Dirt 3 Final Hands-On Preview

We get back into the mud for a look at a very near-final version of Codemasters' upcoming off-road racer.

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Dirt 3 wastes no time in making the point that rallying is back. While it was present in Dirt 2, the extreme sports aesthetic and overall feel made it seem slightly out of place--but in Dirt 3, point-to-point races in classic rally cars are front and center.

The first thing you notice when starting the game is that the paddock and RV from the previous game are gone, along with all the product placement and extreme sports lifestyle gubbins. Your pre-race car selection is now set up as a team selection but can be done on an ad hoc basis, with the vehicles determined by your reputation rather than by your ability to afford them. Once you've picked your team and car, you find yourself in the "service area" near the start of the race, where you can tweak individual car settings, as well as the difficulty level of your opponents, the number of available flashbacks, and the driving assists.

To begin with, you're presented with two classic rally stages in Finland, which do a good job of setting the scene for the game. Despite the trimming of the fat that got between you and races in Dirt 2, it will feel instantly familiar for fans of the series. The two stages you hit first are challenging but not punishing: relatively open bends and small jumps that help to ease you into the driver's seat. The choices of a Peugeot 207 and Abarth Grande Punto are hardly the most thrilling, but they're good little rally cars that are fun to throw around the track.

Careful that snow doesn't get in your eyes…

Your co-driver is as useful as ever, giving you information on upcoming track conditions and direction changes. One neat change is that each team gives you an additional challenge for each race you enter, with varying numbers of extra reputation points for completing them. These could be as simple as finishing a race with a clear second lead, beating a certain lap time, or even crossing the finish line over a certain speed.

After the rally stages in Finland, we were thrown halfway around the world to the Michigan Smelter. This grey, industrial wasteland is the venue for the very opposite ends of Dirt's competitive spectrum--the Rally Cross event. After being tossed into either an Impreza or Lancer, you blitz around a track with other racers, which is a nice change from the straight-up rally action for those looking for a more varied experience.

After that, we got thrown right back into the rallying again, with a couple of spectacular stages in Kenya in some decidedly more old-school ralliers: an Opel Kadett GT and Fiat 131. The sandy, gravelly track was a nice change from the mud of Finland, and the contrast between the lush forest and the sun-bleached desert couldn't have been more extreme. After that, it was time to check out one of Dirt 3's new events, the Head2Head. This was in Michigan and was a hybrid of track and point-to-point racing. It was a multistage track that you race over at the same time as a single competitor, but the track design ensures you never meet. Your co-driver is in the car with you giving directions and lending a more traditional feel to the event than the rallycross races, and it proved to be a fun intermediate point between rallying and rallycross.

Some of the head-to-head courses are tight and hectic.

Later in the first season, we got a chance to see some the game's party tricks with the addition of some fairly extreme weather. Snow features quite heavily, both on the ground and flying through the air as you race in many of the events. Old favourite events such as Land Rush also made an appearance, along with the newer drift events, making Dirt 3 a satisfying mix of the old and the new.

The climax to the first year was one of Dirt 3's flagship new features: gymkhana. Though it started with some simple smashing, this quickly escalated into full-on jumping, donutting mayhem. While difficult at first, it became satisfying and fun as we learned to do all manner of deeply unnatural things with the vehicles. Thankfully, it never felt like the game's general sim ethos was being lost, at least during our brief look.

Dirt 3 looks to be packed full of features both on the disc and to come--the ability to upload your replays directly to YouTube via the flashback menus could be a winner, and the plethora of online features have us really excited to see how it all comes together. The changes to the game look to be generally positive--the replacement of the RV with a sleeker, geometric menu system looks to be a great improvement, and the refocusing of the game on the racing was a welcome return to the series' roots.

Stay tuned to GameSpot as the game's release approaches later this month; we'll have a review up as soon as we can.

Discussion

67 comments
dinodude13
dinodude13

like it(love it@!!!!!!) im gonna get it and um i was thinkin which game should i get next ? nfs hot pursuit or nfs shift 2 comment and vote for which game i should get nxt!

simon1812
simon1812

so there isnt a "review"? and it is bearing the 9.0 score already? is it really that good?

diminic555
diminic555

This game is awasme!!! i've got the X360 and dying to download it... can't w8!!! but this rally is jus great-actually like really!!! ;)

x-boy360
x-boy360

it is just an arcade game!

GpVon
GpVon

I've been playing and greatly enjoying the CMR series for years and while Dirt has gotten a good bit away from those i am hoping the rallying in this is a step back to the old Colin McRae stuff.Really looking for ward to this and wishing for a demo ahead of release.Always worries me when they don't release a demo.

eliebaz
eliebaz

im no fan of rally, although this games looks great though i don't see it finding its way to my game shelf.

iceboy8
iceboy8

@warhawk-geeby I had a PS3 but decided to get rid of it. I play NTG2011 everyday and i know it has its problems but at least i am online.

itchyflop
itchyflop

@King_Designs wow yeah that was a crackin ps1 title, like micro maniacs !!! to be fair thats good point its a a good reason to buy it then ! i enjoyed the first one quite a bit.

Dominicobaggio
Dominicobaggio

I was really looking forward to this but its looking so arcade. Why are all the preview vids from outside the car it looks horrendous lol. Who drives a car hovering a few feet behind? Anyone knows if there are any good clips from bonnet camp or anything. Going a bit cold on this one so far... Someone save me lol

siarhei
siarhei

Sounds great! So many good racing games this year!

