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Miscellaneous

Dirt 3 Review

DiRT 3
Image by Dekuwa via Flickr

I’m a fan of codemasters games generally, and I love rally, so you would think that Dirt 3 would end up being my favourite game. It is a very good game, but it just never reaches the level of brilliance that I was hoping for.

There is a lot more rally content in this game than there was in Dirt 2 which is a great thing. There are many different types of cars from different eras of rallying too which is also hard to fault.

The graphics are good, the cars look and sound great especially from the interior viewpoint and even the co-driver’s pace notes sound good. Much better than the official WRC game that’s for sure.

The game has a lot of content, but I feel that in terms of locations, it spreads itself possibly a bit too thin. Once you’ve gone through all of the events in the Dirt Tour, you’ll be absolutely tired of playing the same stages over and over, just with different cars.

This problem was compounded by the fact that many of the individual stages in a rally location felt stitched together using stage parts, and so most of the stages don’t feel very unique. This was a big problem in the official WRC game as well but you would expect better from Codemasters.

It seems strange to say but there’s just something about the game that stops it from going from very good to amazing in my eyes. The DLC doesn’t help either. I bought all of it, in large part because I like the company and want to support them, so I suppose I knew what I was getting myself into. DLC in this game, like many others just never feels worth the money you’re paying. The cars you can download, like songs in Rockband, unless you play with them endlessly, you’ll struggle to feel like you got your money’s worth.

The Monte Carlo track pack was solid but as with the other rally locations, once you’ve played a couple, you feel like you’ve seen it all and once you’ve gone through the events in Dirt Tour that use those stages, you’ll feel like you want your £6 back.

The other modes aside from rally: trailblazer, rallycross, land rush and gymkhana are all good, but I don’t think they’ll be the main event for many people who pick the game up. Trailblazer is intense because of how fast the cars are and the fact that you don’t get pace notes, so you have to try to glance at the map as you’re hurtling through the fast stages.

Rallycross is fun but a lot of the time, the car handling feels too twitchy and floaty. It didn’t feel that realistic a lot of the time, and that was a bit disappointing. Gymkhana is my least favourite event and in some ways it does feel a bit of a tacked on gimmick. It does provide interesting and unique gameplay, but it can also be frustrating when you’re struggling to make some of the stunts when you first start or when you’re just not in the groove. Land rush is essentially just rallycross but with trucks and buggies, which have different handling mechanics and bounce far more over the terrain.

The online aspect of the game does work well, and you’d expect this from Codemasters who probably do the best online driving games of anyone. The thing that puts me off this time though is the fact that when you start a rally stage, everyone starts at exactly the same time and so you can see all of the ghosts of other players around you constantly, which is extremely off-putting. I don’t see why they didn’t just leave it alone and keep using the stuttered start method, which is true to rallying anyway. I doubt people would have complained if 10 second delayed starts were kept from Dirt 2.

Overall, I think it’s a great Rally game but I’m left with the feeling that they could have done more. The fact that I’m still playing and enjoying GT5 so long after release should go to show other developers out there how to treat their players. Free DLC, or in GT5’s case, weekly challenges give people incentive to keep their disc and not trade it in, and after all, that’s one of the main reasons why DLC exists in the first place.

I guess if you’re looking for a rally game, then it’s a good choice and has little competition. I just hope that with Dirt 4 they really focus on creating a larger number of diverse environments to stop it feeling quite as repetitive.

Categories
Miscellaneous

WRC 2010 Game Review

The first thing to say about this game, is that it is a very long way from perfect. When I first played the demo for the game, I was astounded by how terrible the graphics, voice acting and engine sounds among other things were. In my first play through one of the stages in the demo I couldn’t believe I was witnessing a game that was so far short of the likes of Dirt 2, Gran Turismo 5 and F1 2010 in so many key areas.

