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Colin McRae DiRT is a game I was looking forward to playing. The title promises a lot and the history of rallying here in the UK asks a lot of a game which pretends to recreate its magic. These are the hardest games for me to assess because I hold the sport of stage rallying in high regard and its drivers are, in my opinion, the bravest of all motorsport drivers. So the game hasn't got a chance really, but hopefully it will get somewhere close to my high standards and expectations.
Okay lets get the worst bit about this game out of the way straight away. The title. I have been an avid rally fan for many years and regularly travel to Wales to watch the Rally GB. My hillcllimb car is a classic Subaru Impreza, I have grown up watching the likes of Richard Burns and Colin Mcrae. So why oh why is this game called Colin McRae - DiRT? To make matters worse the American narrator insists on explaining stage rallying as if it was something new, even though this is not the first Colin Mcrae rally game. It just annoys me when mass marketing gets in the way of what had the potential of being a fitting tribute to a great rally driver and ends up as a globalised mush.
I would go so far as to say they have missed the point with a game titled Colin McRae DiRT.
I would go so far as to say they have missed the point with a game titled Colin McRae DiRT. Rather than focussing on what is a well respected sportsman in a specific field of motorsport they have taken a pick and mix approach and introduced various motorsport disciplines, which don't resemble stage rallying at all, under the heading 'dirt'. It's a bit like calling a game 'Lewis Hamilton - Racing' and then including Nascar and Indy car racing even though they have nothing to do with Lewis Hamilton. However had they simply called it 'DiRT' it would not have bothered me at all.
Luckily for the makers of this game, it's actually quite good. The more I play this game the better it gets. Like all good games it starts off by being quite easy until you start to get better and then it gets progressively harder.
You get a number of disciplines to master, including Rallycross, Hillclimbs (American style), Rally Raid, American buggy and pick up racing plus, thankfully, stage rallying! So a fairly predictable mix of European and American styles to keep everyone happy. My favourites are the stage rallies and hillclimb events, though I have to say I find the hillclimbs quite hard to master as you are forced to rely on memory rather than pace notes to negotiate approaching bends. I ought to be better at it, seeing as I compete in UK hillclimb events in real life, but the American events are considerably longer than our 1000 yard events here and cover more like 10-15 miles in some cases.
Graphically the game is excellent. I play my games on a large projector screen and I found the game to be smooth and viewable through fast direction changes and very fast moving scenery, even though some others in the room felt motion sick while I was playing the game! Thankfully as the driver this didn't affect me. Interestingly, though, I found the game much easier to play with the standard controller than with my steering wheel. The action is so fast and furious that my poor G25 just couldn't keep up with the lightning fast direction changes required to progress through the stages.
The proper rally stages are a dream.
The proper rally stages are a dream. There are lots to choose from with a great mix of surface and weather, as well as a variety of European countries to work through. There also a number of special stages to race one on one against another car too, just like the WRC. My favourite (according to the game stats) are wet tarmac and GB stages, though I have a particular love of the German tarmac stages, and some of the Japanese stages are spectacularly fast and challenging. For me the essence of rallying is fulfilled in this game with a real sense of keeping the car balanced on the edge of grip whilst cornering on opposite lock. Four wheel drifting through long sweeping bends and executing the perfect scandinavian flick when required. The magic art of rallying is well captured and the faster you get, the better it gets.... and the more serious the accidents get!
The online experience is also worthy of a mention as it brings a very interesting angle to a rally stage. With the online gaming it gives the player the opportunity to drive a stage on their own yet be simultaneously playing against others on the same stage. Sounds pretty basic you might think, but for stage rallying this is revolutionary and an excellent, if I guess slightly accidental, modification of the sport.
All in all this game has grown on me considerably. At first I struggled to get into it because of its clearly compromised marketing stance but once I had got over that I discovered a game which is well polished, innovative, and certainly one which will keep me entertained for many more miles.
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