Updated DiRT 3 Hands-On

By Darryl Kaye on April 17, 2011, 5:21PM EDT

Codemasters recently held a rather fantastic event in London. Not only did they rent out Battersea Power Station in an attempt to recreate the Gymkhana Mode that's featured in the game, but they also had Ken Block, Kris Meeke and plenty of opportunities to test out the game's various modes - including competitive split-screen rallying.

You can't really ask for more from a day out, but at the end of the day, it's all about the game. With DiRT 3, we've been promised a game that both goes back to basics, but also tries to push the envelope. And to demonstrate this, both Gymkhana and Rallying were on display. Now, we've checked these modes out before, but the Rallying was a rather different proposition to before, which just shows the level of depth that the game has.

Previously, Codemasters gave me the opportunity to tear around a woodland setting, but for this demonstration, it was set in Kenya. It might not sound like a big deal, but it made the world of difference to how the car handled.

It's also worth noting that this was the first time we got to have a look at the game's different difficulty settings. You can go all the way from Casual up to Advanced, and the differences are rather glaring. On Casual, you can effectively just hold the accelerator down and steer along the "best path" line - the game does everything else for you. However, on Advanced, it's a whole different ball game, but one that's much more entertaining.

After opting to go for Ken Block's Ford Fiesta, it was easy to see the stark difference from the Audi Quattro, which Codemasters used in their previous demonstration. The car had a much better balance, and it was more about being precise than anything. Short, unnecessary movements could lead you running off the edge of a cliff, or into a wall, so maintaining a steely focus was all important. The course itself was of a decent length, with plenty of twists and turns, jumps, and some surface changes throw in to mix things up.

Also on display was the game's split-screen Rallying, whereby all the cars race at exactly the same time, but as ghosts. It certainly makes the experience much more frantic, as you can instantly see where you're losing or gaining ground.

It wasn't just about the serious Rallying or Trick experiences though, Codemasters also unveiled the various "party" modes that the game will adopt. You'll be able to go online and play Invasion, Transporter and Outbreak against other players. With Invasion, the idea is to knock down boxes to score points and with Transporter, the the game effectively simulates Capture the Flag, but with cars.

Finally, we have Outbreak, a mode which could have a ton of replay value. The premise is simple, at the start of the round, one car is "infected". The catch, is that you have no idea who that is, unless you're the infected car. It's then your job to try and evade the "Outbreak" for as long as possible, and if you have the "Outbreak", it's your job to then try and infect as many other cars as possible (by ramming them of course!). Honestly, it's great to see some less serious modes creep into what's otherwise a very hardcore racing experience.

With DiRT 3, it looks as though Codemasters are going to one-up DiRT 2 in almost every aspect. Better handling, more Rallying, Gymkhana and some fun party modes. What more could you really ask for?

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