Dirt 3 Hands-On

We raced up to Codemasters' Racing Studio to get a first glimpse at what the developer is calling "the end" of its Dirt trilogy.

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Judged by our review scores, Codemasters' Dirt series is on a nice upward trajectory--an 8.3 score for the first game rose to a 9.0 Editors' Choice for last year's Dirt 2. The series may have lost some hardcore rally fans, thanks to the second game's obsession with the X-Games and Monster energy drinks, but in Dirt 3, Codemasters is looking to satisfy both parties. With the acquisition of the official World Rally Championship licence, rally is being brought back to the forefront, while fans of Ken Block and Travis Pastrana should be happy to find gymkhana introduced as a new discipline. We went to Codemasters' studio in the UK to find out all about the game, as well as play it for ourselves.

The team is "nine months out" now according to Clive Moody, Codemasters Racing Studio's executive producer, putting the game on course for an approximate May 2011 release date. "It's the biggest game the Racing Studio has ever embarked on," adds Matt Horsman, the studio's design manager. Horsman is referring to the fact that the game will incorporate both the original Dirt's rallying action and Dirt 2's more extreme sports bent. The result is that Codemasters is hoping to attract any and all fans of rally sport, which is reflected in the game's tagline of "Race like a pro…come play in the dirt."

Gymkhana is a brand new discipline that will appeal to fans of the more extreme side of the sport, with Codemasters aiming to bring the excitement of Ken Block's stunt videos to the new game. It's worth heading to YouTube and checking out some gymkhana videos if you haven't already. It's popular around the world, but it was really taken to the next level by Ken Block's multimillion-viewed shorts. Real-world locations, including the LA Coliseum, have made it into the game, and you'll have to career around them in as daring a manner as possible to score points. The more extreme and varied you are in your spins, jumps, and smashes, the more points you'll get as a result.

Also new to Dirt 3 is split-screen multiplayer, which Horsman and Moody acknowledge has been added to compete with the many other recent racing games that have boasted this feature. Eight-player multiplayer will also be returning, but the online features have been expanded more into the social space. For example, 30-second instant replays can be uploaded to YouTube, allowing you to showcase your virtual gymkhana runs to the world. There will also be Facebook and iPhone/iPod apps, allowing you to create clans and tournaments even while you're away from the game.

On the track front, the big new feature is diverse weather conditions that include snow, with new locations to show off the white stuff, including Norway and Aspen. There will also be other conditions, including rain, and improvements to the Ego engine mean that nighttime races are now possible. The development team has devoured racing data from Dirt 2 and found that head-to-head and land rush were the most popular disciplines from that game and will be expanded in Dirt 3 as a result. There's an abundance of new routes--100 over Dirt 2's 41, with rally tracks that are not on the official WRC roster, including Kenya. Battersea Power Station will also make a return, but it will be completely remodeled courtesy of trainer manufacturer DC Shoes--it will now be a compound with corkscrews and jumps that can be used by drivers to film epic stunt videos.

There are plenty of new cars to get excited about, too, with a mix of modern, classic, off-road, and "street cool" vehicles on offer. Ken Block's new 2011 Ford Fiesta will be a big draw for many, but other cars that were shown on our visit included the Lancia Stratos, Mini Cooper S, Suzuki Sx4 Hill Climb Special, and Audi Quattro. There was also some talk of getting the Mini Countryman into the game, although the team is currently in discussion with the manufacturer to make it happen. We learned of another interesting point from research that Codemasters has done: Despite its painstaking efforts to model each car interior accurately, only 5 percent of racers in Dirt 2 used the in-car view. Thankfully, though, Dirt 3's vehicle models look stunning, with new snow and rain buildup and external light spots for the nighttime events.

One aspect of Dirt games that many fans will be familiar with is the presentation, and once again, Racing studio wants to stay on top of the competition in this area. The new front end is early in development, but it looks stunning, with gymkhana-esque stunt cars hurtling round construction vehicles in slow motion. It's simplistic and stylish--the antithesis to Dirt 2's front end, which in hindsight Codemasters believes stalled people from getting into a race. While the front end may lean more toward Dirt 1 as a result, the soundtrack will feature 40 to 50 songs in a similar vein to Dirt 2, so expect a mix of modern rock and dance.

