It wasn't very long ago at all that we brought you hands-on impressions of Codemasters' arcadey, X-Gamesy, videogamey DiRT spinoff. But we've since seen a newer version of the game and been given the go-ahead to capture our own footage from it in three events. How could we refuse? As you're about to see, it's already looking superb. So on to the first event!
This sees you racing in a tight figure of eight circuit – the kind that just crosses paths in the middle without a flyover for safety. It's not as congested as the one seen in GRID, but it's close enough – and there's still plenty of carnage.
There are no weapons (aside from your car itself), but the Mario Kart-esque Blue Shell idea is in full effect. We crossed the line in first with a lap to go, only to get smashed into oblivion on the penultimate crossover, ending up a disappointing fifth out of eight. Waaah.
Eight cars may not sound like much, but with a track this size, it's plenty enough. Especially when the carnage is this over-blown. All of the vehicles are wonderfully detailed, from little stickers saying things like 'If you can't stop, smile' down to bodywork that crumples according to where it's hit. This time round, not all of the vehicles are licensed, meaning Codies can do whatever they want with them. The result is a proper smash-up as schoolbuses, buggies and even a hearse get sliding.
Baja night race
We've raced around Baja in DiRT before, but it's clearly better-realised here. The crowds are thicker, the special effects like fireworks are bigger… even the track layout is more interesting, with piles of tyres stacked in the road to create sudden forks and barriers jutting out from the outside of wide corners, waiting to catch wide-runners with a cascade of coloured rubber.
The game's already running smoothly and we were soon flying around, whether in the standard chase-camera view or on the bonnet cam. At present, there's no other viewpoint, which means no interior shots (shock!). These might get added in later, but to be honest we won't miss them too much, as they were more for show than a viable racing viewpoint.
Controlling the car around a high-speed track like this has just enough instability to keep things exciting, but enough grip that you can recover from most 'moments'.
This is almost blow for blow exactly the same idea as Destruction Derby's Bowl event from the mid-nineties, only now it looks phenomenal. You're let loose in an enclosed arena with seven opponents and the idea is to smash them up without getting smashed yourself. Not that it matters too much – you can respawn as many times as you like before the clock runs out.
The last 25 seconds of the round has a score multiplier, with double points on offer for whatever T-Bone, 360 spin or head-on you can cause in the time. Really does sound like Destruction Derby, doesn't it?
When your car finally becomes terminally damaged, you get a slow-motion cutaway, much like DiRT 2. There will apparently be 'Crashback' views when you terminally damage an opponent's motor, and these can be uploaded to YouTube. Looking forward to that!
As you can see, it's pre-alpha (read: Very early code), but already looks brilliantly slick. At present, boost recharges over time, but we're assured this will be replaced with a 'start with full boost and smash into people to recharge it' system. Works for us.
We were teased with some details of other modes, like Knockout, which is basically like Sumo wrestling, only with cars. Then there's Hard Target, which is a survival mode where everybody's out to get you. With 8-player online racing and split-screen modes, this should be a massive online racing hit when it's released in May.