Obviously, as MotorStorm has so brilliantly demonstrated, what people want most from a racer these days is down and dirty mud-splattered action where rival cars do everything in their power - and a little more besides - to make sure they cross the finish line first. Where's the fun in racing on your own through checkpoints against the clock when PS3 can handle multiple cars smashing up scenery and each other in fierce, no-holds barred battles? Racing games need to move with the times to compete in what's already a pretty crowded market on PS3, so it's time for some filth.
This kind of thinking applies to the Colin McRae series more than any other. In the past, Colin has been able to rely on a combination of technically adept handling, accurate physics and the dour Scot's fame to shift copies. But now DIRT has had to rip up that formula, throw out the old gaming code, stuff in as many modes, cars and tracks as possible and generally start afresh. The result is a real revelation.
What impresses right away is the TOCA-rivaling number of vehicles, events and circuits. There are now over 40 officially licensed vehicles covering 12 car classes, which include rally cars (classic plus two, four and rear wheel-drive varieties), super buggies, pro 4 trucks, European off-road SUVs and heavyweight 850bhp cars. A range of individually tailored events include rally raid, rally cross, crossover, hill climbs and Championship Off-Road Racing.
The latter is the pick of the events, offering ten-vehicle dirt track races (as opposed to the usual six-man fields in other events) where circuits are littered with moguls (mounds of dirt that increase as vehicles follow the same route), jumps and bowel-loosening drop-offs. Since a handful of cars will still be side by side by the time the first corner is reached, rival drivers are intelligent enough to either get on the inside or stay out of trouble by using the full width of the track. During more technical events such as rally raid, they won't be quite so aggressive.