King_Designs
King_Designs

@itchyflop Something like Rapid Racer from the Ps1 would be a good game to play thats for sure (i know its not codemasters) but still, anyways, havent ever purchased a Dirt game (I've played them either demo or at a friends) but i am looking forward for this installment for some reason, would be nice if they did a demo, i doubt they will though.

itchyflop
itchyflop

i dont think this is a bad series, however another installment wasnt the answer maybe speed boating or a change in direction may work at codemasters ???

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

@iceboy8 I don't think anyone can technically play GT5 online what with PSN being down :p

snake289
snake289

This game honestly deserves more hype, I think Codemasters hyped up that horrible new Operation Flashpoint more.

Johny_47
Johny_47

@digi-demon Definite and Fattest yes =P I love Dirt 2, it was a bit repetitive with the lack of real 'old school' raly events but it's so fun and feels great to play, all the cars handle different because of the great handling physics and the damage physics were great too, graphics are some of the best in a racing game. I'm looking forward to Dirt 3, but I'm honestly more of a PC gamer so hope it comes to PC soon after console release just like with Dirt 2.

wiibhoy
wiibhoy

dirt 1 was excellent its the only game I have received all 50 achievements and still love playing for hours. dirt 2 was disappointing I could only play it long enough to receive 6 achievements. dirt 3 looks like its keeping the same style as dirt 2, gona be disappointed.

s_emi_xxxxx
s_emi_xxxxx

Tanner Foust as soon as I get my hands on this game.. you're going down noob!

Biklak
Biklak

DiRT2 is still a great game, looks absolutely amazing, the cars drive is spectacular specially with a ffb wheel, and bonnet or copckpit view, the online mode is a blast. DiRT3 seems to improve everything, very realistic car physics and great rallys for hard core fans and they also created a lot of fun stuff and new online modes, cant wait tbh

iceboy8
iceboy8

You say GT5 is better...not lol. Look whos playing online. nough said

oneofthefall
oneofthefall

Dirt 2 was good, just hated those Rally X events and preferred the timed stages, especially when you saw the A.I retire in the timed events that was a cool touch!

Zero_Kull
Zero_Kull

lol, the Rally section of GT5 looks way much better then this piece of s***

digi-demon
digi-demon

Looks cool :D Was / is Dirt2 worth getting as have only ever played the 1st?.

Dam505
Dam505

Will have to get this game never played the other DiRT1 or DiRT2 the game cant wait try some groupb rally cars

vasgko2
vasgko2

Dirt 2 had awesome graphics and very good ffb (after the patch of course...). hope the new one is as smooth as that. I don't need another major disappointment like Shift 2's graphics department...

2prize
2prize

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Kaeban
Kaeban

it looks..... epic!

PC-RUL3S
PC-RUL3S

I've had some trouble pre-ordering the PC retail version of this game in the UK none of my normal etailers have it.

Ejhutch15
Ejhutch15

When i get my PS3 this well get picked up!

zidan4000
zidan4000

omg , the game will be released in less than 3 weeks, i remember getting platinum for dirt 2 like yesterday , man !! time goes by too fast that it is scary. i don't think that i will be buying this one though , not now at least, i am saving my cash for the duke and alice.

survivor9712
survivor9712

somebody please let me know how the physics are in this game .

shansss123
shansss123

lookin forward to buying it for my pc.

Pete5506
Pete5506

More money I will have to spend this month

kookanut123
kookanut123

Looks interesting, I might buy it to see how its game play is. Any one know if this series is any good? Never played one of these games before, but as I said before I would like to test it out.

The-Freck
The-Freck

pretty boring series, no where near a sim.

dark_surge
dark_surge

Have you tried playing with a wheel in Dirt 3 yet? They said they were going to improve the control with wheels and I was just wondering if it was true. :)

Shadow4020
Shadow4020

Looks interesting, but I haven't played the 2nd yet. Is it still worth getting?

gpuFX16
gpuFX16

Looking forward to this one. Glad more focus is being put into traditional rallying and I can't wait to play in the snow stages. I also want to see the visuals- Dirt 2 looked super-good and crisp (loved the detailed in-car views- you could see the driver really working the pedals and gear lever). Dirt 3 should look amazing.

ohjtbehaaave
ohjtbehaaave

Of all the so called "Sim Racers"... Dirt is the best imo. Forza and GT are sort of boring... while Dirt stays exciting and fun even though the driving is mostly a sim style game.

Dragonsingh3000
Dragonsingh3000

i dont know why, but im just not that fussed about this game anymore, i still play the 1st Dirt game.

Askanishkillo
Askanishkillo

Can't wait for this. The only thing I keep waiting on Rally games is, the effect of road position, either you get to clean the stage if you are first or get the perfect clean stage when you are 4th or 5th...

plaintomato
plaintomato

As long as Dave Mirra isn't popping gnarly baditude at during the races I'll be good. Speaking of Mirra...plenty of skateboarding this generation but whatever happened to BMX? I'd love to see a Mat Hoffman's 3 or something sometime in the past 10 flibbin' years.

jennysalala
jennysalala

Getting this day one just as I did with DiRT 2. It looks so much better too!