DIRT Impressions

We get our first look at Codemasters' off-road answer to Race Driver.

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In Europe, Codemasters' Colin McRae Rally series has been enjoying both critical and commercial success since it debuted on the PC and the PlayStation in 1998. But it's a different story across the pond, where the titular Scottish rally-driving legend is largely unknown, and the games that carry his name, although great, rarely sell well even with budget price tags. With the sixth game in the series, DIRT (DIRT: Colin McRae Off-Road in Europe), Codemasters is looking to broaden the appeal of the series through different territorial branding and with the introduction of additional off-road racing disciplines from North America. We got our first look at the Xbox 360 version of DIRT during a recent meeting with Codemasters, and we're pleased to report that it's looking very promising indeed.

The vehicles used in the CORR series are quite different to those you've driven in previous McRae games.

Previous games in the Colin McRae series have focused solely on point-to-point rally racing, in which winners are decided simply by comparing times. DIRT, on the other hand, will introduce a number of more fiercely competitive events to the mix, including rally raid, rally cross, crossover, hill climb, and CORR (Championship Off-Road Racing) competitions. Different off-road disciplines are contested on different types of courses, and DIRT will feature no fewer than 55 different tracks on which to test your off-road driving skills. Each and every one of them will be based on a real-world location, and a number of them are officially licensed re-creations of tracks currently hosting off-road competitions. Licensed tracks that have been confirmed for inclusion in DIRT to date include California's Chula Vista Raceway, England's Croft Circuit, and France's Circuit de Ducs, among others. But perhaps the most exciting is Colorado's Pikes Peak, where you'll be able to attempt the 20 kilometer International Hill Climb event that's affectionately known as The Race to the Clouds.

In keeping with the number of off-road disciplines in the game, DIRT will also feature more licensed cars than any of its predecessors--more than 45 of them, in fact. Divided up into 12 distinct classes and categories, the game's garage will include super buggies, pro 4 trucks, and a plethora of rally cars that includes everything from such classic favorites as the '70s Lancia Stratos to Colin McRae's new all-wheel drive R4 prototype. Further authenticity will come courtesy of more than 180 classic and current liveries, including those used by McRae and the American favorite Travis Pastrana at the 2006 Summer X Games. Every vehicle in the game will also purportedly offer unique and realistic handling. After witnessing more than a few spectacular crashes during our demo, we can vouch for the fact that they sustain damage that's at least as realistic as anything that we've seen previously. Damage in DIRT will invariably have an adverse effect on your vehicle's handling, and if you crash once too often or manage to wrap your car around a tree (yes, that will be possible), your race may end prematurely. We're told that even the detailed car interiors will deteriorate quite noticeably after collisions, but we didn't get to see any busted speedometers for ourselves on this occasion.

Because DIRT is being developed by the same studio responsible for the Race Driver series, it came as no surprise to us that the opponents on the track appeared to be driving realistically and, at times, aggressively. We never witnessed more than six cars racing simultaneously, but the competition was so fierce that we were still afforded plenty of opportunities to witness the vehicle damage model in full effect (light scratches and mud buildup at first, smashed glass and crumpled bodywork later) and to notice how significant a role environment objects played on occasion. Every object in DIRT's environments has its own physics, and if you ever find the time to take in the scenery (perhaps during a slow-motion replay), you'll notice that flags, foliage, and even exhaust smoke react to simulated wind systems. But how your vehicle will react to collisions with different objects is more relevant to gameplay. We can report that even small, seemingly innocuous rocks and half-buried tires can prove devastating if you hit them at the wrong speed and in the wrong vehicle. However, flimsier items, such as advertising boards, young trees, and road signs, will generally come off worse if you decide to hit them.

There's no doubting that DIRT will offer plenty of realism, but the game's design--right down to its slick, animated menus--also appears to place an emphasis on accessibility. You'll find that no fewer than five difficulty settings are available, and when playing through the lengthy career mode, you'll have the option to change the difficulty level at any time. The more experienced rally drivers among you might choose to tinker with more than 30 separate tuning options for your car before driving it competitively, while those of you who are intimidated by such phrases as "gear ratios" and "damper settings" will have the option to bypass that process completely. Your "rally mentor" will offer advice as you progress through the game, with Colin McRae reprising his role in the European version and Travis Pastrana providing voice work for the North America version.

Head-to-head races promise to be a little more exciting than the traditional point-to-point rallies.

