DiRT 3 Hands-On Preview

By Darryl Kaye on November 17, 2010, 6:30PM EDT

The DiRT franchise has always been about trying to promote a core driving experience, one that focusses on the raw and gritty side of motorsport as opposed to one of pure simulation or arcade. It's something that the development team over at Codemasters take very seriously and after checking out DiRT 3 and speaking to some of them about the project it's easy to see why - they love cars. Despite DiRT 2 receiving critical acclaim the team have gone back to the drawing board to make sure that DiRT 3 delivers an even better experience, something which is almost guaranteed.

We've been promised that DiRT 3 will be comprised of 60 percent rally races this time round, as many felt that the previous iteration was too "Americanised" and this is actually a welcome change. It's easy to see why Codemasters did this with DiRT 2, to expand their audience, but it's also refreshing to know that they're willing to listen to their core audience and make the game a much truer rally experience.

This move is complimented by the return of some weather effects to the game, such as Snow and Ice. There will be various types of Snow featured, so it won't just be a cause of getting used to one type and going from there. The snow featured in the game will also be deformable. Day and night cycles will also be appearing and other effects such as rain will be present to make the experience much more challenging.

Even without these perils, the game is more than challenging enough, as I found out when trying out the game for the first time using a super up Audi Quattro, a car that's notorious for being a bit of a beast. Its over-steer was very apparent and it cause a few nose-dives into the shrubbery the first time though. What's great about the game though is that it's so fast paced and twitch based, that shaving only seconds off your time is very satisfying. You'll also get a bit more confident each time around as you get to know the course a bit better, so you'll be inclined to take more risks - just like a professional would. However, as with the professionals, not all risks pay off and there will be some spectacular crashes as a result.

Spectacular crashes will also be more than possible in one of the game's other modes, Gymkhana. Instead of being about racing, Gymkhana is all about having fun and it has been inspired by Ken Block's video series on YouTube. The premise is that you have certain objectives to complete and the quicker time you can do them in, the better. Think about a Tony Hawk's game, but with cars.

In the demo, these objectives were set into some very specific groups: power slides, doughnuts and "fun". The fun category included landing a perfect jump and knocking over some blocks - the two easiest objectives. The other four were much more tricky though, for example, performing consistent doughnuts tightly around a digger and a lamp post and performing a power slide underneath some trucks and through a pipe with a very narrow gradient.

It's the kind of activity that you can just do for 5 minutes and still feel like you've accomplished something, and of course, the different obstacles have been set up in such a way that there is an optimum route to go around in order to get the quickest time.

There are going to be 50 cars featured in the game, which will be encompassed into 15 different classes. And one of said cars is going to be Ken Block's tricked out Ford Fiesta - it's a real beast. You'll get to drive it around the Battersea Power Station in Gymkhana and later one, some Extreme Gymkhana.

Overall, DiRT 3 is looking like it will be a solid addition to the franchise. The concentrated focus towards rallying will be a real bonus for European gamers, but Gymkhana will offer a nice balance for other fans of the more extreme racing. The new weather conditions will also be great for testing the resolve of wannabe rally drivers and they'll be able to do so when the game releases on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC in Q2 2011.

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