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Dirt 3 review

Our Verdict

Leaks fun like a cracked sump leaks Castrol. Thoughtful additions ensure its as irresistible as its predecessor.

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I have the feet of a mad organist. My pedal set was pushed to one side half an hour ago, but under the desk my soles are still stamping the brake and feathering the throttle. They're restless. They want to be playing DiRT 3 again.

Don't fret, feet. Once I've explained to the good boys and girls just how brilliant this driving-fartoo- fast-on-unmetalled-roads game is then we'll be straight off to Finland, or Kenya, or that wild, snow-sprinkled highway in Norway that you love so much.

Codies have nailed it. They've produced a worthy sequel to the rollicking, Rio Carnival of a rally that was DiRT 2 (PCG 209, 88%). The new menu system – all spinny pyramids and brooding Battersea Power Station – doesn't have half the charm of the Winnebago-based one. But where it really matters, out on the dirt, the new one is more than a match for the old.

Once again, we get a bulging chocolate box full of different race disciplines and vehicle types. Pure rally events nestle in alongside boisterous rallycross circuit races; bouncy buggy derbies jostle in tense head-to-head stadium duels and knuckle-blanching Trailblazer speed runs. By the time you reach the end of the hefty four-season career mode and get stuck into the well-equipped multiplayer, you'll have calluses on your hands the size of wheel nuts.

Pippa Funnell fans may be disappointed by the pony-free nature of the new Gymkhana events, but I think freestyle car trickery is a perfect foil to all the A-to-B motoring. The same skill set comes into play in the recreational DC Compound. Unlocked piecemeal, this Battersea wasteland is littered with optional challenges and tempting opportunities for arsing about. Drift through giant pipes, donut around a digger bucket, twirl 180 degrees while jumping… It's joyful stuff but murder on your logoplastered bodywork.

Crystalline water is another of DiRT 3's admirable additions. Whether it's taunting your tyres or blowing in flurries across your windscreen, the cold white stuff transforms pace and mood. Add a squiggly mountain road and the headlight-speared darkness of a Scandinavian night and you've got the recipe for some of the most atmospheric automotive action imaginable. The EGO engine's Turner-esque talent for landscape and light remains impressive. Even owners of elderly rigs can expect moments of startling beauty

Talking of ageing technology, the 50-strong vehicle selection includes a range of '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s machines that are sure to please the generation of gamers taught road safety by huge squirrels and crappy superheroes. Tearing along the game's forest tracks in vintage Ford Escorts, Opel Mantas and Audi Quattros is as delightful as it is horribly dangerous. I just wish the rides were a tad more talkative.

If you're a SimBin veteran, you're likely to find the lack of audio feedback from tyres, transmissions and brakes mildly perturbing. The cars handle intuitively, though, especially when you've tweaked things such as brake bias and gear ratios to suit your driving style. However, a few more catastrophe cues would have been useful.

Some smarter co-drivers wouldn't have gone amiss, either. The current batch can be a little overeager when it comes to pace notes. When you're haring towards a hairpin at 100mph or more, it's not particularly helpful to hear, “Easy left – opens” from the passenger seat.

But enough nitpicking. You've got a dazzlingly varied, relentlessly entertaining rally celebration to buy. I've got a pair of increasingly exasperated feet to placate.

The Verdict
Dirt 3

Leaks fun like a cracked sump leaks Castrol. Thoughtful additions ensure its as irresistible as its predecessor.