On the previous generation of consoles, the Xbox had just a slew of different racing titles to check out, many of which were actually quite good. The racing genre was an interesting one in the last generation because there were so many stand out titles, many games that should have been big hits actually got lost in the shuffle. Now on the Xbox 360 we have seen our fair share of good racers and maybe a few great, but nothing near the standards of the past. So Codemasters is coming with all of their experience seeing if they can’t make DiRT the next big racing title. How do they fair? Read our full review to find out!
I have to admit I was floored when I heard the announcement from Codemasters that their next racing game was not going to be under the Colin McRae label, which they had used so strongly in the past. What I was even more surprised to see was the departure from the ultra-simulation style racing that had done the series so right before, and onto what would be considered more of a hybrid style of racing. But we will continue to get into that as the review goes on.
Not very often do we bring up the menu system in a game, usually only if there is a problem. But in the case of DiRT it is actually to commend the developers for actually going outside the box and doing something with a little class and sophistication. There is a lot of useful information that is contained throughout the menu - it just gives a very next generation feel, something that most games overlook all together. So for that you have to really give some notice that we like to see these changes to what are usually standard menu systems.
In terms of gameplay, let’s start with the mechanics of the game, which are much different than previous Codemasters racing titles. Where those previous games were very precise and unforgiving, this game definitely gives you a little leeway in terms of turning, drifting, and just about every other aspect of the game. No this isn’t like Burnout or even Need for Speed, but there is a sure fire noticeable lowering of the difficulty in the racing in this game that really makes this game more accessible to the masses. For me though I liked the more flexible driving mechanics which still work great and the increase skill of the AI, which although do make some weird choices at times really seems tough and competitive. As you go through the single player career you will notice that there are some races that are just downright ridiculous trying to get past and it took me hours to get through a few races.
Like many racing titles, this is a game that really lets you into the game with relative ease, but to get far in the game you really have to begin to learn and understand the way in which it works. So in the later stages of the game you have to understand the courses, and in many ways memorize the big turns and how to take them. This is where the game shifts from being open for everyone to enjoy to being a game where the real racing enthusiasts are going to take over.
The offline content is relatively deep, but in general it’s not like the game wants to overwhelm you with content. There is no underlying story, nothing too deep to keep you interested in the experience for any extended period of time, unless you really love the racing. DiRT puts almost all of its marbles in the racing and seems to think the racing will make up for any shortcomings in either the offline or online play. The online play for DiRT is rather disappointing, with very little in way of customization and in general just doesn’t seem to be overly concerned with being able to setup big racing events as the online play is rather bland and barren. And here comes the worst part, you’re never actually driving against other races on the same track but instead your always racing by yourself on different hill climbs and such trying to beat each others time. This just doesn’t work, and was extremely poor decision making by Codemasters.
Visually DiRT could possibly be the best looking Xbox 360 title to date. I mean it is just that beautiful. Whether it is the actual effects of the dirt, the detail of the car, or just the overall course design, DiRT is just an absolutely gorgeous game that if you have a nice HDTV sitting at home will really suit you right. Another big thing that DiRT does right in terms of visuals are the crashes with damage effects which we all know people love in racing games. In general I really don’t have any complaints on the visuals. There are plenty of camera angles to drive from, the frame rate seemed pretty solid, and the attention to detail was gorgeous.
Although I was never a big rally racing fan I was always a fan of Colin McRae, mainly because those games held true to the sport. DiRT on the other hand is trying to go for a more mainstream audience which I understand, its business, and to my surprise it actually panned out very nicely. The gameplay mechanics have just an amazing polish to them that allows you to just sit back and really just enjoy the experience. The only big problem I had was with the amount of content, which online is desperate for more and offline just needed more reason to keep on going.
With there not being an over abundance yet of racing games on the Xbox 360, I can tell you today that DiRT would make a great addition to a racing enthusiasts’ library. Although it doesn’t contain a massive amount of content, the stuff that is in the game is just pure racing fun. With beautiful visuals and solid gameplay mechanics, I would highly recommend any racing fan checking DiRT out.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.