DIRT's career mode comprises some 66 events, and each of those events comprises up to seven races. The events are arranged in a pyramidlike formation, which has been designed in such a way that it gives you the freedom to choose the route you want to take (that is, which events you want to compete in) to the final championship. Other modes of play will include short and long versions of championships from around the world, time trials, single races and events, and what appears to be somewhat limited online multiplayer support. Rather than let you go head-to-head with other players, DIRT will employ a lobby system that pits groups of up to 100 players against each other simply by comparing their times in hill climb and rally events. You'll be able to see how your current time stacks up against the competition every time you pass through a checkpoint, but while that sounds like fun, it's hardly a substitute for being able to slam opponents into trees or T-bone them on crossover tracks.

The work-in-progress version of DIRT that we saw showed off the graphical prowess of Codemasters' new Neon engine to great effect, with huge draw distances and impressive lighting effects being among the most memorable of its features. The highly detailed car models were also very impressive, although the only time we were ever really able to fully appreciate them was when we were treated to slow-motion replays. We rarely noticed any drops in the frame rate during the demo and were assured that the finished game will be locked at 50 frames per second. And, for those of you who prefer not to drive using an analog stick or a directional pad, we're told that force-feedback steering wheels will be supported. We look forward to bringing you more information on DIRT as soon as it becomes available.

Discussion

228 comments
DarthMatoro
DarthMatoro

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

elguino3
elguino3

hopefully it uses the sixaxis controller like motorstorm

elguino3
elguino3

this looks exactly like motorstorm

Tombackman_5
Tombackman_5

The demo on 360 was sick as hell. The physics work well and the graphics were on par with motorstorm.

DuMichAuch64
DuMichAuch64

Can`t wait for this, the demo was great. For the multiplayer I think it will be even more fun.

ea_goodandy
ea_goodandy

Um...Colin McRae came out before MotorStorm...right? Been out for how many years? Since like 1998 or something? I mean, come on, Mr. PS3 fanboy. Get your stuff right, man.

Buffalo_Soulja
Buffalo_Soulja

Does this game have anything in common with previous Colin McRae titles, or has it been dumbed down for North American accessibility?

KaotixGTX
KaotixGTX

Motorstorm is arcade. DiRT is sim. How many of you idiots am I going to have to tell this? There's a complete difference between the two. God forbid a game looks remotely like something else. If it does then it's automatically a ripoff. And boohoo, no multiplayer. Get over it.

PS3Compass
PS3Compass

I doubt it'll be as good as Motorstorm.

knut-am
knut-am

no proper online multiplayer on this game seem to me to be the ultimate nightmare. i dont want to look at other peoples race times, i want to race WITH them. what a flop... its a shame i cant wait for it to drop in my mail box. im embarrest

rstankos
rstankos

Gimme, gimme.... I love racing games, and dirt always adds a different feel. (I gotta get a wheel....)

HotTopFade
HotTopFade

Another developer drops the ball with multiplayer and online functions. Throw it with the rest of the rentals.

koHd
koHd

No multiplayer = not worth a full price game in this day and age. I was excited about the first rally game on the 360 but it really needs to take a leaf out of PGR3's book. In particular the online career.

km1498
km1498

looks like its going to be a great game, definitly getting it.

rokkuman09
rokkuman09

Although I don't really like racing games.. so I can't really say if it looks fun or not... It certainly looks pretty, those are nice graphics.

bebbyi
bebbyi

i just saw it! Is greaat.. i love my PS3,.. although i think is a little bit too expensive! In romania (im from romania) is almost 600euro (i took the cheapest i could find from www.mediadot.ro - for ppl who wants more) the problem is with the GAMEEES!! where am i suppose to find them??

Gabinas
Gabinas

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Romayo83
Romayo83

Motorstorm will still blow this game away once its released. DIRT looks pretty tame as we have seen this racing genre played over and over...Wheres the wild tracks, jumps and collisions? Nope not for me.

Chirico_Cuvie
Chirico_Cuvie

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Spartan8907
Spartan8907

If the damage models are how they say they are, then I love this game already.

stewiegriffin20
stewiegriffin20

javascript:void(window.open('http://media.ps3.ign.com/media/826/826337/vid_1950717.html','ign_playlist_player','width=998,height=726,scrollbars=yes,toolbar=no,location=no,resizable=yes')) Check out this link, this is going to be an amazing game, incredible phisics engine, current but not groundbreaking graphics, never bought a collin mcrae game but im definety looking forward to this one.

mhsdrake
mhsdrake

No multiplayer!!! Sorry, not buying it! How can you possibly realease a car racing game without multiplayer!? First Motorstorm now this, unbelievable. No excuses here, no multiplayer is pathetic.