Dirt 3 is coming along nicely, which is good news as some of its staff members were recently seconded by the Formula One team to help finish its development. Dirt 3 is coming out on the PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 in 2011, although nothing has been confirmed for the Wii or DS at this stage. Stay tuned to GameSpot for more info as we get it.

Discussion

74 comments
rccars411
rccars411

@milhertime - nowhere in this article does it say there is an officially licensed FIA WRC game coming out.

Askanishkillo
Askanishkillo

@silentscorn with split screen the rally spirit is over, there would be no co-drivers, and when have you've seen a real rally car on a stage at the same time as another car in the same place, on regular circumstances? and 60 bucks is worth it if you like the game and if it has good graphics, phisics and sound. I don't play a lot on-line with Dirt one and two, and still play the full events over and over and over, with diferent cars and direfent car settings just for the fun of trying new things. If you don't want to buy it, then just don't buy it @spider-venom whom are you asking if they like racing games, the people that used in-car views or that didn't?

spider-venom
spider-venom

only 5% of people use in-car view? Do these people actually like racing games?

silentscorn
silentscorn

If it doesn't have 4pl split screen then I won't be buying it. The last game I bought of theirs was Colin Mcrae 2005 because it had a 4pl split screen option. If they could do it then and if both Rallisport Challenge 1 and 2 could do it, then why can't they have it now. They are making it for more powerful systems and yet they cheat us out of that option of have 4pl split screen. 60$ for a game without that option is just not worth the money for people who don't play their games online.

SuperSaltySlug
SuperSaltySlug

Looks like there will be more rally events, thats always great :D

Skargamer
Skargamer

WoW! This game looks packed and feels like it's gonna be one of the best racers yet!

IplayEA
IplayEA

This sounds really great. Dirt two was a lot of fun. Just wondering why this could be the last Dirt game when they seem to be making such great advancements from game to game.

ZedX-14Pilot
ZedX-14Pilot

Codie's done it again! These guys make some of the best racing games out there. Formula 1 and Dirt 3 will keep me happy for a long while. Thanks for another kick ass game Codie's!

Bufta
Bufta

Jeez always loved the colin mcrae games from psone right up to dirt 2 which incidentally im still playing through. The best one imo was CM4 on ps2 now that was the complete rally experience.

milhertime
milhertime

@rccars411: You should have read the text in the article, instead of just viewing the screenshots or video. An officially licensed FIA WRC game is coming out this October. Published by Deep Silver, and developed by Milestone Sudios. Here is more info: http://blog.milestone.it/

naughtygames
naughtygames

I loved Dirt 2 can't wait for this one... just hope you can skip the stupid menu system that takes forever while it swings around trying to look cool....and annoying dudes telling you "nice job in that race there"

rccars411
rccars411

Less Xgames and Monster crap would be great! Hell, a REAL Rally simulator would be great. Would greatly appreciate that stunt and xgames stuff as something being "optional" and not "mandatory" to continue in career mode.

BulletsnOctane
BulletsnOctane

Love this. The screens look phenomenal. I hope the gameplay is just as impressive.

sakshamH
sakshamH

I can not friggin wait!!!!!!!!

terror_ninja
terror_ninja

"gymkhana" LOL wtf. lets google define this... "a meet at which riders and horses display a range of skills and aptitudes" uhh "Mounted games, including bending poles, sack race, musical sacks, and a variety of other games and races." Musical Sacks? ~_o ... Screw this im gona go look up musical sacks. Oh yea, it looks good. -Edit- Musical Sacks isnt as interesting as I thought it would be... I am sad.

flexin007
flexin007

Loved both 1 and 2 so I will certainly buy 3 as well. Sounds outstanding!

anthonycg
anthonycg

This game should be great. You knew Dirt2 was gonna be cool just from looking at the freakin menu.

