Colin McRae: Dirt review

Chris hates this game, because he loves it so much. Confused? Read on...

Dirt

I want to start this review by saying I DESPISE this game. Not because it’s bad… oh no! I hate it because it’s so damn good.

You’re probably confused. Let me start from the beginning.

The first time I booted the game, I found to my dismay that I couldn’t run this at max settings. This is the first game EVER that my rig hasn’t been able to run comfortably. Take heed, if you want to run this game in all its glory, you’ll need to be packing an 8800GTS, at the very least. This made me sad. Very sad.

However, this alone I could have handled. My 7900 is getting a little long in the tooth for today’s up-and-coming gaming menu and that’s just a fact I have to face.

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Next problem: even running on medium settings, I was getting random crashes, artifacting and the like. Turns out that this game is so intensive that it was causing the 7900’s RAM to overheat massively. So I bought a huge new cooler for it. A £35 game has now cost me £70. Right…it’s finally working!

Next problem: you simply can’t play this game properly with a keyboard. Doing so causes a play experience that varies from ‘downright difficult’ to ‘akin to steering a bus made of ice down Mt. Everest while being accosted by wild bears’. Okay, fine. I like my racing sims. Why not buy a steering wheel? A £35 game has now cost me over a ton.

Now, I can finally play the game… And it’s ruddy fantastic. It’s so good in fact that I begin to wonder how good it would look on my HD TV. My media center was only packing a measly GeForce 6200, so that wouldn’t cut it. In a moment of drunken madness, I bought another graphics card just to run it on my TV. So a £35 game has now set me back about £250. Why can’t I control myself?

The reason I can’t is that Dirt is absolutely brilliant. To say that it’s a leap forward for the McRae series is like saying that penicillin was “ooh, I dunno, alright” as a medical advancement. This is a step forward for racing games on the whole.

Graphically, it’s nothing short of stunning. Everything’s all shiny and HDR’ed/anti-alised, gorgeously textured and exquisitely detailed, making the tracks and cars seem unnervingly real and very beautiful.

To compliment the graphics engine, Codemasters have cooked up an admirable physics engine, making everything behave just as it should in the real world (although perhaps exaggerated slightly, just to make things a little more interesting). Couple this with one of the best damage systems I’ve ever seen in a race sim and you’ve got a game that will make you physically wince when you crash and get an all-too-real (and all-too-rare) rush of adrenaline when the speed starts picking up. This is what racing games have been missing for so long. This is GTR 2 for people that want to actually have fun.

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In terms of longevity, there’s a career mode featuring all of the vehicle and track types that the game has to offer, with the obligatory options to buy new vehicles and tune them up accordingly.

If you like anything with 4 wheels, you need to buy this game. If you’re packing anything less than a mid/high dual core rig, you might want to consider upgrading first, but it will be worth it. After all, Crysis is just around the corner.

5 out of 5
– just brilliant. Well worth extending your overdraft for.

Rating:

5 out of 5