Diggin’ Up The DiRT

It’s 1933. Battersea, London. The world is still in black and white, construction just started on the Golden Gate Bridge, some chap called Adolf is making a fuss in Germany and, more importantly, somebody travelled back in time and built a power station from Command and Conquer Red Alert. Designed by a chap called Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, who also designed the red telephone box, Battersea power station was built to meet the demands of Britain’s ever growing thirst for energy. The power station would burn up to 4,000 tons of coal a week! That’s the same (roughly) as 40 million boxed Xbox 360 games, so it goes without saying that burning that much coal could be a little dangerous to the environment and those damn hippies had the place shut down in the mid seventies.

Nowadays it sits as an empty monument to an age where the English really knew how to burn a fucktonne of coal in a short period of time, just waiting for the hippies to turn it into a shopping centre/cinema/Starbucks/residential living complex for the urban trendsetting man. On the 8th April 2011, however, Battersea returned to its glory days; the area once again roared with the noise of fuel being burnt, pollution filled the London air and somebody took something from a video game and made it exist. You see, Ken Block’s in town and he’s brought his custom made 650 brake horse power Ford Fiesta with him.

Ken will be doing what he does best and showing off “literally” one of the new game modes for Codemasters’ DiRT 3 known as a Gymkhana. Anybody familiar with a Ken Block Gymkhana will know that it basically involves Ken hooning around as fast as possible while power sliding in, around, through, over and under obstacles. It’s a spectacle to watch on YouTube, it’s even more mind bending in real life and now you’re going to be able to do it for yourself on one of the few playgrounds available to you in DiRT 3. Today the area just outside the power station has been turned into a playground just like it is in the game; there’s a lorry to power slide under, containers to drift around and a boxed off area not much bigger than the car for Ken to do donuts in. When I use the word playground though, I mean it; this isn’t a course or a track and in the game you’ll be able to just dick about in a car just like Kenny from the Block does. Anybody who’s ever seen one of Ken’s videos will know exactly what to expect although, granted, today’s event wasn’t quite as extreme (I suspect that had something to do with the health and safety man) but it was still a spectacle to watch. The term “mad skills” doesn’t quite cover it; Ken doesn’t follow a set path and no two runs out that he did were the same, he just plays with the environment around him and ultimately that’s what DiRT 3′s Gymkhana events will really be about.

Those of you who feel a little deflated by the addition of things like the Gymkhana which, at first glance, seems like a further watering down from its predecessor DiRT2, the game that brought us all the new modes like the X-Games, dirt buggy racing and raid events. Unfortunately these new additions in the last game pushed out the rally aspect to the point where there was not much in the way of actual rallying in what we thought was a rally game. Don’t fear though as DiRT 3’s Brand Manager Edward Newby-Robson fills us in on what rally fans can expect.

“We’ve taken the best rally content from ten years of the Colin McRae rally series, we’ve added the latest and greatest drivers from off road and rallying including WRC; Kris Meeke, Sebastien Ogier and Ken Block of course… So rally is back and we’ve done rally better than we’ve ever done before and we’re going to make the best rally experience on a console which is sixty percent of DiRT 3. We’ve got over five decades of off road and rally vehicles starting from the 1963 all the way up to the 2011 Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Snow and ice is a fan favourite and its back in a massive way, we’ve got rally and rally cross and we’ll be giving you specific set ups including studded snow tires and we’ll have deformable snow on those tracks as well. We’ve taken the F1 rain tech [as seen in Codemasters F1 2010] and we’ve made it dirty and the rain adds a great new aspect to rallying and on top of that we’ve added night racing both in rally cross, like we had in DiRT2 but in rally stages as well.”

I sighed with relief as I heard those words. Don’t get me wrong, I loved DiRT2 but it was a little frustrating playing a rally game that had hardly any rally in it, so helmets off to Codemasters for listening to their community on that one. One of the new features that Codemasters have added to make the game that bit more community friendly and sociable is YouTube uploads of your replays, so whether you want to prove that you’ve just pulled off that perfect drift under a JCB’s arm through an empty container and over a jump or you just completely totalled your mate into a tree online and want to rub it in his face, you can. It’s as easy as trimming the clip down to the 30 seconds you want using the replay editor then hitting Y (I’ll take a guess at triangle on the PlayStation), then *ding*! There you go, it’s up on your YouTube channel. More games need this kind of feature; I know DiRT 3 isn’t the first one to have it on a console but it should be in everything, and I’m looking forward to annoying my mate Tommy with it.

Online you’ll find the standard affair racing wise, with all of the single player games modes given the online treatment and a few new additions that go by the name of “Party Modes”. These Party Modes will make anybody who misses the good old days of Burnout Paradise and dossing about with mates in cars do a little “yay” and are designed to be fun and something a little different. The first of these Party Modes announced today is Invasion and I’ll let Paul Coleman, Senior Games Designer, explain it to you.

