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October 29, 2007
Colin McRae DIRT - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
9/10/2007AtariCodemastersCodemasters12-100, sort of.
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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One of the best looking racing games... ever!
As I write this review I have a heavy heart. As many of you would be aware Colin McRae passed away in a helicopter crash the day after this game was released to the American market. While he no longer raced rally cars he was still instrumental in getting this series to be the best on the market over the years. But here we are. Colin McRae DIRT is out now and it has been a lengthy wait for PS3 owners with the PC and XBox 360 versions hitting the shelves in June 2007. But here it is, and while the PS3 version is pretty much a direct port the extra time has allowed the development team to iron out a couple of bugs, and improve the overall experience.

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Smoke, dirt, particles; it's all here.
There are many different game modes on offer in this game. The bulk of the game is the career mode. This is structured in a pyramid fashion with 11 levels. The bottom starting level contains 11 events to enter and you must earn enough points by placing well to unlock the tier above. Each of the races has five difficulty levels (Rookie, Clubman, Amateur, Pro-Am and Pro) with the harder difficultly levels rewarding you with more prize money which can be spent on buying new cars or paint jobs (or Liveries as they should be known) for them.

Besides the career mode gamers will be able to spend some time in a Rally Championship which includes a European Championship, International Championship or Global Championship. Finally the game also includes a Rally World section which allows you to enter Single Races, Single Events, or a Time Trial. There's plenty to get through in this game that's for sure.

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The sense of speed impresses.
Vehicle handling is the most important thing in any racing game and on that front DIRT has me a little in two minds. On the one hand the cars still feel a little light and floaty and initially it takes a little getting used to however when you do master the ability to use the handbrake and the turning of the vehicles it becomes a pure joy to race. Obviously something like a Big Rig truck takes a little more getting used to, but the cars are responsive. Gamers will be most pleased to heard that the game includes damage to the cars which also affects the handling. Visually the damage looks wonderful and should there be too much damage (depending on the difficulty level really) you could be out of the race. If you pause the race part way through you can even see the amount of damage to each of the nine car parts (engine, exhaust, cooling, gearbox, driveshaft, wheels, bodywork, suspension and turbo) in the car which can sustain damage. It is even possible to roll your car during races!.

Kudos must go to Codemasters for a brilliant replay mode which allows you to re-watch the entire race from start to finish with TV styled camera locations including the ability to speed up or slow down the playback.

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Heading under a bridge in Australia.
So the disappointment, and it really is a big one. Despite the claim that the game includes 100 players online, that is a little misleading. You see rather then racing against other cars on-screen you all race separately and then your times are put together to see who did the best. It's pretty disappointing when you consider that a) this game has races with multiple cars on screen in the single-player mode, and b) other racing games on PS3 manage to have well over a dozen people racing together.

So OK, let's say that this mode was given the full treatment. You would like to be able to control the lobbies, set the options for the game and kick it off when everyone is ready wouldn't you? Well you can't. Everyone votes for the tracks that they want and then an automatic timer kicks the game off in less then a minute. What if you want to have a leak? What if you're waiting for a couple more people to join? Too bad. That's not good enough in this day and age and while I commend Codemasters for every other aspect of this title (including visuals and audio which you will read about soon) this is a black mark on an otherwise solid title.

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Yet another glorious replay.
Graphically Colin McRae Dirt is the business - in fact it could be one of the most gorgeous video games we've ever played - it's that good. The game kicks off with a gorgeous pre-rendered movie which shows off the thrills and spills of rally car racing. From there you enter the gorgeous menu interface, which can be rotated slightly to give you a better look at things. Navigation is easy and everything is as smooth a silk.

When you get into the game though things move up a few more notches. The good news for PS3 owners is that the games delay has allowed the developers to iron out some of the small kinks that remained in the PC and XBox 360 versions. Gone are the small frame rate stutters that were evident in those releases. Each track has a unique look both in terms of terrain surrounding the tracks, ambience and lighting and even types of surfaces being raced on while the developers have included six viewpoints, including in-car, to play the game from. The frame rate is quite solid with only the very occasional hiccup along the way.

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The range of vehicles on offer impresses.
In any rally game the audio plays a crucial part - not in terms of music, but in terms of knowing what road surface you're on (or more importantly if you're drifting off the side of the road) and also for the co-drivers calls for the upcoming corners. These calls are, fortunately and unlike some other games, early enough that you can move to the best side of the track for the upcoming corner. The use of surround sound is aggressive and you will even be able to tell which wheel in the car is hitting the side of the road.

If there is one complaint it's that as you start the races you'll hear a short little statement - the problem is there are only a couple so at the start of almost every race you're likely to hear "Smooth and Steady, I'm Mr Smooth and you're Mr Steady" It gets pretty damn irritating.

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The in-car viewpoint is impressive.
Despite the disappointments with online racing (or should that be complete lack of) Colin McRae DIRT is a fantastic title. The racing is not only engrossing, but always entertaining which is the reason you play games now isn't it? There's a good selection, and variety, to the cars and tracks and the audio visual presentation is among the best we've seen on the PS3. This is not only a game which racing fans will want to check out, but one we suggest they do.

Review By: Dave Warner

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GRAPHICSOne of the most polished games we've seen on PS3 to date.
SOUNDNow this is how audio should sound in a racing game.
GAMEPLAYIt's not hardcore simulation, but it's tremendous fun.
VALUEThe only disappointment is lack of online gameplay. Other then that this is a lengthy game that will take a long time to complete.
OVERALLColin McRae DIRT is one of the best rally games we've ever had the pleasure of playing. While it may not reach the 'hardcore simulation' that so many would like this is, above all else, a complete joy to play. Will there be a sequel with the tragic passing of the man himself? Time will tell, but right now there is no reason not to pick up this game.

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