the only penalty that you may not be able to buy the cars within the game right away. From the standpoint of 360 Achievements, within 10 hours of racing I was able to get all but 7, those being 3 that deal with online play, 3 that deal with Championship mode, and 1 for driving 1,000 miles (I racked up over 500 by the time I got the last car). I think it would have been better if the game made the difficulty more of a factor towards completing Career mode, possibly by reducing the number of points for less difficult races. Still, a game that allows you to complete it by adjusting the difficulty as you see fit isn’t a bad idea, I just feel it could have been implemented better here.

Multiplayer unfortunately is rather limited, at least through Xbox Live. Likely due to reasons with network latency, you cannot compete in Race or Crossovers with others over, and are limited to Rallys and Hill Climbs. When you join a room (either with ranked or public matches), the game randomly present a selection of map/car combinations and lets everyone vote on one, though in public matches you are able to set the match more specifically. What’s very odd is that the game does not appear to support voice chat; there is a text chat area for the match, but certainly it’s too awkward to use it while racing and with only about 2 minutes between matches, it’s not really convenient to use without a real keyboard. It feels that, compared to what Forza Motorsport 2 has for online events, DiRT really misses the ball.

Value/Replayability: B+

Given the lack of good multiplayer support and the lack of challenge in the career mode, this game could definitely be fully enjoyed as a rental; as noted, I completed Career mode and many of the achievements within 10 hours of playing. However, it is important to acknowledge the large number of tracks that are contained within the game that avoid making the Career mode too stale.

Graphics: A

DiRT is very pretty to look at. There are a few problems: the bloom is used a bit too much, it’s possible to have parts of the track appear ahead of you as the track loads from disk, and when there’s a lot of cars on the road, there is notable drawing delays. However, outside of these, the course feel natural and organic when they should, or as manmade pathways following the curves of the land in others. Shadows and light do play a big part (maybe where having as much bloom as they use is a good thing) as parts of the track can be hidden in shadow. In many cases, it does feel like one is racing along the edge of a large cliff or dropoff, and thus makes the driving feel precarious at times. Besides usual camera views, one can also get inside these cars with all the netting and framework support in the way, which can be both disorienting and more difficult to use, but provides a great experience; unfortunately, you can’t save replays to watch from this mode later. A special note also must go to the menus and loading screens. The menu screens are based on floating panels in 3D space; selecting a race will zip you to the next panel for your selection, and so forth. As the game loads a race, you’re also given a random sampling of stats to watch, also presented in the same fashion. As a menu system, it works very well for this type of game and definitely deserves some merit.

Sound: B

As with Forza 2, there’s no sound during the race, but unlike that, the menu music is ok but nothing memorable. Engine sounds are ok but most of the cars sound the same, unlike the variation one gets with Forza. The voicing for your navigator in Rally races is pretty good but it would have been nice to have a few more voices for variation given the number of Rally races there are.

Overall: B+

DiRT is a pretty good, straightforward racing game but has a few general design problems that makes it a good, but not great. Single player mode is lacking a good set of challenges for full completion and can be nearly fully completed as a rental, and the multiplayer mode is definitely lackluster. However, the game does a great job of providing a variety of tracks and terrains to drive on and a visually appealing experience for it. A few more tweaks in the general approach of this game will really make it a standout title.

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5 Responses

  1. love this game

  2. Various of people blog about this matter but you wrote down some true words.

  3. the core of dirt is rally racing. Not motocross. If it was based off of motocross, there would be jumps and stuff. It is rally racing that it is based off of.

  4. OK

  5. Now they need to make a 4 Wheelin game, one sort of like grand theft auto and dirt, so you can roam around. They have to!

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