“The premise with Invasion is that a bunch of killer robots have come in and invaded Battersea; they’re actually cardboard cut outs but don’t worry about that. You drive the car around, you smash these robots; there are also skyscrapers there but you don’t want to hit those because they’ll deduct points from you. It’s a simple premise – we reckon players will be able to pick it up and got on with it pretty quickly, but it’s great fun when you’ve eight people in there and we’ve been having some raucous fun playing it in the studio”

The party modes don’t stop there though and Codemasters have also added a capture the flag mode called Transporter, the idea being that you need to pick up a flag and drop it off at your base but both the flags and the bases will move around so they are always in a different place. Then Paul drops it on us, the final of the three party modes called Outbreak. All around me journalists’ shoulders slump, the men sigh and the girls giggle at the men. That’s right, Outbreak is a zombie mode. Come on then Paul… sell it to us.

“Actually, all the players start [driving] around and nobody knows what’s happening and then one guy will get an infection, he’s got to then chase down all of the other survivors trying to spread that infection as quickly as possible. Once you’re infected you’ll then have to go spread that infection as well. As the infected you’ll see where everyone else on the map is, as a survivor you’ll just be running scared you’ll just have to keep moving find somewhere to hide and hope that you can survive the outbreak”

To be fair to the guys at Codemasters, is does look fun; when you’re infected your screen turns green and the other survivors in the game are pointed out to you with a big red triangle above them regardless of where they are on the map. Don’t be like that guys, it could be worse… it could be DLC. Quickly worth mentioning on the multiplayer side of DiRT 3 is that split screen makes an appearance which, granted, isn’t anything new but people with real world friends that sit next to them for gaming might be pleased to see it included.

DiRT 3, like its predecessors and everything the Codemasters team have put out this console generation, is a fantastic looking game; the level of detail in the tracks and cars is amazing. Smoke pours from the tires while hooning around the Battersea playground and a plume of dust is left in your wake as you tear arse uphill on the rally stages; the whole game just looks and feels right. I realise I’ve said that about a lot of racing games recently but DiRT 3 is a much like the studio’s other outings, F1 2010 and my personal favourite racer, GRID. They have that something special; they have a real sense of occasion to them which, despite the dramatic changes the DiRT series has seen over the three games, still remains the best rally experience you can have on a console and I can’t wait for DiRT 3′s launch later this year.

Last five articles by Lee



  1. Ben Ben says:

    More Rally = Day one purchase from me.

    My favourite racing series (on par with Burnout) to date and will likely be enough this time round to warrant me getting a steering wheel. Would love it if they opened up a track editor of sorts, racing community would have an absolute field day with it.

  2. Pete Pete says:

    Having had a play at the event I’ll be getting this! :D

    The zombie part isn’t really zombies though, it’s just a big old game of tag in rally cars :D

  3. Lorna Lorna says:

    Zombie mode?! Seriously? In a racing game. Anyway, fucking enjoyed this write up, first paragraph was a top historical summing up. The game actually sounds pretty interesting. I don’t tend to do driving games unless they have a hook. I liked the open nature of Burnout Paradise and the Cops and Robbers feel to NFS, even though it felt limited, but the odd modes here actually appeal to me a lot. Love that they called it Gymkhana mode because thet’s exactly what it looked like, only with less Veruca Salts.

  4. Pete Pete says:

    Seriously Lorna, the Infected mode thing isn’t anything more than tag by crasing into people! :D It looks like it’d be a lot of fun with the right folk! ;) Guess they kinda shoe horned it in but it’s very tongue in cheek :)

    Wonder how many more smilies I could get in such a short space? :D

  5. Lee says:

    Yeah zombie mode! like pete says it is a more like tag maybe with a bit of hide and seek too. The most important thing for me was that “60 percent rally” line. Dirt 2 (while good) just completely dropped the ball with that for me and I’m glad that rally is back in a big way.

  6. Edward Edward says:

    Sounds interesting and glad to see they’re returning to their roots a bit more…

    …but a zombie mode? Seriously?

  7. Adam says:

    My 3 favourite things about this article:

    1) 60%
    2) Hooning
    3) Fucktonne of coal


  8. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    Classic lines….

    “Nowadays it sits as an empty monument to an age where the English really knew how to burn a fucktonne of coal in a short period of time”

    “…some chap called Adolf is making a fuss in Germany…”

    “…somebody travelled back in time and built a power station from Command and Conquer Red Alert.”

    I’ve never played a rally style game I’m afraid. I had a Colin McRae years ago but never got around to giving it a go. It may still be here actually, sealed of course. I do fancy giving this a go as I tend to spend all my time in Burnout Paradise doing drifts, flat spins and jumps, but I think it would annoy me that I couldn’t do it in real life. Not legally, anyway. The dood has some serious moves though, eh? Really impressive, and full of WTF moments!

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