Dirt 2 was a great all-round off-road racing game, but it was guilty of one terrible crime; the omission of the very motorsport discipline that had gotten the franchise this far – rally. Fans were understandably up in arms over Codemasters’ ill-treatment of rally and they made themselves heard on forums and blogs. Fortunately, their complaints didn’t fall on deaf ears, and when Dirt 3 was announced, one of the first details the developers released was that 60 per cent of the career would be comprised of rally. I recently had the opportunity to take a pre-release build of Dirt 3 through its paces. It comprised of just the first season of the career mode, and it gave me the opportunity to see if Codies had kept their promise. They have. Most of the events the careers were rally, while the rest were broken up into race types that Dirt 2 players will be familiar with. These include rally cross (standard track-based races), land rush (standard races with pick-up trucks), drift events with a point system like the PGR games’ Kudos, and one-on-one events.

Get down and Dirty

Get down and Dirty

There isn’t much of an overhaul in the way the game plays. The cars still feel floaty as ever, and thanks to the twitchy controls, they drift around corners effortlessly. Gentle nudges of the analog stick and constant feathering of brake and throttle are vital for success in Dirt 3. But don’t let that intimidate you because all it takes is 15-20 minutes to come to grips with it. Speaking of grip, track surfaces now have a more pronounced effect on car handling. Driving on dirt, gravel, tarmac and snow all feel different and you’ll need to make the necessary adjustments when you move from one to the other. Codemasters’ racing games have always had the best damage models, and Dirt 3 doesn’t disappoint either. With every impact with other cars or trackside objects, dents form, panels fall off, and splinters of metal and carbon fiber fly in every direction. There’s performance damage too, but it’s far more forgiving and nowhere near as elaborate, but getting too friendly with tree trunks will end your race prematurely.

All terrain

All terrain

Let’s get back to rally though. Now, while what I saw of the career events was dominated by rally, even after playing the game, I still wasn’t sure of how deep-rooted the rally implementation really is. Yes, the stages look great and the layouts are fantastic, with lush foliage around, appropriate elevation and drops, and a healthy mix of straights and hairpins, but a lot of rally actually takes place off the course. See, rallies play out over multiple stages, which often vary in nature from each other. Switching your car’s setting between stages could prove crucial. Cars also tend to pick up damage progressively over stages and using the limited time between stages to perform repairs is also vital. But since the rally events in the career so far have only comprised of two stages each, there hasn’t been much scope to see if either of these strategic elements comes into play. That’s not to say that they haven’t been implemented. If anything, the brief intro video did allude to their inclusion, but I didn’t really have the opportunity to test it out myself. Hopefully the events later in the career will consist of multiple stages for a more fulfilling rally experience.

Flying high!

Flying high!

If you’re just looking for more of what Dirt 2 brought to the table, don’t let all the rally talk above turn you off. There’s still plenty of opportunity to partake in the several other off-road racing disciplines, both in the career and outside it. Dirt 3 also adds a split-screen multi-player mode, something more racing game devs need to implement in their games. Then of course, there’s the heavily publicized Gymkhana mode, which unfortunately, we didn’t have access to in this build. It’s a freestyle mode that rewards drifting, jumps and basically any form of stylish driving. So if you thought Dirt 2 had a great mix of off-road events, Dirt 3 is set to take things several steps further.

Dirt 3 is scheduled for release on May 24 for Xbox 360 (Rs 2,499), PS3 (Rs 2,499), PC (Rs 699).

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