Colin McRae: DIRT Review for Xbox 360

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Dirt takes rally racing successfully into the next-gen era
Dirt takes rally racing successfully into the next-gen era

Dirt takes rally racing successfully into the next-gen era

Rallying is a motorsport that seems tailor-made for video games, yet its thrilling high speed racing around the most perilous of courses doesn't seem to get as much attention as the Gran Turismos and Ridge Racers of this world. Colin McRae: Dirt combines the precision and concentration of the most hardcore sims, but also the thrills and immediacy of the best arcade racers, with a stunning next-gen engine to boot. Has rallying finally made its move into the mainstream, ready to achieve worldwide success?

Straight away you'll be taken aback by Dirt's exemplary presentation. The menus are fully 3D and as slick as anything you're likely to see, with a crisp rectangle for every game mode and challenge. Their simple design but classy elegance puts the menus in other games to shame and makes you wonder why more next-gen titles haven't made the most of this often overlooked area of a game. Even the loading screens look wonderful, with user stats being delivered as you wait. It's highly polished and gives the perfect first impression.

Where you choose to go from these menus is up to you, but you'll most likely head into the career mode. Here you'll face a series of tiers, each made up of a mixture of rally events. Earning points in each event will unlock new events, with the goal being to reach the very top tier and final event. Event types include classic point to point rallying, circuit-based racing against rival racers, crossover racing, off-road racing against other drivers, truck racing, buggy racing, hill climb and more.

You can choose to tackle each event at whatever difficulty you're happy with, but the harder the setting, the more money you'll earn, which in turn means you can afford to buy the better vehicles and compete more easily at the higher levels. The difficulty level doesn't affect the points you earn though, so no matter your skill, you shouldn't have too many problems playing through the main career mode. If you're not so keen on the non-core rally events such as the buggy racing and truck racing, other game modes are available that focus on the pure point to point rally events, complete with all the damage repair zones that are expected.

'Two superb looking in-car views are available, but the bonnet cam gives the best mixture of vision, speed and the essential feeling of tyres on tarmac, dirt, gravel and the like.'

There's plenty to do, and thankfully you'll probably want to do it all as the racing is exhilarating stuff. Dirt provides players with numerous views to race from, but I found the external views to give an unsatisfactory sense of the car's speed and connection with the road. Two superb looking in-car views are available, but the bonnet cam gives the best mixture of vision, speed and the essential feeling of tyres on tarmac, dirt, gravel and the like. The twisty, turning nature of every rally course makes the sport a perfect fit for video games and Dirt takes it to the next level, delivering a sense of enclosure that makes even the most simple corner a real danger.

The words of your co-driver are essential, and any slight lapse in concentration will end in disaster, especially if damage is set to its most punishing. One miscalculation in even a soft level 6 corner can see your car careering off the track and straight into a tree. If you're lucky you'll be able to crawl to the finish, but chances are that it'll be race over. Events with opponents on the track aren't as exciting, with more of a MotorStorm feeling to proceedings, but the bumper to bumper racing has its moments.

Dirt is an undeniably stunning looking racing game that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the best next-gen systems have to offer, but it's not quite as polished as its stunning presentation would suggest. The environments look beautiful, the use of motion blur is excellent without being overdone and the damage modelling on vehicles is exceptional, but a key part of every racing game is its frame rate and this is where Dirt comes undone.

When racing alone the frame rate is pretty consistent, but not as smooth as Forza 2's silky 60 frames per second. The problems arise when other cars can be seen, as the frame rate stumbles all over the place and tearing can frequently be seen. After a few races you'll see past these blemishes, but considering the game's presentation is on another level to practically every other game available, this lack of polish in such an important area is hugely disappointing.

