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Score: 88%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Codemasters
Developer: Codemasters
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Racing/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

DiRT is easily one of the more visually impressive racing games on the 360. While many have staked claim to this title in recent months, DiRT manages to outshine the rest. The minute you pop the game in, you are greeted with a slick user interface which gives way to beautifully rendered cars and large, interactive tracks. Cars feature several little details, including an impressive damage system. As you bump and smash your way around the track, you'll lose windows, bumpers and even your entire front end if you hit something hard enough.

Tracks take place on a variety of surfaces in a number of different locales. Races take place in locations like the dusty outback of Australia and through the countrysides of Europe. DiRT absolutely nails the look of each and, thanks to a great lighting engine, really gives each its own unique atmosphere. There is also a bit of interaction between your car and tracks; you can break through fences, signs and even small trees. In addition, your car will pick up dust and water particles as your race.

If that isn't enough, you can also experience it all through a first-person viewpoint where you really are in the driver's seat (you'll even see your hands on the wheel). The viewpoint really brings something different to races, though it can sometimes make it hard to see -- especially when the vehicle's rollbar is in the way.

Audio presentation is scaled back, at least when compared to the visuals, though it accomplished what it needs to. There isn't much in the way of a soundtrack; music only plays during replays and as you navigate through front-end menus. Travis Pastrana, the current Rally America champion, is your host throughout the game and will offer explanations of race types as well as words of encouragement and disappointment. Christian Edstrom also offers advice on tracks and serves as your co-driver during races. You'll hear him offer navigational directions during some races, as well as a load of cheesy dialogue before and after each race.


DiRT is broken up into three modes, featuring six race types. These include Rally, Rallycross, Hill Climb, CORR, Crossover, and Rally Raid. Odds are that you aren't completely familiar with all of these race types, which is where Pastrana's advice becomes useful. The first time you enter a particular race type, Pastrana will give you a brief explanation about what you'll need to do. The explanation is helpful, though once you enter a race, you'll quickly figure out what you need to do. All of the race types involve either hitting checkpoints or completing a loop with minor variations. For example, Rally races are checkpoint races where you have to follow the navigation of your co-driver; Rally Raid works the same way, only you're up against other drivers as well. Hill Climb uses the same checkpoint-based style as Rally, only you don't have a co-driver.

Career is a tiered system consisting of all of the racing types available in the game. The tiers are arranged as a pyramid that you must work your way up by competing in races and earning points. You aren't required to win every race, or even compete in every event, to progress through the tiers. Odds are you'll find one or two race types that you absolutely hate (for example, I hated anything involving any sort of big truck), so it is helpful that you aren't forced to participate in those races if you don't want to. The downside is that you probably won't earn enough money to purchase new vehicles, which is a big deal since you'll have to purchase some vehicles before you can race in a particular race - so the freedom does have its limits. The cars you unlock in Career can later be used when playing through single events or in the multi-race Championship Mode.

Multiplayer is the only area where DiRT comes up short. Only two race types are available, neither of which offer head-to-head racing. Instead, you compete in what is essentially a time trial against other players using the same car and map. Considering that all races are already tied to leaderboards, the multiplayer feels a bit pointless and isn't much fun.


Where DiRT differs from other racing games is the number of vehicles you'll race in, which is where much of the game's challenge and variety comes from. You'll see the same courses in multiple events, though you'll usually see them while driving different vehicles. Since you are seeing the same tracks, you'll learn their layouts and get a basic idea about how to tackle particular portions of the track. Of course, the type of vehicle you are using will completely alter how you handle each course. Racing a course in a buggy is a different experience than with a rally car or racing rig.

Given the slant towards more arcade-style racing, all of the races are very accessible. You can also set difficulty for each race type, which gives you a little flexibility when approaching race types. The trade-off is that you get more money at higher difficulty settings.

Game Mechanics:

DiRT takes more of an arcade approach to racing, thought it does tip its hat towards sim-styled racing as well. All of the game's forty-six vehicles handle well enough, though there is a persistent loose feeling that could throw off some racing fans. While I would typically take off points for a loose-handling racer, that feeling is all part of the Rally experience. Most tracks take place on sand or dirt and the few tracks made from pavement are usually wet - so you have to readjust how you approach racing. DiRT isn't a game where you can simply jam the gas and go; you have to apply equal doses of gas and brake if you want to win and avoid running into walls. Players who are typically good at drifting in other racing games will have an easy time adjusting to DiRT since both require similar driving skills.

Damage isn't just cosmetic and will affect how your car handles, so you want to try and not hit everything on the track (or off it in some cases). How much of an effect it has depends on the difficulty level. On lower levels, it is only noticeable if you slam into a tree or wall at full speed; at higher levels, a couple of hard "nudges" from other vehicles could do the trick.

In addition to new cars, you can also purchase new paint jobs (called Liveries) for your vehicles. Gearheads will be disappointed to know that you can't purchase upgrades or modify your vehicles, though you can adjust aspects like handling and shocks.

Even if you aren't that big of a rally fan, you owe it to yourself to at least download the demo on the Live Marketplace and check it out for yourself. With the exception of lackluster multiplayer support, DiRT is the complete package and a must-have in any racing fan's collection.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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