DiRT Review

20 05 2008

Ahhh DiRT the 360’s first (decent) venture into the field of off-road racing. DiRT is brought to us by Codemasters the same company that brought us the ToCA Race Driver series. DiRT is an interesting rendition of high speed, high risk off-road point-to-point racing (also known as Rally Racing), while the core race type is Rally Racing, other types of races are present and equally entertaining such as cross country circuit races, hill climbs, and one on one showdowns.

DiRT brings many things to the table, it has incredible graphics, sound, and physics, it has a massive selection of cars and tracks, and it’s one of only a few off-road racing games available on the Xbox 360. But… there’s always a but, there are also things to be desired, so without further ado, here’s the GBU!

THE GOOD

  • Impressive Graphics: Cars deform realisticly in collisions, paint scrapes, the track and debris effects are amazing, and the dashboard view is one of the best I’ve ever seen)
  • Good Sound: From the throaty rumble of the classic muscle, to the Citroen C4’s turbo whine, all the car sounds are believable and powerful
  • Good Design: The game is well put together, a user friendly menu system, audio track navigation (more on that later), and well balanced controls combine to make this game accessible to a variety of age and skill groups.

THE BAD

  • The handling of certain vehicles can be touchy at best.
  • The weather effects (rain, mud, etc.) on the grip and control of the cars seems over the top.
  • The group race AI will often run you off the road in the beginning of large scale races as they take a set course each and every time. This forces you to start the race and worry about staying on the track, rather than getting an early lead.
  • Multiplayer only supports virtual racing, what I mean by this is, while you may be “racing” against 5 other people, they are not represented on the track, so essentially DiRT’s multiplayer mode consists of online time trials.

THE UGLY

  • The voice support is hit-or-miss, it’s pretty difficult to get it to work, and when it does it cuts out frequently. Interestingly enough, Codemasters foresaw this and insituted a text chat system in which you select a line from 100 or so options, and it is posted into the “Chat” blade of the multiplayer lobby.
  • You cannot choose what track or car type you prefer when searching for a room, you can’t even control those when you host your own! All tracks and cars are decided by a voting system, with 60 seconds in between races, let’s see you refill the chip bowl, dash to the bathroom, and back in less than 60. Go.

The Meat:

DiRT is a game you would get for singleplayer, as there is virtually no interaction with other people aside from a flimsy, “Beat That!” multiplayer mode. Singleplayer is where DiRT really shines, you can set up a quick race, participate in a Tournament, or work on your racing career in the aptly named “Career mode”. Career mode is where most of the effort went, and it shows, upon entering the Career mode screen, you are greeted with the triangular monstrosity that is the Race Pyramid. You start on the bottom tier, and every time you finish a set number of races the next tier opens up, you continue on your quest for the top, until you eventually reach the summit that is the Champion of Champions event. Throughout your journey to the top you can purchase new cars, liveries (paint jobs), and tune your fleet of cars to perfection using DiRT’s deep tuning capabilities, while it may not rival Forza, those who actually know how to alter a wheels camber will feel right at home. Don’t sweat it if you (like I) can’t tell a camshaft from a carbuerator, there are a series of helpful tutorials for each part to help steer (ha) you in the right direction.

Once you have bought, tuned, and selected your new car, you are ready for a race, you can choose from a large list of off-road race types each with it’s own gimmick. Hill climb tends to have longer stretches of straight track for the high powered cars, Rally generally will have lots of turns and chicanes perfect for a quick compact car, and the Lucas Oil Truck series is perfect for the suppressed road rage in all of us. Throughout all your races you will have someone with you, whether it’s via Radio, or someone in your passenger seat, helpful voices will chime in to let you know that your clear to pass, going to fast, or that there’s a grade 2 turn coming up in 250 feet. The co-pilot feature in the rally races is really well done, the guy sitting in with you will tell you how far away a turn is, and how severe it is. Scaled from 1 to 6, 1 is the most severe whereas 6 is the long lazy turn you can take a 180 MPH.

Overall DiRT is a very enjoyable racer, with good physics, great visuals, and solid singleplayer, what it lacks in the multiplayer department is more than made up for the in the singleplayer options.

  • Visuals: 9.5/10 Beautiful in every way, easily one of the prettiest racers on the 360.
  • Gameplay: 7.5/10 It’s a racing game, on dirt… there’s no real originality, and the races seem to bleed together after a few hours of playing.
  • Audio: 9/10 The engine sounds are fantastic, and the in-game music isn’t too bad either.
  • Overall: 8.8




Burnout Paradise Review

12 02 2008

Criterion Games, a European developer, has held a unique niche in the racing genre of video games, they redefined the “racing” concept, rewarding not only fast times and precision driving, but wanton destruction and win-by-any-means gameplay. From the first Burnout game, the series has been about winning at all costs, Paradise does not deviate greatly from this formula, but there are some noteworthy changes. First off, in previous games online multiplayer consisted of races on a set and defined track, in the Paradise installment, multiplayer races are free roam based, once the race starts you can take any route you want to get to the goal. Also, Crash mode, a popular mode rewarding players for total damage inflicted on traffic, has been removed and replaced with the liked and disliked Showtime mode. Paradise strips away the confined “tracks” of other racers to replace it with a massive free-roam experience, free of loading times and transition screens.