The damage model is excellent and affects the look and performance of cars

The damage model is excellent and affects the look and performance of cars

A special mention has to go to the game's audio, which when running through a 5.1 setup is incredibly immersive; even when racing alone, you get a great sense of moving through a tight course. Music is used sparingly, but menus and replays all feature suitably trendy tunes, and a simple but cool slow-motion mode during replays never grows tiresome, with the audio slowing down and becoming ever so slightly subdued to great effect. Again though, it makes you wonder how such a polished game could have shipped with a terribly erratic frame rate.

Multiplayer modes in racing games are a given nowadays, but Dirt doesn't really make the most of what it has to offer. You're restricted to online and system link multiplayer, and only in rally and hill climb events. Because of this, you never see other drivers on the courses, with each race simply being a live time trial. With the game featuring the likes of the crossover races, which are explicitly designed for two racers to go head to head, it's strange that it's not an option - even split-screen isn't available. While the claim of 100-player races is a great one, in reality you might as well stick to the leaderboards seen throughout the single-player modes.

Achievement points are handled very well, with points coming along at a steady trickle. As well as being awarded for performances in each of the game's main modes, you'll be rewarded for driving a certain amount of miles, reaching a high top speed, racing cleanly and owning a set number of cars. Due to the game's changeable difficulty, most points are easily within reach, even if they'll take some time to earn. It is perhaps a little too tempting to set the difficulty to easy and plough through the game, but the lowered earnings and constantly reminding voiceover man make challenging races the more desired option.

Colin McRae: Dirt is a solid and often spectacular first next-gen effort from Codemasters. The core racing is thrilling yet accessible and the amount of content on offer will keep players enthralled for some time. Some inexplicable frame rate problems and a lacklustre online multiplayer mode prevent this from being a classic, but Dirt is still one of the premier racing titles of 2007.

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Mataeus's Avatar

Mataeus

So let's get it out the way: Forget the Fully rounded British roots. Gone are the Scottish Driver (who remains in name only) and the welsh co-driver Nicky Grist. In comes Travis and co, the all-round all-american street-cred rally team. God only knows why Colin's name is still in the title. As outlined in Matt's post, everything has street jargon attached to it. Man.

The next time I'm sat on the starting grid during the Hollywood style super-zoom race intro and the co-driver (who's name I can't be bothered to remember) says "Smooth and Steady. I'm Mr Smooth and you're Mr Steady", I'll put my foot through the screen in an attempt to dive into the car for real and beat him back to the good ol' US of A.

So, onto the good. The point-to-point rallying (which is all we really care about, right?) Thankfully, this is awesome. There's a real feeling of being there and for the ramblers amongst us you'll get that familiar urge to "get out and walk".

As with Forza 2, it's best enjoyed in the in-car view with the amazing Force-Feedback wheel and pedals. Even with feeback set to medium, be prepared for the game to tear you limb from limb as you strain your way to the finish line. The feedback is implemented perfectly, probably even better than Forza 2, with the wheel going light and slippy as you fly through the air and then shaking violently out of your hands as you land and attempt to point the car in the right direction.

Adn if you don't? Well... What a damage model. Glass smashes, pieces tear off, paint scratches, bodywork crumbles, exhausts crack, co-drivers get decapitated... Only joking on the last one there. Unfortunately.

Remember how amazed you were when trashing your car for the first time in CM Rally 2005? Or how you trashed everything in ToCA Race Drvier 3? Well, prepare to be amazed again. It's all here, it's all better, and it's all the more realistic.

So there you are, in Championship mode, hurtling along the courses (which are destructible. Hit a bush? See it flop under your car. Hit a fence? Watch the posts fly across the hillside a la Flatout. Hit a rock? See the pieces fly off and hit your windscreen, smashing it all over your dashboard and the track, windscreen wipers rolling off and over the roof.

The weight of the cars are perfect too, with amazing physics letting you sling them across the scenery with ballistic aplomb.

But then you realise it's all over too quickly... Only six countries? Only 6 tracks per conuntry!? What the hell!

