Critical Reception: Codemasters' DiRT

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to the Xbox 360 version of DiRT, Codemasters' arcade-style rally racer that critics describe as "one of the finest driving-centric titles to hit the still-new 360 world" - full revi
This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to DiRT, an arcade-style rally racer that critics describe as "one of the finest driving-centric titles to hit the still-new 360 world." DiRT is the latest edition in the long-running Colin McRae series of rally racing titles, which saw its first release for the PlayStation in Europe in 1998. Since then, rally fans have regarded the series as being among the best in its genre, and every new release has debuted to high review scores from a majority of outlets. Metacritic notes that no Colin McRae release has ever earned a Metascore less than 80 out of 100, and the Xbox 360 version of DiRT follows tradition with an impressive review score average of 82 out of 100. "Ouroboros" at GamePro delivers a score of 4.25 out of 5 in Fun Factor, explaining that DiRT's graphical achievements alone merit a look. "DiRT is the first Xbox 360 racer to arrive with truly next-generation graphics," he praises. "Mud and rainwater spray off all four tires onto the detailed curves of each vehicle's bodywork, slowly covering the paint job and sponsor decals of each purchasable skin with a blanket of convincing filth." Its polished graphics aside, Ouroboros warns that the experience won't enthrall everyone. "The unlockable events, purchasable cars with tunable elements and five difficulty levels might make DiRT seem as approachable as any other racer, but the truth is that off-road isn't for everybody," he cautions. "Drivers will find the enveloping sense of teetering on the edge of being completely out of control either intoxicating or frustrating, though this is more a factor of personality than technical prowess." Additional complaints are aimed at the fact that some vehicles "feel a bit too floaty to be realistic", and at DiRT's "lack of decent multiplayer." "With games like Forza Motorsport 2 pushing the boundaries of Internet racing, the inability to put even two human opponents on the same track is breathtakingly lame," Ouroboros admonishes. "It's testament then to DiRT's groundbreaking graphics, chaotic flare, and infectious love of all things dirty and damaging that it delivers a good gaming value in spite of such a startling deficit." Hilary Goldstein at IGN also feels that DiRT is an excellent racer, even though it may not live up to the standards set by previous entries in the series. "Though it's not the best of the Colin McRae series, DiRT is perhaps the most accessible," Goldstein emphasizes in an 8.4-out-of-10 review. "It's not perfect, but it's damned pretty -- and a whole lot of fun." Goldstein is especially fond of the depth in DiRT's single-player career mode, which he describes as "an epic pyramid of increasingly difficult racing challenges." "Six different rally events are spread across the career mode: Rally, Crossover, Rallycross, Rally Raid, CORR and Hill Climb," Goldstein continues. "These are equally distributed throughout career, meaning that those who love time-trial rally racing will find considerably fewer of these events than in previous CM games." This is not as much as a drawback as it may seem, however. "While that might be reason to complain," Goldstein admits, "the multi-car races fit perfectly into the grittier attitude of DiRT. The healthy variety of race types keeps the career mode interesting from the bottom of the event pyramid up to the top." Specific complaints are directed at DiRT's physics: "On a whole, the cars don't feel grounded. Of course they are going to slip and slide, but it often feels like you're driving on a cloud rather than a dirt road. There's no sense of weight to the cars." "That doesn't mean it isn't incredibly fun," Goldstein concludes, "but for a next-gen racer it's a bit disappointing not to have the complete package." Gord Goble's review at 1UP awards DiRT a score of 8 out of 10. "Since the turn of the millennium, Codemaster's Colin McRae Rally has gloriously exposed rally racing for what it is -- a bone-jarring series of the trickiest, gnarliest solo time trials ever perpetrated," Goble begins. "But with its first rally racer for new-gen console systems, Codemasters takes the whole thing to a new level." Goble expresses disappointment over DiRT's lack of multiplayer options, however. "For the first time, the series allows drivers to start certain events simultaneously alongside other vehicles," he notes. "Unfortunately, the obvious spot where head-to-head driving would seem to make the most sense -- during online multiplayer sessions -- is the one spot that's not supported. Ouch. Moreover, the location of multiplayer events is purely random, and the communication between competitors is ridiculously limited. Can you say 'afterthought'?" Outside of its nonexistent multiplayer, Goble is satisfied with DiRT's gameplay. "Slightly flawed in some spots -- its Career mode, for example, is a pyramid of increasingly challenging events rather than a glimpse into a racer's life -- DiRT is nevertheless a big, beautiful game that goes places previous McRaes have not," he concludes. "It's quite simply one of the finest driving-centric titles to hit the still-new 360 world." With a long-standing reputation for quality and stiff competition from recent racer hits like MotorStorm and Forza Motorsport 2, DiRT faced newfound difficulty in finding success with its audience. Judging from critical reaction thus far, however, DiRT appears to have succeeded in providing a satisfying experience worthy of the series.

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