Codemasters don't make life easy for themeselves. Producing amazing titles like Race Driver: GRID and the DiRT series only raises the bar higher each and every time. DiRT 3 definetly surpasses it's predesessors; but only just.
First off, whereas Dirt 2 was heavily critised for being too "Americanised" and having a "gnarly dude" kind of attitude, Dirt 3 is quick to counter that from the off. The focus instead is a lot darker, murkier and grittier with Rally being staged on the plains of Kenya and through the forests of Finland. There are still events (such as Rally Cross and Gymkhana) that are held in large sprawling stadiums and Dirt 3 I think has found a good balance between the two.
Also, the 2nd entry was critised with having too little Rally content for an actual Rally game with disiplines like LandRush and Raid. This time out these disiplines take more of a backseat and yet it still feels like they are overused. Don't get me wrong variety is brilliant but I felt that I wasn't racing in these events because I wanted to but more because I had to.
The Rally content has been increased and this is a very good thing. With the ability to drive today's WRC cars (Ford's and Citreon's) to classic rally cars like the Audi Quattro and the Mini Cooper, there is a lot to enjoy here.
One thing Dirt 3 has definetly achieved (and brilliantly) is the "just one more go" factor in it's Gymkhana events. The inclusion of these events has been a big selling point for the game, and rightly so, as they are brilliantly fun. For those of you who don't know, the Gymkhana events require players to master skills such as Drifting, pulling Donuts and catching Air in order to string together combo scores (almost like a Tony Hawk kind of skating thing but in a car) It is hugely addictive, thrilling and rewarding.
Dirt 3's highlight is the free-roam Gymkhana practice playground around Battersea Power Station. Here you hone your skills by racing through pipes and over jumps and so on. As I mentioned earlier the "just one more go" factor is perfectlu nailed and it is most evident in this feature. It's surprising how much you want to unlock that one misson or objective and how satisfying it is to find all the hidden packages dottted around and so on.
Visually, Dirt 3 is a lot grimmer and darker than No. 2 and whether that is an improvement is up for debate. There is however no doubting that the weather effects are stunning (such as the heavy rain and snow)
One con I'd like to draw attention to is the car/liverey system. As you earn reputation and unlock liveries it's all very well BUT these liveries are for one car in each class. Not every car as thought. Wanna race the Ford Fiesta in that new BP Ulimate livery? Tough, you can only do it in four or five, not the 20+ the game includes. Got an offer from Falken Tire Racing? That means you'll HAVE to drive the Subaru, not the Mitsubishi like you wanted. It's a little thing but it's a let down none-the-less.
Lastly, I'd like to whinge about the in-game menu's. BORING. I mean WOW, you'll be seeing a lot of triangles in this game they are everywhere.
Overall there is a lot to love about Dirt 3. It's gripping, thrilling, great in length (the Dirt Tour Career Mode is more than enough to keep you occupied) It's fun and balanced and varied. It has it's little niggles that annoy but they can be overlooked by the sheer entertainment it brings.