Review | 2008.01.01

At long last I got my hands on Colin McRae's DiRT (henceforth referred to as Dirt). After Polyphony introduced rallying in GT2, off road competition has been a necessary complement to racing sims. Since Forza is all tarmac, I had my eyes on Dirt since its release.

Mechanically, the game feels significantly more arcadey than Forza. Far be it from me to claim expertise on the performance of seven-digit racing machines. All I can say is that the physical forces one becomes intimately familiar with in the sim racers are there, but far less pronounced. Maybe it's because everything in Dirt is a race car - indeed the race models are far easier to drive in Forza and GT. Maybe the designers were simply aiming for approachability. Whatever the reason, I'm glad I don't have to worry too much about weight transfer while snaking through the forests of Norway at freeway speeds.

The game's presentation is top-notch. Load up begins with a segment (below) reminiscent of Climb Dance featuring Rod Millen's Pike's Peak Celica. The menus are cleanly stylized and the car models are unmatched in their detail. Travis Pastrana's incessant words of encouragement could certainly have been omitted, but E for effort anyway.

Dirt features a large variety of events and machines. Of course you can slide around in Imprezas and 307s, but I did not expect trophy trucks, semis, and the treacherous Group B racers. In a straight up rally game you'd never see an opponent's car, Dirt provides for many different racing scenarios.

I do find myself wishing for the extensive modification engine that the sim games provide as well as their nonlinearity, but Dirt really comes through in areas I never expected.

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