Paradise city, it’s big, it’s beautiful, and it’s all yours. From the moment you get your first set of wheel’s to the end of the game, you can go anywhere, do anything, and engage in an impressive host of race-types. There is your standard “Point-A to Point-B” race, the classic TakeDown Races (In which you attempt to run a given number of rivals off the road), and three brand new, unique gametypes, Burning Route, Marked Man, and Stunt Run. Burning Route races are car-specific, it’s essentially a timed race against the clock from point-a to point-b, if you beat the clock, you unlock a retooled version of the car, some may have greater boost capabilities, while others may have a higher top-end. Marked Man is an interesting mode, it’s a linear race, again from here to there, there is no timer, and no opponents, you just have to get there alive. An endless amount of big black sedans will attempt to smash, crash, and slam you into a fine powder en route to your objective. You can opt for an Aggression car, and fight back, or you can try something quicker and try and out maneuver them. Stunt Runs start you at a given location, with a point goal, you can reach this by doing stunts (way complicated right?), including Big Air, smashing through billboards, barrel rolls, flat spins, drifting and boosting. Every time you land a huge jump, pull off a barrel roll, or smash a sign, you get a +1 to your overall run multiplier, these add up quick allowing you to rack up the points. Just don’t crash, if you do you lose your multiplier and your current point total is added to your “bank” of points towards your goal.

Various shops are scattered around the city, there are mechanic shops, fuel stations, paint shops, and junk yards. Repair shops, allow a mid-race or mid-roam quick-fix if your car has taken a few hits, paint shops allow you to change your color on the fly, and fuel stations refill your boost instantaneously. Try to incorporate these shops in your racing routes for maximum effect, that extra boost bar can make a difference between first and last. Junk Yards are the place to be when you want a new ride, any car you’ve taken down in free-roam, or unlocked in races, will be hear waiting for you. Just drive in and pick up your new wheels.

Let’s talk cars, the meat of any racer, sure you can have good tracks and modes, but everyone knows it’s all about your ride. There are three car classes in Burnout Paradise, Stunt, Race, and Aggression. Stunt cars are tailored towards stunts (shocking), being more agile and easier to control mid-flight, you get anything from old muscle cars to tuners. Speed cars, are your Ferrari’s and Lamborghinis, best on the open road, they can achieve a “Burnout” which refills your boost meter instantly, you can theoretically keep boosting all the way through a race (assuming you don’t hit anything, and keep pulling off drifts and near-misses). Aggression cars are the tanks of Burnout, these are suited for Takedown, and Marked Man races, these guys can take tons of damage and dish it out tenfold, cars in this category are typically, SUV’s, Trucks, and Old-School muscle. Each car can be painted in the Junkyard, and each has three different design schemes, three paint types (metallic, gloss, and pearlescent), and about 12 colors. Throughout the single player campaign after you complete a certain number of races a car will be spotted racing through Paradise city, if you come across it in a race or free-roam, take it out to add it to your junkyard.

It’s Showtime! Showtime mode, is the Paradise replacement for Crash mode, you can initiate Showtime at any time when free-roaming (even during a race), by hitting the LB and RB buttons simultaneously. Once you initiate Showtime Mode, your car bounces skyward, and all the traffic cars are given a dollar value. The more cars you hit the more “Ground Break” you get, by tapping A you can cause your car to bounce off the ground and fly whatever direction your pushing the L-Stick at. Busses can be hit, and will give a X1 multiplier to your overall score, this is where the big money is at. The farther you bounce and smash your way down the road, the higher your distance bonus will be, $100 for every yard travelled. Every ten cars you hit you get a large chunk of your boost meter restored, when you hit a car, any car that it hits counts towards your score, so aim for those four-way intersections. The Time Road Rules function allows you to attempt to set a time trial record for any road in Paradise city, simply drive onto the road from one end and head towards the other.

You start out as a D-Class License holder, the more races you win the more you rank up, from D to C, from C to B, from B to A, and finally from A-class, to your Burnout License. To take it another step further, complete all races and all challenges, and you’ll achieve the Elite License, which unlocks gold and platinum plated color schemes for all your rides. Keep in mind though, the races increase in difficulty the more you do them, so it’s going to be a lot harder on your last race than your first.

If you want to take the race online, all you have to do is join a Freeburn match, all accessed from the D-pad right menu. There’s no loading times, and no change in the surrounding (except for the addition of other racers). Once in a Freeburn match you can organize races, challenge each other with the Today’s Best leaderboards (jump distance, barrel-rolls, etc.), or partner up for one of the many Freeburn Challenges. Ranging from jumping onto a rooftop, to barrel-rolling over each other, these challenges require teamwork, and add a whole other level to online racing.

+Online racing is a button press away

+Free-roaming, Showtime anywhere

+Lots of cars

– No Takedown races online

? Why can you 101% clear the game

Score:

Graphics: 9/10 This game has amazing real-time deformation, you can watch your car literally crunch and crumple in on itself in stylized slow-mo crashes.

Sound: 9/10 The sound effects are superb, glass shattering, metal crunching, and tires bouncing, the soundtrack selection is great for techno/rave fans, only a few rock songs are included.

Gameplay: 8.5/10 This game truly revolutionized the racing genre, it tore down walls and barriers, and added unparalleled connectivity and instant entertainment. However, you can only rehash the same race so many times before it starts to grow stale.

Overall: 8.5/10 A few things seem to be missing, but future patches and DLC will keep the experience fresh for a long time.