Let me preface this with the fact that I like Dirt 3 Complete Edition a whole lot. It’s an excellent game in most ways. It sounds great. It looks nice. It runs well. It exhibits Codemasters’ strong grasp of what makes a great arcade racer and why they have been so successful over the last several years. If you’re looking for an arcade rally game for Mac this is the one to get. However, while Codemasters’ understanding of racing game mechanics is great, their sense of style simply gets in the way.
So let’s start off with the good stuff. Dirt 3 plays better than any rally game has this side of the original 1994 release of Sega Rally. The cars, while easy to operate feel very dynamic. Despite the arcade-style handling, you get the sense that the cars are mechanical and real. You can feel your tires fight for traction as they sling mud into the air or scream as you enter into that country road a little too quickly. You can feel the car float as you clip a snow drift in the mountains of Aspen, Colorado and you can feel when you went just a hair too far over the shoulder of that rainy Finish road. Suspension and tires can be seen working and struggling and it just all feels good. Really good. Cars that are FWD behave so, as do AWD cars and the much harder to handle, tail happy RWD ones. There’s not a ton of different cars, but there are more than enough to keep things interesting, with cars from various eras and decades and styles (including some illustrious Group B insanity).
A lot of why Dirt 3 feels as good as it does can be attributed to sound. There is a good selection of music in the game, but it exists mostly in the menus. In racing, the soundtrack takes a back seat to the wonderfully created crescendos of your rally car. Whether it’s the deep growl of an old WRX or the ear-busting scream of a new BMW Z4 hillclimb car, it’s all enough to send shivers up this gear-head’s spine. Environmental sounds are used effectively in both mechanical and ambient senses, conveying both how the car is reacting on the surface as well as adding to the symphony of wonderful rally sounds. Snow crunches, mud slops, suspensions bottom out with a thud and bumpers crunch with satisfying crispness.
It also looks nice. In a bit of irony, the best word I can find to describe the look of Dirt 3 is “clean”. It won’t win points for looking particularly realistic by any means, but it runs extremely well and while not particularly detailed, the soft appearance of the cars and environments is extremely pleasing; the lighting can be particularly beautiful, especially on the snowy Aspen stages. Those of you with lower end machines shouldn’t have too many problems at lower settings and resolutions and those of you with an Iris Pro equipped 15” MacBook Pros or better should have no problems running the game. On this particular system, 1600x900, 4X MSAA, and the High Preset delivered a very pleasing gaming experience. It is worth noting that load times did frequently exceed 35 seconds in the campaign but seemed far more reasonable elsewhere. Feral Interactive once again has done a fantastic job in bringing a game over to the Mac platform.
It exhibits Codemasters’ strong grasp of what makes a great arcade racer
Dirt 3 offers a ton of content and variety as well. As much as I love classic rally stages of which there are many in the game, there are plenty of other types of events to keep you interested. Rallycross exists as a basic circuit mode. Trailblazer is much like standard rally however features insanely powerful cars and extremely wide, fast tracks. Landrush is an extreme version of rallycross, which features buggies and rather unstable trucks and many, many jumps. The two final modes are perhaps the most interesting however. Head 2 Head works much in the way a circuit race does though instead of a standard track you are faced against a single opponent on cleverly designed circuits with an outer and inner path. These tracks cross over and under each other at various points (sometimes even with jumps) so rarely you’ll ever be next to your opponent. Instead, you might see them driving completely the opposite direction or flying over or under you. Mechanically it’s not particularly different but it looks interesting and allowed the track designers to really get creative with their designs. New to the series, Gymkhana is by far the most different and potentially out of place mode in Dirt 3. Essentially, Gymkhana is a trick mode much like a car version of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater where you’re given a minute or two to string together various tricks and jumps. It’s silly and while the game’s emphasis on this mode is perhaps a bit misplaced, Gymkhana definitely serves as a nice change of pace from the other modes that are specifically racing oriented. The Complete Edition adds even more content in the way of 18 additional cars and 12 stages and is the only version available on Mac. There’s no shortage of stuff to play with in this game.
Unfortunately, Codemasters’ implementation of this wealth of excellent content is surprisingly mediocre. I mentioned that the style gets in the way of the game doing what it does well and it is in the Dirt Tour that you’ll find this to be most prominent. The game’s campaign is organized into four “seasons” represented as prisms that unfold to reveal three event sets and a final series. While this is indeed a creative way to lay out the menus it’s slow and frustrating to navigate. From the second you start everything you do is narrated by a set of actors including the lauded driver Ken Block, whom all phone in their performances and do little but waste your time. Every little aspect of the game is given a tutorial and you’ll spend a good amount of time being forced to listen to unskippable, obnoxious dialog and, being taught how the most basic of systems work. At best the commentary is simply unnecessary and at worst exceedingly annoying and frivolous. In all fairness though the Gymkhana mode is radically different to the rest of the game and so perhaps it was necessary for a tutorial for that particular event. On the other hand, I’m not sure it’s really necessary for the other modes, which like you’d expect of any form of racing, really just requires you to go as fast as you can and win. Even after you finish the constant vocal tutorial of the first hour of the game you’ll be constantly be given feedback from the narrations that once again interrupt the flow of the game and take control away from you throughout the Dirt Tour. As you work at earning reputation and completing events through the campaign you’ll be awarded with the rights to move forward and unlock new liveries and a few cars. Luckily, the campaign is quite short so it’s pretty easy to knock it out in a weekend and move on to playing in the much preferable Single Race mode.
Dirt 3 offers a ton of content and variety
Dirt 3 also sports a wonderfully complete multiplayer mode that includes split screen support as well as LAN options. Online multiplayer support is not included in the Mac App Store release but will be in the Steam release coming soon. If Feral’s previous efforts are anything to go by it should work perfectly. We will update this review with details when that version is released.
With all this said, Dirt 3 Complete Edition is well worth the money if you think it might tickle your fancy. While the game is not without its annoyances, it plays wonderfully and runs just as well. The combination of its mechanical excellence, content variety, and robust options in its single and multiplayer offerings make it easy to overlook its flaws. The game remains probably the best example of Codemasters’ design, and now that it’s available for Mac, arcade racing fans on OS X really don’t have an excuse to not give it a look.
- The best arcade rally racing you’ll find on the platform
- Great performance and visuals
- Sound design is a step above
- Long load times
- Unrealized campaign mode
- You’ll be called “Amigo” a thousand times