Hollywood long ago learned that if there is one thing that will draw in a crowd, it is an extremely fast car chase scene, preferably ones that are often breathtakingly illegal. The video game industry knows this as well, and while games that feature more questionable races, such as Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, Midnight Club and Project Gotham Racing, are popular with gamers, there are games that feature legitimate professional races that carry the same level of popularity, as can be seen by the steady development and sale of such series as Ridge Racer , Gran Turismo and Colin McRae’s Rally, which take the experience of a high speed professional racing one step further by placing the player in the driver’s seat. DiRT, developed by Codemasters, raises up the bar on these other titles by providing a thoroughly realistic driving experience. Buckle your seatbelts and you will soon see why.
The amazing graphical realism of the game is shown to you right off the bat and continues to meet you around every twist and turn of the course.
The graphics engine has been carefully modeled to make the off road racing experience as realistic as possible, and it does so with a power as palpable as anything you’ll find under the hood of the vehicles your racing. The game offers several different camera angles for the player to race with and by doing so gives the player a very clear glimpse of the graphical power of this game. Everything from inside the car to the outside has been carefully modeled to look and behave like a real car should. You can drive around a desert track in the hot sun, watching the light glaring off your windscreen, as your back tires send up a cloud of dust behind you as you see your opponents driving behind you in your rear view mirror (and yes, you can actually change the camera to inside the car and look through your rear view mirror. Remarkable!). The driver has also been fully rendered, which the player can see as he or she drives from a first person perspective, watching the driver’s hands turn the wheel as you steer the car, and either pumping his fist in victory or slamming hands against the wheel in defeat. Make no mistake when it comes to graphics this game is something that must be seen to be appreciated.
The physics engine is nothing to ignore either: the vehicles have been carefully constructed to act as their real world counterparts would do. When driving a 4 by 4 truck along one of the desert tracks, for instance, the player can see the sections grafted onto the steel frame of the truck slap back and forth against the sides of the vehicle as the truck is turned from side to side. Everything in the environment, except those things too solid to destroy with just one car, can be fully interacted with, including your vehicle, which will sustain damage depending on what kind of collision it becomes involved in. Slam into a low concrete barrier by the side of the track, and the vehicle’s right tire will get torn off. Get up close and personal with a tree, and your front window can shatter. These are the more dramatic uses of the physics engine and do not represent the whole workings of the game, but it is good to see such attention to detail. Also, if your vehicle becomes too heavily damaged as a result of your driving, you will be unable to continue the race: this is another example of how the importance of realism in the game has been stressed. Your vehicle cannot magically shrug off damage with nothing more than a few seconds of inactivity.
As remarkable as many facets of the game are, there is something that must be said regarding the gameplay. The game has the look of having been designed for those who are more in tune with the racing world. The game features a feature where players have the option to adjust your vehicle to better match it to the types of terrain you will be racing in. As complicated as that may seem to those less knowledgeable about the word of automobiles and automobile racing, you aren’t left on your own out there… The game does not punish you with this learning curve, as Codemasters has thoughtfully hired racer Travis Pastrana to provide narration on a variety of help topics that range from the strengths and weaknesses of the cars you will be driving, to race type, track information, and numerous other areas that will help reduce the sharpness of DiRT’s learning curve. Kudos to you, Codemasters. Also, Codemasters has included a multiplayer mode for those who wish to race online, but in all honesty, the multiplayer mode is a good deal less fun then playing in the single player mode.
In conculsion DiRT is an excellent racing title and while it may be more aimed at racing and car aficionados, it should be at least tried by anyone who enjoys the racing genre. The superior graphics, the realistic looking vehicles, the tracks, and the option to make some extremely dramatic crashes, make this game an exemplary example of the racing genre.