DiRT 3: Super Review

  • Superlative quality racing game
  • Offline splitscreen is brilliant
  • Fiendishly addictive score challenges
  • Grittier, muddier look is less fun
  • Menu screens are a bit drab
  • Rivals' in-game chatter sorely missed

Codemasters make the best racing games. Fact. The reasons for this are simple: Its EGO engine is the best racing engine out there, providing the best graphics, the best crashes and the best manipulation of time. But more importantly, Codemasters understands the concept of the word 'race'. DiRT 3 takes that essence of competition, distils it and rubs it liberally into your console's aging circuitry, lighting it up with new excitement and adrenaline. Offline is as exciting as online racing - it is superb.

How is this accomplished? The impeccable car handling, the cleverly designed tracks, the undulating terrain that leaves you breathlessly clinging to something resembling control - everything comes together as a whole to create a frighteningly intense experience. It's akin to a festival mosh pit: a blur of knocks, mud and noise. You're walking a perfectly-strung tightrope as you throw the car into corners, deliberately wiping out the feeble tape barrier as you hunt for the real apex that lies beyond.

Cut it too fine and you'll clip a tyre wall, sending individually-rendered tyres flying into the sky along with your shattered vehicle. Fully-licensed bodywork warps and rips apart, sending familiar brand names flying through the air, catching the light from the sunset as they spin through the sky. GT5 isn't even in the same league as this – if DiRT 3 is the digital incarnation of the real-life X Games, GT5 is the 20p-a-go kiddy cart ring over by the hotdog stand.

Above: A screenshot taken while the game was being played. Nothing comes close to the EGO engine 


Very flash

Nowhere is this more obvious than during Codies' trademark ‘flashback’ feature, allowing you to rewind time at any point in the race before resuming at any point, turning spectacular wrecks into spectacularly well-taken corners. The game doesn’t even punish you too much for doing this - you’ll simply lose a little XP bonus at the end of the race. In case you haven’t seen it, let’s have an example of its brilliance in action:

The amazing thing is, these slow motion wrecks stand up to close scrutiny. Look carefully and you’ll see bodywork warping realistically as wheels clash with door panels, bending further with repeated impacts. And then there’s the snow drift flattening...

This detail even has an effect on gameplay, as tyres that appear to have survived more slight impacts wear down over time before giving up the ghost at the most inopportune moments, forcing you to drive defensively for the rest of the race, trying to preserve the place you hold instead of striving to advance up the order.

Above: Please note the brightness of these night race screens has been boosted for clarity's sake

It doesn't just happen to you, either - the AI cars can suffer blowouts too, often causing them to lose control and flip right in front of you. Look again at the pictures above and you'll see that's exactly what happened here.

More Info

Release date: May 24 2011 - PC, Xbox 360, PS3 (US)
May 24 2011 - PC, Xbox 360, PS3 (UK)
Available Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Genre: Racing
Published by: Codemasters
Developed by: Codemasters
Franchise: Colin McRae
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Lyrics
PEGI Rating:


  • AbhayS - May 24, 2012 3:26 a.m.

    DiRT 3 was proof that this series has grown up and has established a true sense of identity for itself. While a few features such as gymkhana aren't really up to par, overall this is probably the best mass appeal rally game there is. Looking forward to Dirt Showdown and i've already pre-ordered my copy on the XBOX from here ;)
  • Spybreak8 - May 29, 2011 6:14 p.m.

    I've got Microsoft's Wireless Racing Wheel and the feedback is pretty strong but I don't know.
  • darkpigraph - May 26, 2011 8:13 a.m.

    Been loving it so far, even the gymkhana which i thought i'd hate because i routinely suck at things like drift trials etc. But i was wondering, does anyone else find the force feedback to be a little bit iffy in this? As in it doesn't fight back at times when you really expect it to eg when you're countersteering for a slide - i use a driving force pro and base my expectations around playing Dirt 2 and GT5, and even with wheel weight and FF set to 100%, it doesn't quite have the violence you'd expect - i'm asking because maybe it's a problem with my setup, for instance the power cable sometimes pulls out by accident, but this is not the case here, because FF is there, just not very pronounced.
  • Spybreak8 - May 26, 2011 1:42 a.m.

