Dirt 3 Updated Hands-On

We met up with gymkhana expert Ken Block and the Codemasters Racing Studio to see how Dirt 3 is shaping up.

While Dirt 2 was another highly praised, commercially successful racing game for Codemasters, the studio received plenty of feedback from fans about how to improve it. Tackling criticism is never an easy task, but the team is up front about how it aims to appease fans. More rally driving, more cars, and more variety in stages are the main points they are aiming to address, as well as a greater level of visual and aural fidelity. We found out about the developer's aims during a recent visit to Cardiff, Wales, and spoke to legendary driver Ken Block about gymkhana's inclusion in Dirt 3--the first time the discipline has ever appeared in a racing game.

Beat Ken Block at his own game with gymkhana runs around Battersea Power Station.

The main criticism that Codemasters faced post-Dirt 2 was that the game sacrificed rallying for other disciplines. As a result, Dirt 3's career mode will be 60 percent rallying. We got to race the Audi Sport Quattro around one of the new rally stages set in Finland and were impressed with the myriad of improvements. The physics engine is noticeably more advanced, resulting in very realistic differences between surface types. As we went around corners, the wheels touching the grass would slow down, meaning that we could use the rougher surface to tactically aid drifting. As one representative noted, the undulating dips on some of the tracks can also be used to your advantage, acting as grooves for your wheel to follow round the bend.

There are also new assists that help novice rally drivers when they're just starting out. These were turned on by default in our playtest and included stability control, corner braking, and throttle management. Once disabled, the car became more difficult to drive and more prone to spinning out, but not uncontrollably so, just adding another layer of challenge during our third and fourth run-throughs of the track. Codemasters has also chosen to keep the flashback feature of the second game, allowing you to rewind and retry any section of your run. However, the overall difficulty levels are still being tweaked at this stage, so we'll have to wait and see what levels of accessibility and simulation are catered for.

One thing's for sure--with gymkhana now included in the game, rally aficionados are going to have a serious challenge on their hands. Gymkhana is a series of stunts and jumps that are performed in quick succession, and it's a sport that has been popularised by Ken Block on YouTube. The track that we got to play on was a short section of the DC Compound, otherwise known as London's Battersea Power Station, which also appeared in Dirt 2. The compound will gradually open up as you progress through the career, but we got a short section to drive around and test our skills in.

The compound run contained six challenges that we had to try to complete as quickly as possible. Pole Dancer required us to lock the handbrake and donut around one of the pillars on the track--a tricky skill that needs a gentle finger on the accelerator and precise application of the brakes. Other drifting challenges were Trailer Thrash, Pipe Dream, and Can You Dig It, which have you balletically careering your car under trailers, through pipes, and under a digger's arm, respectively. Finally, there were Airborne and Block Buster--the former rewarding a jump with a clean landing, and the latter being about smashing all the foam blocks dotted around the track. This course took us many minutes to complete, even after numerous runs, but it's clear that gymkhana will offer hardcore players proving grounds that will separate the best from the best.

The Finnish rally stage combines grit and tarmac for a challenging but beautiful-looking race.

Developers at the studio have managed to clock a 36-second record--an impressive time that they admit will no doubt be smashed by players once the game is released. Bragging rights will also be improved by the fact that you can edit and upload gameplay clips to YouTube, meaning that Ken Block's real-world runs could very well be bettered by virtual ones.

With two-player split screen play for the first time and a new selection of party mode options for eight players online, Dirt 3 is shaping up to be a robust multiplayer package as well. The game is currently slated for a second-quarter 2011 release on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. For a more general overview of the new game and its features, be sure to check out our first hands-on preview, and keep an eye on the site for more on Dirt 3, including trailers, very soon.

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Discussion

114 comments
blackwingzero
blackwingzero

Hopefully we will be getting a demo like the last 2 dirt games got.

gp3tron
gp3tron

I only hope they bring back the great rally competitions in the same style that Dirt 1 and colin McRae 04 had...

noumansami
noumansami

man the gymkhana Roks i wish i could do this and ken block is the best

lawLiet18
lawLiet18

ILOVE DIRT 2!! I EXPECT MORE REALISM AND GREAT GRAPHICS AT DIRT 3!!

lagerfeldt1974
lagerfeldt1974

Seems Codemasters are doing everything right this time. Less silly stuff, 2 player split screen, Ken Block inspired challenges... my most wanted title for 2011 now

display
display

Love a good rally game with in car view and steering wheel and more rally stages is a good thing in my book, I heard xbox are no longer making steering wheels is this true and is there a 3rd party wheel on the horizon?

olivier_20
olivier_20

Make Dirt 3 driving real like Richard Burns Rally but with the new gen graphics !!! Even the new FIA WRC game driving is better than dirt... WRC is so great !

zedinator
zedinator

Dirt rocks.... colin mcrae also rocks.... dirt 2 is pretty good, my G27 wheel works great on it. cant wait for 3.

truevar
truevar

Dirt sucks....bring back colin mcrae realism...i hate these arcade physics of the cars with absolutely no weight to them. They just glide and turn faster then a go kart. Love the graphics but please fix the game mechanics.

