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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Game Review:DiRT

This game is perfect. Almost.

Departing from Forza Motorsport 2, I opened the newly-bought DiRT and a certain sense of excitement tickled me. I was looking for a fresh experience after slogging through several energy-draining stages in Forza Motorsport 2. I was looking for something more thrilling, something more different, something more unique, and something more interesting. I popped the DiRT game disc into my Xbox 360. Right from the start, DiRT blew me away. DiRT is an amazing game, but what made the game so enjoyable?

Certainly, the developers of DiRT know how to impress players from the very beginning, but what is more astonishing is, how they have managed to leave me with that lasting impression even after I have completed the game. The art of good impression starts from the moment you create a save account for the game on your hard disk – the interface is, as I wished, different and unique from what the other games currently on the market have – it is simply, in a league of its own. The OMG interface is just the appetizer, though. Hey, wait, am I playing a Gears of War or Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 with cars? Oh, yeah, DiRT has just tricked my eyes with its graphics. Everything from tress to hills look so realistic in DiRT, but the visuals are more than eye candy: The shadows of rows of trees can actually give you illusions of a bend ahead when there is really none. This just adds to the realism of the entire package. Couple that with great vehicular damage effects and lighting, and you can say that DiRT is really an art piece by itself. In fact, this is one of the most gorgeous games on Xbox 360.

Speaking of the damage effects, DiRT is unrivalled by other racers besides the FlatOut and Burnout franchises. Windscreens shatter and a little hard knock on the side of your car will get your side door swinging loosely. Bumpers come off and bodyworks get huge dents. I can go on and on, but all you need to know is that the damage effects are a visual treat. Beware, though: Doing too much damage to your ride may affect the performance of your vehicle and terminal damage will force you to end a race prematurely. However, you will be relived to know that DiRT allows you to check on the damage status of your vehicle at any time of the race – just pause the game and a menu will show you detailed statistics. Now, that is helpful. When repairing your car in the garage, hit the X button on any vehicle part and the game will go on to inform you on how that particular component can affect the performance of your vehicle if it is damaged. Talk about having tutorials on car parts!

With such awe-inspiring visuals and damage effects, it is only appropriate that my expectations for the game shoot up. Fortunately, DiRT put my doubts to rest in no time. If Forza Motorsport 2 is designed around serious hardcore racing fans, then DiRT is created with both the hardcore and casual crowd in mind. The generous number of 5 difficulty levels and the ability to change it after any race should be a boon to casual players as jumping right into the heat of DiRT is anything but a simple affair. The higher difficulty levels provide ample challenge for the hardcore gamers, ensuring that no one gets left out of the game.

The crucial thing that most racers miss is variety, but rest assured DiRT has amended that. DiRT features various types of tracks from a humongous number of environments and countries. Unlike other racers, including Forza Motorsport 2, I like the way DiRT unveils several of its tracks bit by bit throughout the 11 levels in the career mode. In a way, DiRT prevents boredom from seeping in as you reach a certain level in the game. Many racers have failed to accomplish this simple act, and I am glad DiRT corrected it. I find rushing through the terrifyingly tight corners of the downhill slopes of Japan very satisfying. The secret? Drift – the game allows you to do that with ease. Just as I thought DiRT was all but done with showing its bells and whistles, I was hit with another surprise. Whoever thought of racing with TRUCKS? No, I did not thought of that, but the thoughtful developers of DiRT somehow conjured that idea up in their minds and I was (yet again) impressed. Not only trucks, there are the buggies as well. In a nutshell, DiRT has got lots of tracks, cars and vehicle classes for you to select from. It is a pity that DiRT does not have motorbikes on offer.

But all good things come to an end – and DiRT is no exception. Why? The driving mechanism is to be blamed. The handling of the vehicles just does not feel right – like in FlatOut 2. Alright, think about this – you are driving on the moon instead of on the Earth. The controls feel loose. You do not feel the difference between a light car and a heavy car because there is NO difference! It is unrealistic driving. Try to replicate the driving in DiRT in reality, and no, you cannot do it. This is a far cry from what was done in Forza Motorsport 2 – how you handle your car in the game is very similar to how you will handle yours in reality. This major flaw in DiRT has cast a pall over the other aforementioned accomplishments.

The other major flaw lies in DiRT’s forgettable multiplayer. In an age where most racers offer online multiplayer with the ability to output several other human opponents on screen together, DiRT inability to do just that is unacceptable. Perhaps this was done in order to meet an early release date for the game, but it would be apt if Codemasters had delayed the game so that the developers have more time to polish up DiRT’s multiplayer, which also has other tolerably limited options.

Final Comments
Overall, DiRT is a fantastic game. It holds the honor of having one of the prettiest visuals ever to grace the Xbox 360 and it boasts stunning damage effects as well. Tweaking the set-up of your car in a game can never get easier with detailed tutorials provided. DiRT is also a very accessible game, providing numerous options that are beneficial to both the hardcore and casual gamers. There is a whole lot of content in that package, including tracks of various types from several exotic locations, and it goes on to impress me with the number of cars and vehicle classes available, though the number of selectable cars are not as extensive as that of Forza Motorsport 2. However, a pair of serious blemishes prevents DiRT from being the perfect racer, namely the driving mechanism (needs a lot more work) and the multiplayer options. Had these double important aspects of a racing game be nailed, DiRT would be perfect – really.


Good points:
- One of the best graphics on Xbox 360 ever
- Great damage effects and lighting
- Detailed statistics on car parts and their sustained damage. Tutorials also provided on other car components. Very thoughtful.
- Accessible game. Suitable for both hardcore and casual gamers.
- Great variety of different types of tracks
- Great variety of cars
- Great variety of vehicle classes

Bad points:
- Seriously flawed driving mechanism
- Half-baked multiplayer


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