Lord_Daemon
Lord_Daemon

I'm a big fan of the Colin McRae series but this looks to be very interesting. I'm not really sure how much I'll enjoy the diverse disciplines offered up but I'm curious for anything different. I never play racing games on multiplayer so the lack of that option isn't anything that concerns me at all.

sargentpsgamer
sargentpsgamer

Um no multyplayer? Sounds to me like the game will lack as many feuters that motorstorm lacked. Looks like motorstorm was a good buy after all, woo you scared me i thought i wasted 60 bucks on it.

kingeric420
kingeric420

I want multiplayer,WTF! I'm not wasting my money even if it looks a sweet as it does. I'm extremely dissapointed. I'm sure they would sell a lot more copies if they had a decent multiplayer.

ulvemann
ulvemann

hmmm maybe a snap drive to the shop to get a ps3 dosnt sound like a bad idea :D very nice games comming out here.

Teh_Hace
Teh_Hace

Hey Bulletlagsucks, this is for PS3 too. So if it IS better, thats still good for us. Still feeling smart 'Microsoft Fanboy #524323'?

Riverwolf007
Riverwolf007

Time Trials online? No head to head? Say it ain't so.

NND1
NND1

That Video Trailor iz RADDD!!!! 360

Bulletlagsucks
Bulletlagsucks

i hope this is better than motorstorm. stupid ps3 will die

ToyotaF1
ToyotaF1

Motor storm is more of a fun game,, this one is a Simulator. I like simulators :)

stuarthanley
stuarthanley

Still no multiplayer. Game will be good but this will let it down. Bring on Rallisport Challenge 3 (or at least make RC2 bc!!!!)

DanC1989
DanC1989

Why do people compare this to Motorstorm? They're two hugely different games. :|

daniel665
daniel665

This and forza 2 means that im gonna be in racing heaven. NAME TAG DANI1999 SEE YOU THERE IM GONNA BE TRICKING OUT SOME SWEET RIDES FOR FORZA GOT A FEW VINYLS ALREADY WORKED OUT.

daniel665
daniel665

Man motor storm hasn't been out more tham 3 months and its all ready been out classed. gonna buy this for my 360 as ive wanted a real next gen off roade rfor a while. I would feel sorry for sony if they were not trying to rip the british public off with a down graded machine, much higher price tag and no note worthy games(resitance games are two a penny.. call of duty 3, vegas, graw2 and it is not in the same league as the halos, halflifes and gears of this world)

stevenk4k5
stevenk4k5

It is not a copy of Motorstorm. Motorstorm is more arcade-ish while this seems to be a sim. Also, Motorstorms graphics look quite a bit better than this.

leo4578
leo4578

HEY there is not even a gameplay video, so HOW is it superior to motorstorm if we havent seen any gameplay yet?

leo4578
leo4578

This game hasn't come out yet, and people are already comparing it to motorstorm, wait for it to come out an then we will agree which is better., plus motorstorm is arcade racer, not a simulation like DiRt

bam11bam
bam11bam

im gonna enjoy this much more than motorstorm,even if the graphics are better on motorstorm.............i prefer a simulator that an arcade racer anyday Forza > Burnout DiRT > Motorstorm

nickzot
nickzot

Блин одни американы, ктонидь по русски понимает?

s1lent-assasin
s1lent-assasin

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

s1lent-assasin
s1lent-assasin

the video is so cool i cant wait for the in game trailer comes out. i hope they make the Chula Vista speedway just like the real one.

louis37
louis37

Motorstorm is nothing compared to this. at least codemasters had some experience before making this one.. so expect a 5x better game than motorstorm. and to say the truth, when i first played motorstorm, it didn't make me say: wow! ps3 graphics! as i expected, cause it's a lot more different from that pre-rendered trailer...

andyoliver
andyoliver

MotorStorm has abit of Competition!! This looks very Sweet!!!

SoulKillah
SoulKillah

It kinda looks like motorstorm:?

Ackad
Ackad

Sounds like mock of MotorStorm Dont ya think? Dee Dee Dee!!

jello44
jello44

Game looks amazing, although I hope Codemasters also puts together a Rally game like the original Colin Mcrae series.