DiRT 3, the latest in the Colin McRae Rally racing series, continues its developer's trend of taking past successes, listening to fans and critics alike, and releasing an evolved rally racing experience.
Codemasters has done an excellent job of making all the core upgrades that any new iteration needs. You'll see better graphics and added minor features, such as flashbacks, soundtrack choices and more car customizing. However, the most interesting and fun new element to DiRT 3 is the addition of the gymkhana gameplay mode. It's essentially an obstacle course and multi-player playground where you can jump, drift, spin, and dodge. Racing purists might not spend much time in the mode, but to everyone else, it will be a welcome break from the race events.
Sadly, these fun elements are overshadowed by two downsides. First, and most important, is the in-game driving. Somehow, Codemasters decided to add so many "aids" to the game by default that it doesn't feel as if you're driving at all. It's more as if you're ghost-driving. Without fine-tuning the settings of the vehicles, the game doesn't truly let you control 100 percent of the driving. Other games have done this, but it's most evident here.
The second drawback is the annoying amount of time spent outside the race track, listening to an announcer or watching a video about a feature. The amount of time spent outside of racing is mind-numbing and quickly becomes irritating.
On the social-integration front, Codemasters has included the ability to upload flashbacks and clips of your races to YouTube. This might seem like a great idea, but it quickly becomes a forgotten feature. You can't edit the clips, comment on them or do anything else beside the basic function of uploading them to the site. Maybe DiRT 4 will upgrade the social element, but for now, it's easily dismissed.
Still, if you've played and enjoyed past DiRT games, or even rally-racing games in general, DiRT 3 is a solid game that's definitely recommended. If you're undecided about racing games in general or think perhaps it's time to try the genre once more, pass on this in favor of something else.