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DiRT 3 hands-on preview

DiRT 3 retains a lot of its previous features too, including Raid trucks and Trailblazer buggies, though Coleman admitted players were only mildly interested in having the same type of large vehicle gameplay from DiRT 2. Instead, the trucks and buggies have been tweaked to be more responsive, and their courses have been altered to represent more stadium oriented, Motocross tracks. Expect huge jumps, whoops and big banked dirt turns as opposed to the previous game’s longer, rally-based races.

DiRT 2’s simple but effective tuning returns, allowing players to tweak their cars’ suspensions, engines, differentials and transmissions, but not to the point where they’ll ruin their car. DiRT 2’s “upgrade” system has also been scrapped, meaning that instead of buying special kits for your existing cars to make them eligible for different race types the player now gets an entirely new car. No more tacking a light cluster on to your WRX and having to use it for another set of races!

The new Gymkhana race mode is certainly the most radical of DiRT 3’s new modes, a flat land “race” that, much like drifting, awards you points for successful technical driving rather than speed. The flatland courses are scattered with jumps and obstacles to navigate through, preferably at speed or while drifting. Hit a predetermined line, think Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and the player will be awarded bonus points. Other Gymkhana modes for multiplayer were mentioned, including Infection, a zombie themed version of tag, and a robot/skyscraper game that scores the player on how accurate they can be trying to knock over robot cardboard cutouts while dodging the skyscraper cutouts. Obviously, the Gymkhana section is offering a more light hearted take on the sport, though the precision driving required to drift around cargo containers and under cranes is serious business.

Codemasters has also implemented a clever fix for those typical jerks you play with online who do nothing but sideswipe and crash into other players: an in-game counter will keep track of overly aggressive drivers and cause them to clip through you after one too many infractions. It’s a nice touch that should go a long way to keeping the multiplayer competitive instead of annoying, a constant struggle for online racing games.

More courses, better cars, upgraded physics and interesting new game modes have bumped DiRT 3 way up on our most wanted list, and we can’t wait to get our hands on Codemaster’s latest later this year.

Feb 4, 2011