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Dirt 3 Review

Like many other Americans in the early 1990’s, I was shamefully unaware of the virtues of rally racing. With the bulk of stateside television stations and magazines overlooking the sport, gaming was responsible for sparking an interest in the pastime. Titles such as Sega Rally Championship, Rally Cross, and Need for Speed: V-Rally Racing demonstrated the exhilaration of tearing through a narrow forest road or trekking up the side of a treacherous, dusty, hillside, making most other tarmac-based contests seem tedious. By the time the decade concluded, a small group of U.S. enthusiasts had emerged, coinciding with the release of the genre’s first simulation- Colin McRae Rally.
Three console generations and six iterations later, Codemasters has transformed this niche title into a formidable franchise which ranks right among contemporary racings best efforts. Accessible to both technical purists and adrenaline-junkies seeking quick gratification, Dirt 3 offers a wide swath of racing across a pathway of shifting surfaces. While staunch traditionalists may be upset about the game’s foray into other types of off-road racing (a common complaint of Dirt 2), more relaxed admirers will appreciate the title’s variety.

Jumping into the main career mode, Dirt 3 offers a four year campaign filled with a diverse selection of vehicles competitions, and year-end championships. From sending a tricked-out Ford Focus careening across the arid Kenyan landscape to directing a hulking stadium truck through snowy, serpentine circuits, the game evades the fatigue common to specialized racers.  The addition of Gymkhana, which tasks players with completing a string of drifts, spins, and stunts seamlessly complements the game’s speed-based competitions. Also new to this year’s iteration, players can even step into the driver’s seat of historic cars, which handle wildly different from contemporary vehicles. Over the years, Codemaster’s traction physics has oscillated between being loose and grippy. Here, Dirt 3 acquires a pleasing medium, with remarkably discernible surface textures. The second players hit gravel, tarmac, or a patch of the wet stuff, the game capably articles the change.

While the title has one less venue that its predecessor, an increase in the number of tracks and the ability to race at different times of the day allows Dirt 3 to feel like a much richer experience. Night races, are particularly taut, forcing players to make split-second decisions when illumination is limited to their car’s headlamps. Fortunately,  Codemaster’s dependable racing mulligan, the flashback returns, allowing players to rewind an maneuver with a press of the left trigger. Racers receive up to five of these lifesavers, though the title offers a reward for each unused flashback at the conclusion of each race.

The Dirt series’ reliance on money to purchase new cars, trucks, and liveries has been eliminating, replaced with a simplified progress points system. Beating specific  in-race goals, from achieving a designated speed, finishing under a particular time, to using certain cars all push gamers toward unlocking new content. Also abandoned is Dirt 2′s RV-based interface, replaced with a minimalist, geometric itinerary of events. Regretfully, the series’ load-screen statistics have also been deserted, in favor of using the analog sticks and triggers to adjust the viewing perspective on your vehicle.

Visually, Dirt 3‘s landscapes and vehicles are rendered with meticulous detail. Reflective surfaces and unblemished exteriors quickly become sullied with satisfying layers of mud and grime, which crashes initiate a pleasing amount of deformation. Likewise, the game’s flora and lighting are exceptionally well done- twice the splendor of a sunlight filtering through a tree limbs, induced a loss of control. Performance wise, the silky smooth framerate of the 360 version gets the edge, as the PS3 iteration succumbs to small, sporadic bits of slowdown on the busier rallycross competitions. Pre-race loading times on Sony’s system linger around the fifteen second mark, but were marginally shorter on the Xbox once the game was installed to the hard drive. Both systems require a VIP pass to unlock online (and even Youtube uploading) functionality; currently the PlayStation Store’s downtime prohibits players from accessing these features.

With a varied variety of difficulty levels and optional assists, Dirt 3 aspires to reach an audience which transcends the typical rally-simulation market. Here, franchise veterans and newcomers alike will find a gripping assortment of tense competitions and stunt challenges. While players might not revel in every single racing mode, there’s enough variety to ensure Dirt 3 doesn’t  loses any of its carefully crafted momentum.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.


  1. Ive been hearing nothing but praise for this one. It sounds fun, but honestly I don’t know if I’m in the mood for a racer.

  2. Xbot fanbot site. Every other review doesn’t mention any difference in the 2 versions. You are just lying.

    • Know why are they lying? Have you played the game?

      I’ve never got much of a hint of bias from these guys.

    • I can confirm the PS3 version does have a TINY bit of slowdown, usually around curves and only when theres more than three cars. Honestly, I think the poster made a bit of a big deal about it. It’s totally minor.

  3. great review. I wasn’t expect this to get such high scores. Giant Bomb loved it.

  4. I hear Gymkhana is like skateboarding with cars. I wish there was a demo so I could try it first.

  5. Great looking site. Tech-Gamings hit the big leagues now.

    I expect a review a day and a podcast per week.

  6. I know when I pick this up, I’ll be getting the PS3 version because it supports my steering wheel. I’d rather have a frame drop here or there than play with a regular controller.

  7. Geek Squad Killer

    Do they make you buy any DLC for the game or is it included in the game’s $10 pass thing?

  8. The Codies are racing pimps. No one can complete with their games? GT5? Don’t make me laugh…

  9. The pyramid in Dirt 1 kicked ass, as well as competed with 100 other games. I liked the way the game would put out messages saying people passed certain points in the game. I wish there was more of that in D3.

  10. Too bad that Mountain Dew drinking “yo bro shit is all over the game”. Real Rally fans dont talk like that.

  11. Just a heads up ya’ll— Steam is doing a buy Dirt 3 get Dirt 2 for free.

  12. If it wasn’t for Youtube, I would have probably never known who Ken Block was. So games and the ‘net are good for you, right Deagle? HAHAHA

  13. Can you post pics (or html) in the comments now?

    I promise no penises. Ok, maybe just one of two.

  14. So is this better than Forza?

  15. Good review. I played a bit of Dirt 2 and got hooked for a few days.

  16. that bottom screen looks totally nuts. I’m not much of a racer fan, but I’d love to try this.

  17. I’m glad to hear the physics are good. On the higher difficulty levels Dirt 1 was all over the place.

  18. thanks for the review. Man, this site looks so much better.

  19. Good review, I would have liked to see some of the quality of the YouTube video, though.

  20. good review.

    I really like the way the site looks now.

  21. I picked this up today and am really liking it. The physics graphics and sounds (you can hear people cheer for you) are all incredible. Now, I’m wondering what Codemasters games I’ve missed.

  22. Good review. I didn’t get into rally games until Rally Cross came out. At the time I thought it was a fictional sport and didn’t know it was huge in the UK.

  23. Great review as always Deagle.

  24. How much playtime is in the game? I want a racer I won’t blow through in a single weekend.

  25. Not really into racing games.

  26. There will be DL~- so far they announced Colin McRae’s car and promised more tracks.

  27. For anyone intereted in the framerates of the 360/PS3 versions. I found this on Digitial Foundry:

    “Fluctuating frame-rates are more of an issue – the reduction in controller feedback can be felt and as such precision can occasionally be lost in the heat of play. The game runs at a constant 30FPS for most of the time on both formats, with most dips in frame-rate being almost negligible on the 360 – commonly, we’re talking about a two frame drop at the very worst in most cases, whereas on the PS3 there can be a few noticeable dips. A sustained performance level is important in giving you the sensation of a consistent, reliable relationship with the controls, and in those taxing areas, it is the 360 version that has a small edge. However, it is just a slight advantage, with any performance deficit on PS3 literally lasting just for a split-second.”


  28. Just bought it this weekend. Great game.