    The plethora, already, of youtube videos from this game is astounding.
  • hester2 - May 25, 2011 2:34 a.m.

    You know a game is amazing when my only complaint is the loading times. You know what would make it even better? If it were Grid 2. Seriously, where is that game? Is it even going to happen? My only issue with this review was the statement that Codemasters makes the best racing games. I'd say they make the best sim or pretend-sim game (it depends on the assists you're using). In terms of fun factor, though, I'd say Criterion has them beat. I still haven't found a racer I enjoyed as much as Burnout Paradise.
  • Imgema - May 24, 2011 12:38 p.m.

    @Grim08 ...yeahh except that i hated the "festival" style for the menus. It was slow and after the 10th time you had to change a race it was boring and tiresom. Also, i hate that, for America, everything has to be like a big circus or kid's show. I'd rather have more stylish, professional, serious looking menus like WRC 4 on PS2, these were awesome.
  • hanktherapper - May 23, 2011 12:15 a.m.

    I'm going to admit the only reason I bought Dirt 2 was because it had tracks in Southern Utah. After a frustrating few hours getting used to off road racing, I quickly became addicted and played the game for three weeks when I was on medical leave last year. The only thing I hated was racing with the trucks. I'm really looking forward to this game and didn't know it was coming out so soon.
  • CharlieFockstrot - May 22, 2011 7:07 p.m.

    Personally, I found it embarrassing being called by name in Dirt 2, I changed it to a stupid nickname. Maybe it's just me but I found it patronising and insincere, if I was 8 years old I probably would have thought it was 'cool'.
  • AuthorityFigure - May 21, 2011 2:28 p.m.

    This series of games just keeps getting better. Codemasters are terrific at this stuff.
  • GR_JustinTowell - May 21, 2011 12:13 p.m.

    Dang, I did indeed say I would mention steering wheels! I've only played the 360 version so far, so can't vouch for the Driving Force GT, but the 360 wheel is terrific. You might need to use the options menu to boost the wheel stiffness a tad, but it's just personal preference. It's responsive, precise, and (of course) fun. I found it easier to control the car than when using it with DiRT 2, but the handbrake being set to a face button is still a bit cumbersome. Hope that answers your questions!
  • ElwoodFiore - May 21, 2011 10:27 a.m.

    Wait for forza 4. Drift assist will be added.
  • smallberry - May 21, 2011 3:50 a.m.

    Even if the game was awful I'd buy it solely for Group B. Thanks for the review Justin.
  • marioman50 - May 21, 2011 3:35 a.m.

    I'm disappointed to hear about the change in presentation. I liked Dirt 2's style, and to see that they went from a rock/party atmosphere to a more boring Forza/Gran Turismo tone in this game is a bit saddening.
  • TastiestJamb - May 21, 2011 1:27 a.m.

    Nice review! It's awesome to see the review up so early, I'll definitely be picking this one up next week. Hats off to you for pulling off that Gymkhana challenge... I can tell this one is going to be the source of some frustration.
  • blocpartier - May 20, 2011 11:29 p.m.

    er, I meant the last paragraph. But you get my point.
  • blocpartier - May 20, 2011 11:28 p.m.

    Your last sentence makes it sound like Codemasters nailed it. I think that's exactly what a racing game SHOULD be.
  • wolfboy20 - May 20, 2011 10:42 p.m.

    Gr8 Review!!!! and how is the online play?
  • insertdisk - May 20, 2011 10:33 p.m.

    Oh god i do so want. The sound of that ford in the Gymkhana video was fantastic.
  • Timothy_Lemon - May 20, 2011 8:31 p.m.

    props to the chap from the gymkahna video, after playing dirt3 for several hours today, i'd agree that the gymkahna stages are tough as nails to get right. this game is excellent... apart from Christian's orrible voice :)
  • RareHero - May 20, 2011 7:56 p.m.

    DiRT 2 was an excellent game, but was far too action sports for my taste. I wish things would go back to pure rallying as in CMR, but DiRT 3 is as close to that as the series has been in the last several years. Can't wait till Tuesday...

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