So you hit career mode. It's very good, with the ability to win prize money and buy new rides and liveries and the like, and it's all presented brilliantly (as outlined in the main review). But half of the events are the brainless American circuit dirt races in trucks and buggies. (I mean brainless American EVENTS, by the way - Not brainless Americans!) They ARE fun and provide a good challenge, and the RAID and Rally Cross events are particularly great. But that' not why we have followed the series through PS1, PS2, Xbox and 360 is it? No! We want fabulous rain effects as seen in 2005 edition (so far I have found.... None), we want double the numbers of countries and tracks, we want snow races in Sweden... All of this is missing! At first I thought they'd eke out the releases, putting new countries on line as downloadable content. But it doesn't even say "downloadable content" on the back of the box! So after playing through the fabulous rally mode several times, I've gone back to Colin McRae Rally 2005 on the original Xbox for my full time, full on Rally fix.

Don't get me wrong, the game is excellent. BUY this game, thrash the TRUE rally mode, then make your own mind up.

You won't regret it, and I don't think anyone would disagree with my choice.

Mataeus view:

Graphics 9
Playability 9
Sound 8
Technical 8
Overall 8.5
Posted 16:40 on 26 June 2007
Matt' boyfrien's Avatar
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Matt' boyfrien

stop playing that game - I NEED some attention - just look at me.
Posted 13:25 on 26 June 2007
Matt's Avatar
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Matt

I agree it is still a good game, BUT why do we have to put up with all this american "skate" talk if I wanted to be called a "dude" every 5 minutes I'll play tony hawks. Even the co-drive thinks everything is "gnarly" or "sick". The introduction of american rally events really wasn't necessary, there slow, cumbersome and just annoying really. If your expect a WRC based game then you will be dissapointed! Overall it is an amazing step forward for the Colin series, its just a shame there isn't a sight nor sound of the man himself. 7/10 would have been more if it wasn't for all the americanisms and the rather Arcady behaviour of the cars.
Posted 16:58 on 15 June 2007
socket77(TAG)'s Avatar
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socket77(TAG)

FANTASTIC GAME,BUT I WILL STILL PLAY FORZA AS I LOVE ONLINE GAMING AND COLIN,S LIVE OPTION REALLY IS NO FUN. HAD THIS HAD THE OPTION TO SEE YOUR FELLOW LIVE RACERS AND BE ABLE TO TALK TO THEM, THIS GAME WOULD HAVE BEEN FOR ME, THE BEST RACER. AS IT STANDS GREAT OFFLINE, VERY DULL ONLINE.
Posted 09:17 on 15 June 2007
wylliecoyote07's Avatar
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wylliecoyote07

Got this game today through the post as pre-order, not disappointed, although there can be a slight drop in frame rate when a number of cars on screen this doesn't detract from the overall feel of the game.

The graphics and menu simply look awesome and put most other games including Forza to shame.

Most racing games fans will love it and now I along with many others will be left the dilemma of whether to complete Forza or this first!!!!
Posted 21:23 on 14 June 2007
ukzoverride's Avatar

ukzoverride

Pre-ordered my copy, and it should be here Friday. Shame I am on holiday then, but I got something to do when I get back!
Looks like a great game, all reviews have said it is great. So I look forward to playng it.
Posted 10:08 on 13 June 2007
Vallentin's Avatar

Vallentin

I can't wait to pick this up.
Posted 17:35 on 11 June 2007

Game Stats

Technical Specs
Colin McRae: DIRT
8
Out of 10
Colin McRae: DIRT
  • Superbly detailed visuals
  • Stunning presentation throughout
  • Erratic frame rate
  • Online multiplayer isn't great
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 15/06/2007
Platforms: Xbox 360 , PS3 , PC , Wii
Developer: Codemasters
Publisher: Codemasters
Genre: Racing
No. Players: 1 + Online
Rating: PEGI 12+
Site Rank: 2,686
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