After playing the demo a couple of times on the two available stages, I was about ready to write a blog post blasting the game completely. I didn’t, and I came back to it a week or so later after my passion for rallying had been firmly reignited. The second time through the handling of the cars really started to click with me and I started enjoying myself. I looked online to see if I could find the game for as much less than the usual £40 as possible, as I didn’t feel the game was worth even half that. Luckily, and perhaps not surprisingly, I found Amazon were selling it for £15 and I decided it was worth the gamble on for that price.

It was one of my best game purchasing decisions. Despite all of it’s problems, WRC 2010 is an incredibly fun game to play and is equally rewarding if you put the time in to really perfect the handling of the cars. I should mention that only huge rally fans with a big interest in WRC need apply as there are so many other better options out there. Dirt 3 is right around the corner and will be far and away the better game in all areas where this game fails. Gran Turismo 5 also has a rally aspect in it, but the handling in that game is far less fun and takes a long time to get into. This is much more approachable and has a greater sense of speed.

Going back to this game though, there is a wide variety of modes in single player. Chief among these is the Road to the WRC. This is the main career mode in which you create your own team from scratch. You must progress through all of the lower divisions of world rallying in order to impress WRC teams in order to get a drive with them. While I like the idea of it, and I like how they haven’t excluded J-WRC, S-WRC and P-WRC cars from the game, the mode drags on forever and it takes many hours of play before you can actually drive a WRC car other than the odd one-off wildcard event. However, even these only become available after you get to level 4 or 5 of the events.

What makes this delay worse is the fact that the lesser cars in the game are just not as fun to drive. The 4WD cars are serviceable, but the front wheel drive J-WRC cars are just not fun to control as they don’t drift easily and the gearing on them doesn’t feel right. Most people who buy this game are going to be itching to drive Loeb’s C4 or Hirvonen’s Focus, and even though you can do it in the single player championship mode, most will probably want to do it in the main career mode first, and that’s a problem.

You could say that the delay prolongs the length of the game, but after a while it just becomes cheap and repetitive. Once you do get to the WRC cars, you will enjoy it even more as you finally get to ditch the front wheel drive cars in favour of ones which are always on the edge of control and put you on the edge of your seat.

Going back to the negative points quickly though, it seems that some car engine sounds are better than others. For example, the Ford Focus sounds quite good and won’t get on your nerves too much. The Citroen C4 on the other hand will drive you insane if you don’t turn the sounds down in the audio settings. Likewise, the co-driver voices are unbelievably bad. They only have a few things to say in each situation and after a while of hearing “you drive like a champion” after winning a stage, you’ll be very sick of it. However, the most annoying call has to be when you make a considerable impact with a barrier or something else solid. The male co-drive will yell “aaaahhhh”. The first few times you’ll laugh at it but after that you’ll be cringing just before you hit a wall when you know it’s coming. Obviously, as you get better at the game you’ll hear it less, but I found the female voice to be far less irritating so I’ve stuck with her regardless.

The other final problem with the game is that despite there being 6 stages per rally, in reality, there are only 2 or 3 truly unique stages. The others are either reverse runs of the others or are created by copy and pasting different elements of stages together to create the illusion of uniqueness. This is lazy game development but it’s not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things. Even if you halve the number of stages in the game, there is still a considerable number of stages which differ enough to keep the experience fresh for quite a while. It would of course be great to have a game with exact replications of every stage run in the entire championship, but whether that’s actually realistic is unknown. I suppose when you look at how many tracks and cars are in GT5, you could see how it could well be possible with this generation’s hardware, but we just have to hope this happens at some point.

Overall though, if you can get past the abysmal voice acting, comparatively terrible graphics and engine sounds that remind you more of the drone of a go-kart than a roaring rally car, then you’ll really enjoy the fun handling and the full list of drivers, cars and rallys that the WRC license provides. It’s the first official WRC game for several years and while it’s by no means a great game technically, it does the job until hopefully WRC hire Codemasters to make a truly great official WRC game. Either that, or this developer produces something of far higher quality. I really hope we see one of those this year.