M_Fabio3
M_Fabio3

I love DiRT I hope to get this one soon . Graphics looks awesome!!!

da2g
da2g

loved the first dirt - the second was a bit downgrade to me - hope this one will satisfy me!! i love wrc

DjHighC
DjHighC

@RaptorOne3 & SPBoss: The rest of the people we all know, who do not have multiple controllers, have a keyboard that can be used as a 2nd controller (although its a unfair advantage), its still possible. I agree that there should be more split screen games. Also make it easier & faster for us to network races. Without giving an advantage to racers with superior hardware set ups.

DjHighC
DjHighC

Now this is a game that would get me to invest in a 3D gaming system, but here they are, missing another golden opportunity, to promote the next gen platform, exclusive to PC's.

xxxDirtyJoexxx
xxxDirtyJoexxx

I can say for sure that this game will feature the best damage model and the best graphics in a racing game in 2011. I see a GOTY!

SPBoss
SPBoss

@RaptorOne3 most of the people I know have multiple controllers.. Blur for example works great with 4 way split-screen! Rest assured those pictures are definately from the pc version, if not then they are just bullshots

RaptorOne3
RaptorOne3

@SPBoss - Not many people have 2 controllers for PC. There aren't many games with split screen for PC either... Unfortunately I'd say, don't get your hopes up. On the bright side, this game looks absolutely spectacular. Codemasters, keep up the great work guys!

Cillerboy
Cillerboy

wow the graphics look amazing

SPBoss
SPBoss

It better be split-screen on the pc version.. I have no idea why some developers put split screen on the consoles and strip it out on the pc version for no apparent reason. For example the COD series does this, its not like pc gamers don't have controllers

CamRaiD
CamRaiD

hopefully it works well in stereo 3d.... Racing in 2d is fail

Mr_Ditters
Mr_Ditters

This game is worth getting just to be amazed at the graphics.

maxruchira
maxruchira

ya ya this game is very awesome game I like that.................

Psil0X
Psil0X

I'm getting this game, love the first two.

ecw1983
ecw1983

@dirtyolddog Well said brother but remember most of the PC versions of games have a lot more graphical bells and whistles than the console (Eg Far Cry 2, its almost like a different game) even compare Dirt 2 with all the settings turn up with the console version... HUGE DIFFERENCE I do agree with you though as far as Crysis 2 is concerned, the only reason its based in New York and not the Jungle is because consoles can not handle the compete with the power of the PC Gaming devs and puiblishers do take the PC seriously since they dont have to pay Sony and MS the 10% profit they make of the game and pay crazy money for advertising , PC game hardware manufacters actually pay the devs for advertising and performace increases in the game.

CyberNet73
CyberNet73

Excelente!!! a la espera de este maravilloso juego wow

ndangel14
ndangel14

COOL!!!~ NicE graphiczZZZZZZZZ i really Like DIRT

Bloghead
Bloghead

def, buyin this ..can't wait!

Dirtyolddog
Dirtyolddog

I loved Dirt, I like Dirt2. I think because I'm a pc gamer (that has spent more money on Ram than it would cost to buy both ps3 and xbox360 together) and not a console player, that I demand more from the developers than they are willing to give.Consoles have ruined gaming.One of my biggest beefs is free roaming. in the days before consoles you didn’t hit some invisible wall and warp back to the track, you had to find the best way back yourself.You didn’t get to basically have the race handed to you. It kinda reminds me of the special Olympics.I think it’s a sad state of affairs that games are built around consoles and as an afterthought they make it work on pc. I just wish for once they would remember who put them on the map and make a great game for pc only. Dirt 3 would be a good place to start. They do it all the time for the consoles so why not for the pc? For me all they would need to do is make the cars more adjustable (and not just the colour), bring back free roaming and maybe put a few Easter eggs out there. Also how about the ability to customise the audio and video and fine tune both? I have high end video cards and it would be nice to be able to use them to their best ability.Are consoles even at Pentium 3 levels yet? SD Ram? How about video performance? Rage 3d?. I’m not saying they don’t have the need to pander to the dregs of the gaming community, but they aught to keep the rest of us happy as well. nuff said

tmnbhat
tmnbhat

Split-screen ........AWESOME

codename-60091
codename-60091

Make sure u dont create it like F1 or arent buying it!!! MAKE IT CRASH AND MAKE NO RESETS!!

aimandshot
aimandshot

Finland track and old rally cars brings me memories of the old Collin McRae game. Thanks Codemaster.

curlymauler
curlymauler

remove ken block crap an give us colin back game is on a big downward slope an may never return looks pretty but no simulation

Antillio
Antillio

Not really a race fan usually play burnout if at all but this looks very very nice.

Goku375
Goku375

i m looking forward for this game with certain modifications like customize cars and also a split screen will give a good response

Ghost786
Ghost786

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

benboz
benboz

I'm looking forward to dirt 3.

DeathProofDelta
DeathProofDelta

Dirt 2 was awesome, im glad they put in 2 player split screen cus that was defo missing from the last 1.

bqra
bqra

i'm waiting this game.

eSalveson
eSalveson

dirt 2 was cool. maybe this one will be.

No_Signal
No_Signal

Wow the screenshots and the trailer looks awesome I can't wait to try it on my PC :)

mijohnsmith
mijohnsmith

go codemaster keep it up it's a good game

mijohnsmith
mijohnsmith

go codemaster keep it up it's a good game

prakhar1290
prakhar1290

Well done Codemasters, we liked DiRT 2 a lot and now DiRT 3, I CAN'T SLEEP anymore of excitement