Colin McRae: DiRT
As good as it looks? Our final verdict.
Xbox 360, PS3, PC
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Colin McRae may be getting on a bit, but Codemasters' classic rally series has been given a new lease of life, with Colin McRae: DiRT. McRae's first outing on next-gen consoles is a glorious looking off-road racer, flying the flag for mud and mayhem in the pristine faces of Forza and PGR.
"McRae's first outing on next-gen consoles is glorious looking, flying the flag for mud and mayhem in the pristine faces of Forza and PGR."
I'll start with the Career mode, as this is the main element of DiRT. With 11 tiers to work your way through (unlocking new vehicles as you go), the career mode eases you in gently, with a variety of truck and check point rally races to start you off. The new addition features racing round DiRT tracks against opposition, something new to the series and a bit of a shock when I raced on my first course. Initial impressions are almost overwhelming; the graphics are marvellous and the lighting and DiRT effects make DiRT one of the best looking games we've ever played.
"The whole interface is spectacular in itself, something the developers can be exceptionally proud of."
The races are tremendously good fun - arcade style handling means that while DiRT may lose some respect from serious petrol heads, it's instantly accessible to anyone. Pump the difficulty up and even those keen to show their expertise will have their work cut out for them, thanks to the combination of improved AI on the other racers and more realistic damage settings for any crashes or bumps you subject your car to.
While on easier difficulty beginner players will get by with default vehicle settings, a wide variety of gearbox, suspension, brakes and wheel alignments mean dedicated mechanics can get to work on their own custom setup for each track. This does have a noticeable effect on how your car handles, so better players will be keen to spend time messing around and cutting those precious seconds from their best lap.
The new game engine not only looks amazing, it also handles damage in a very realistic way. Here, not only does damage look bad, it also affects your car's driving condition. While on easier difficulty you can get away with slamming straight into a wall, put it up a couple of levels and there's a good chance you'll lose a wheel if you catch a rock at a bad angle. All of the damage received is portrayed accurately on screen and while your bonnet will crumple under a bump, if you give it a further good knock it'll fall right off. This is particularly entertaining when racing with opponents, as they struggle to avoid the random bits of debris your maniacal motoring skills have unleashed at the first bend.