The overall handling of DiRT is one of the main reasons we say this is not the Colin McRae game fans will have wanted. It may have some new built-from-the-ground-up, ultra-next-gen physics system, and that does make for some of the most impressive car damage in any racing game, but the handling itself feels too arcadey for a Colin game.
In fact, the game is a strange mix between realistic and arcade. On the menu side of things, you have all sorts of dials and settings you can play with to tweak the performance of the car. In that area, it's like a Gran Turismo or F1 game. You can adjust camber, suspension, gear ratios, and all sorts of other parts of the car you don't understand (although, giving credit where it's due, it has spoken explanations for each part).
But then you get down to the important bit - the driving - and it's all arcadey. It's almost like the game doesn't know what it wants to be: an arcade game or a simulation. But the bottom line is this doesn't FEEL like a simulator.
The cars don't have enough feeling of weight. Even the smallest of cars, the Clio, for example, are 1000kg-pieces of metal (we Googled it). Yet, even when skimming over loose gravel at 100mph, we never felt like we had to be cautious about braking points - they stop almost instantly and turn like they're on rails - which, like we said before, feels too responsive and that's often what puts you into walls.
The amazing thing about previous Colin games was how good it felt to neatly slide your car around every corner, and the sound of the tyres scuffing along added to the visceral pleasure. In DiRT, those satisfying side-sweeping turns are occasional, because the cars feel so light and so agile that you don't have the weight to put them sideways around every bend and you end up driving them in much more of a straight line than traditional Colin fans will be used to.
Yet, despite our obvious disappointment on that side, the game has so many positives it almost completely makes up for it. The game is full of cool little touches. The menu presentation, with all its swooping boxes and flashy effects, is amazing. The online integration is great - after EVERY race you're shown an online leaderboard of the fastest times on that course, even when playing in single-player.
The load times are horrible, but to make up for that the game uses this time to brief on more stats - longest jump, longest slide, average race speed (over all the races you've ever raced!), longest distance without crashing... the impressive list goes on.
There's online racing in there too. It's not huge - ranked and unranked rally races are about the extent of the options, but that's alright.
So, in the end, you just have to accept the new Colin McRae for what it is. It might be arcade-like, and we hate the annoying, Tony Hawk-style American voice-over man that does nothing but bleat over-enthusiastic bollocks like "Yeah, we won because we were the fastest!" (we miss Nicky Grist), but despite the culture change, this is a great racing game.
It's an arcade-style rally game with immense variety in cars and courses, it looks incredible (although still has some choppy frame rate dips) and has the most amazing crash physics. Combine the huge single-player career with the online racing and there's loads of racing pleasure to be had.
Not the rally sim fans will expect, but despite a more arcade-like take, its huge selection of races and high-speed thrills, DiRT is fantastic fun.
- Huge selection of races
- Multiple vehicle types
- Stunning visuals and crash damage
- New arcade feel not the Colin we loved
- Annoying American VO man
- Slow big rig races