Codemasters has been pumping out rally racers for years, first under the Colin McRae name and more recently the Dirt series. The original Dirt was a superb rally racer. Dirt 2 superseded the original in every way and was easily one of the best racers of the year. Dirt 3, however, builds on those successes and provides one of the finest and most entertaining racing games of the year.

Rally racing focuses largely on off-road competition that varies between standard racing against other cars and traditional rallies, where each driver takes a turn trying to make the best time on a given track. Dirt 3 expands well beyond these two styles of racing and provides an insane variety of challenges across an impressive amount of tracks and locales. The game is one of the most complete racing games on the market—providing an engaging and intense racing experience both on and offline for all skill levels.

Dirt 3 is an incredibly customizable racing. While even hardcore racers like Shift 2 and Gran Turismo offer scaling difficulty levels to accommodate varying skill levels, even on the easier levels they still feel less than welcoming to casual drivers and newcomers. Dirt 3 provides as much assistance as you need, or as little, making the gameplay fun for anyone, without sacrificing the gritty feel of the racing.

The career mode is the main meat of the game, and serves up over 100 different events to conquer. Dirt 3 offers a great array of locations to blast through, providing extremes at every turn. Races take place everywhere from African deserts and snowy roads in Aspen to LA and all over Europe. Some tracks are lap-based circuits, while others are just long stretches of road. Brand new to the series is the gymkhana mode. This is a trick-focused event where players are tasked with stringing together slick driving moves to earn big points.

The gymkhana mode is strangely reminiscent of skate boarding games like Tony Hawk, and adds a great new dimension to the otherwise more straight-laced racing action. More importantly, conquering this mode ensures that you’ll have the driving skills to ace any other track. No matter what type of event you’re racing, the controls are always spot on and, as with Dirt 2, if you really get into trouble, you can rewind time and try again without having to start the whole race over.

Perform well enough and you’ll earn new sponsors, which unlocks new vehicles and greater challenge. Of course, even a great single-player game can only get you so far, and Dirt 3 has pumped up its multiplayer game immensely. Beyond multiplayer versions of the various single-player modes, the game throws out some crazy game styles usually seen in first-person shooters. The Outbreak mode, for instance, is a game of vehicular tag where one player is “infected” and must spread the disease to the other cars. Transporter is a capture the flag-style game and Invasion focuses on smashing through alien robot cutouts while trying not to cause collateral damage to the movie-set-like buildings.

Dirt 3 brings all its racing greatness together thanks to a gorgeous presentation. The visuals are stunning, and easily on par with the competition. Cars are detailed with full damage modeling. The tracks and backdrops are varied, sharp, and realistic as well. The soundtrack is powerful, with great sound effects and voice work.

There’s very little to complain about in Dirt 3. For racing fans, this is a no-brainer. This is a great sequel, which improves on the previous game in every direction. The career mode is massive and the multiplayer is terrific. When it comes to rally racing, this series has always been the leader of the pack, and Dirt 3 is the best yet.

About The Author

Jason D’Aprile has been writing about technology, games, movies, and gadgets for the last three decades. His musings on all of the above can be found at Jason only condones virtual violence and wishes we could all just get along.

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