Colin McRae: DiRT Xbox 360 Review - 08/08/2007

DiRT is the latest in a long line of racing games from Codemasters celebrating the racing genius that is Colin McRae; the titular hero was born in Lanark, Scotland in 1968.

At just the tender age of twelve years old Colin won his first scrambling championship, his first rally win followed eight years later in Scotland, he was near untouchable in the world of Rally thereafter, hence the massive following and his own videogame.

I always thought of Colin McRae rally to be second fiddle to the excellent SEGA Rally, this game erases that from the memory, the handling is immense throughout, every power slide, every jump is accurate enough to make you feel like you are the esteemed champion, every second is precious, and every one that passes will leave you with a smile on your face.

The first thing you notice about this game is the slick opening video, CGI that looks almost real, it's not till you select you first car and track that you realise that the game matched that opening video, photo-realism would be the best way to describe it, Project Gotham looks nice through a HD television, but this game blows it out of the water, dust swirls, mud gets thrown up across the back of your car, the sun blinds you after turning round corners, trees sway, it is truly a marvel to behold, if only all games looked like this.

Presentation of the game is also well done, each menu blending in and out of the screen and hi-def pictures and car models entice you in and make you want to play. The only annoying thing about menu and loading screens is the irritating American voice over, which for a British lead design team, can only be out of place, I think Codemasters is reaching out to the American market, so you can't really blame them. Most of the sound in this game is superb however, engines sound 'meaty' and the co-driver is clear and precise, just what you need as you hurtle down a country lane.

Game modes are the usual Career mode, where you have to advance through a pyramid structure to achieve the ultimate accolade of Champion of Champions. Rally Championship has you racing in the tried and tested formula of old McRae games, racing through the world scene, European, International and Global in an attempt to become the ultimate champion. Rally World collects all the cars and tracks unlocked in the main game modes, this is where you can hone your skills and set new times in time trial mode.

Game modes include hill climbs, rally-cross, point to point, circuit courses, cross-over and buggy racing, all modes use different vehicles and vary greatly, the only disappointing thing is the sloooooowww truck racing levels, at least you actually get to look at the beautiful scenery in these races, but you'll be glad to get back to the Impreza's and Stratos'.

The tracks vary from continent to continent, with lush forests turning into built up areas followed by desert, sometimes all in one course, each environment also has different hazards, rocks jut out onto the course on the desert levels, mountainous levels often have severe hairpins and brick walls almost on top of the track, many a busted wheel is caused by misjudging a turn by the merest of margins.

Handling is excellent throughout, with all the cars handling slightly differently, 4WD cars obviously handle differently to a RWD car, but even cars in the same category all seem new once you unlock them - the cars can all be adjusted and tech heads will love this, but the normal settings will also entice the arcade race fan in because they are more forgiving, in fact the arcadey controls make this very similar to SEGA Rally on the Saturn, the twitch response is just right and you'll soon be whizzing round corners with little respect for the car or the track - some amazing lap times can be had by becoming one with the excellent controls, it makes what can be a very 'techy' game into one that is really good fun.

This game will also last ages, the career mode is made up of around 100 courses, some of these are repeated with different vehicles, but you wont notice as you'll be trying to beat that last lap time. Couple this mode with the standard championship and your talking about twenty hours easily, add multiplayer and the ever changing leaderboards on Live and it amounts to a long lasting game, something not usually associated with a racing title.

Overall I love this game, its fun, it's fast, it looks amazing and it'll last you for ages, the only downside being the slow trucks, that really is the only mute point in an exquisite game.

- Dave Burgess



360 - PS3 - PC