JuiceMcGoose
JuiceMcGoose

A number of people feel Dirt2 has the best driving dynamics. I think it is the best driving game ever made. The PS3 online is good and I think I still hold a number of top ten times but I never got my PC version to work online. They were talking like they would make a Grid2 first. Seriously looking forward to Dirt3. The people who run the Codemasters forums are nice people, as opposed to another racing game maker who first went nuts online then dropped their forum.

sensei_hEnRY
sensei_hEnRY

i guess with DiRT 3 coming, i'll forget that new WRC game. I wish they can mix the realism of Colin McRae Rally and fun from DiRT 2

Hitman650
Hitman650

I hope they don't drop the in- cockpit view; I used it throughout the whole game and it was great. The 3rd- person view is OK, but it can make driving a pain, especially at high speeds

darkhemi
darkhemi

Look great! i hope the detail damage system of the first one return ! I like to have to deal and fix damage on cars. :)

quijeros
quijeros

Well, they've got my attention. I hope they make good on the promise to satisfy us rally fans, but I like what I've read so far.

ger14
ger14

looks like a good one!! im liking the classic rally cars and stages idea :)

DragonsCrest50
DragonsCrest50

Looing forward to this, hopefully they add Mcraes Subaru Impreza as an unlockable

chechak7
chechak7

i JUST LOVE THIS GAME FTW DIRT

Dominicobaggio
Dominicobaggio

Looking forward to this and they have the Abarth fiats in there!! Sweet!! Hope its proper rally and not this gay too fast too furious ken block crap though. Its a fight between this and the new world rally game... now to see which is most realistic and most fun! Havent bought any of the dirt series yet so lets hope this one changes that for me.

jgartland
jgartland

More actual rallying (and trailblazing) is a very welcomed edition, I found all of the none rally events to be a chore in Dirt2. Disappointed that land rush is everyone's favourite mode, I don't agree with that. Also in the career there were only a handful of head to head races so I don't understand how they also came out on top. Having said that I loved GRID and both Dirt's so I'm very much anticipating this and F1 2010.

acerx7
acerx7

I was put off with the second one because of the lack of actual point-to-point rally from the last one. I hope they deliver on this one

ThAdEa82
ThAdEa82

@realguitarhero5 ...those vehicles were horrible to drive...they also tried too hard with movement and AI was atrocious. Off-roading on those maps would have been fun though

gpuFX16
gpuFX16

I'm really glad there's more rally in this next title, as I'm a big Rally fan (from the States? Impossible!). The visuals look stunning! Only 5% of people using the in-car view is very disappointing, I hope CM puts as much detail into the cockpit views as they did in Dirt 2, because they were amazing there. But the thought of blasting through the snow in an Audi Quattro has me sold already! YES!

realguitarhero5
realguitarhero5

@ThAdEa82 Operation Flashpoint ran on the same engine as Dirt 2...weird. Ironically, vehicles were a pain to drive in Dragon Rising.

ThAdEa82
ThAdEa82

Dirt 2 was fun unlike the garbage codemasters put out with Op. Flashpoint. Looking forward to F1 and Dirt3.

Pete5506
Pete5506

I am going to be looking forward to this, I had a great time with Dirt 2

seanbrandowen
seanbrandowen

looks like they have everything and the kitchen zink in this one, I think the you tube thing is great.

Infrared187
Infrared187

Really looking forward to it, but expanding Landrush? Ugh.

chtgamer
chtgamer

"the soundtrack will feature 40 to 50 songs in a similar vein to Dirt 2" Save your money, Codies. No one is really interested in those annoying soundtracks in racing games overall

basher76
basher76

Loved 1 & 2 but 3 is sounding even better. I cant wait for this to come out. Please put Mini Countryman in, that would be great!!

GlaciusXL
GlaciusXL

YES!! Rain and snow are BACK!!

DBanner126
DBanner126

...Since when is Ken Blocks Fiesta a 'big draw'. It'll probably break down every race if this game is realistic.

AverageGamer99
AverageGamer99

Looks great and should score at least an 8 by the critics. Snow is a nice touch and probably long awaited.

mrtwing2
mrtwing2

i havnt liked a codemasters game since the last colin mcrae and second sight if dirt 3 is no good codemasters go on my publishers/developers to avoid list along with atari

spankdamonky
spankdamonky

The good old days of speeding in the pitch balck night of the swedish winter are back! Thank you codemasters. Colin McRae would be proud of your work! :D