Codemasters has put out off-road racers before but this is certainly the crown jewel. DiRT will stun you with cutting-edge graphics, detailed damage models, and stylish menus over-dubbed with great narration. DiRT's visuals are certainly some of the best we've seen yet on the 360 and will have you drooling over them all through the substantial career mode. You can see every leaf on every tree in every forest, every blade of grass whizzing by at over 100 mph, every pebble sent flying into the air if you run over some rocks... the detail is just astounding. DiRT pulls off some great lighting and atmospheric effects aswell that complete some of the richest and most realistic visuals ever. But unfortunately, visuals aren't everything. And that's what might turn some gamers off of DiRT.
Any rally game is bound to, and should, incorporate plenty of sliding around on dirt and gravel. DiRT does a great job with reproducing the off-road handling in most respects. But take your car on the tarmac and you will wish it was less twitchy and maybe had a bit more grip. Even the off-road handling isn't perfect. There are a few across-the-board handling issues that are likely to turn picky gamers off of DiRT. The most noticeable of these is that the game uses a slightly unrealistic center of gravity. This causes cars to pivot near the middle rather than towards the rear which allows for tighter turns and easier slides in the dirt while making handling unrealistic and a little too sensitive on the road. The other issue with the handling is that the cars often seem to lack a good sense of weight shift which makes it harder to get a really good sense of the car. The issues with the handling in DiRT certainly aren't enough to break the game but it is unfortunate that Codemasters couldn't quite nail it.
The bulk of gameplay is built around the single player career which spans a large pyramid of races that get tougher and tougher as you move up. You will play a variety of different kinds of races (all real world rally events) ranging from long, multi-stage timed rallies to fast, down-and-dirty cross-over events where you rip around a small track with several other cars. All of the race types fit nicely together while still offering a good deal of variety to keep things interesting. There is also a healthy selection of cars to choose from in several classes (e.g. AWD, 4WD, CORR, Hillclimb, etc...) and each car has several liveries (paint jobs) you can buy. Once you've bought a few liveries you can switch back and forth between them at a moments notice and with no charge. Liveries aren't the extent of customization options though. For more serious drivers there is a huge selection of custom tuning options rivaling that of Forza Motorsports. For a hard-core racer who will stop at nothing to perfect his (or her) line, there options for adjusting suspension rebound, fast bump, gear-ratios, and much more.
Tuning your car to the course (made easier by a pre-race co-driver chalk-talk and fully narrated tips for each setting) will help keep you on the course. But some of the best moments in DiRT happen when you unexpectedly fly off it. The damage modeling in DiRT is great. It's realistic and detailed and it reacts to the speed, direction, location, and subject matter of the hit to create a realistic dent or crumple or crack. Not just some pre-patterned nonsense that appears in the general area of the hit. The cars aren't the only things in physics and damage modeling either. The environment is destructible aswell. Wood fences will shatter, guard rails will dent and ripple with the impact, cement barriers will crack, bushes and small trees will actually be run over not just driven through like some ghost... I could go on and on. The spectacular level of damage detail combined with great sound effects create some of the most adrenaline-fueled crashes we've ever had the good fortune (or misfortune in a serious race) of being a part of.
Overall, DiRT is one of the best rally racers to hit the scene in awhile. The game nails the rally experience with uncanny precision with the exception of slightly wonky handling. The presentation is great with stylish menus, catchy music, and good voice acting. The single player campaign is great but you should steer clear of this game if your looking for good online fun because Codemasters unfortunately botches the multiplayer. So the verdict? if your looking for a great rally game with awsome visuals and sound and a good many hours invested in an in-depth single player career mode then this is the game for you. But if you're overly picky about handling or just dead set on a strong online presence then you should look into other options.
Positives: Truly some of the best graphics on the 360 to date, great sound effects, cool menus, long and in-depth single player campaign mode, plenty of customization options, good car and track variety, good range of difficulty settings accommodate players of all skill level, sweet crashes.
Negatives: Poor online presence, the handling is a little un-realistic and takes some time to get used to.
Graphics: Excellent 10
Sound: Excellent 9
Controls: Very Good 8.5
Campaign: Excellent 9
Gameplay: Good 8
Total (not an average): Very Good 8.5