Features & News
Press Event: DiRT3: Gymkhana Uncovered
April 18, 2011, Author: Andy Knight
Picture the scene: It’s a glorious day, the temperature is soaring as the sun beats down, and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. Yet my vision and senses are being seriously impaired as dust and dirt is flung at my face, my nostrils are bombarded with petrol fumes, and my ears are ringing from the sound of a car being driven to within an inch of its life. All that, plus, I’m surrounded by 430 of the worlds motor and gaming press. It meant only one thing… I was lost! Actually, it meant that this past Friday I was at London’s formidable Battersea Power Station landmark for Codemasters’ DiRT3 Gymkhana press event.
To show off DiRT3’s impressive new game modes, Codemasters, along with fellow hosts and game sponsors, Monster Energy Drinks and DC Shoes, had hired out the grounds of Battersea and flown top world rally driver Ken Block over from the States so he could put on a real life display of DiRT3’s Gymkhana gameplay. It was all very impressive as Mr Block flung his 2010 Ford Fiesta rally car about like it was a go-kart at the dodgems. The man has some serious driving skills, not to mention madness to fling a car about at those speeds; yet as The Power Station loomed over Ken’s playground it was hard not to be in awe of the spectacle.
However, as special as the display was, and as impressive as the event venue and hospitality may have been, it was my duty as the This Is My Joystick representative to stop glugging down way too many Monster Energy drinks, divert my eyes away from the half-naked woman with Zoo emblazoned across her bikini bottoms, and get on with the actual reason why I was there. It was time to learn all about DiRT3! DiRT3 is the third in the popular rally driving franchise (you can tell that by the 3 in the title), and Codemasters are stopping at nothing to build upon their strong standing with the series.
So, what is new in DiRT3 you ask? Well the answer to that is pretty simple, quite a lot! Continuing to build on the game’s World Rally and Rally Cross career modes, the game has been improved and tightened to make the experience more realistic than ever before. Then, of course, is the brand new and much hyped Gymkhana gameplay mode; as well as new multi-player game modes that promise to bring a much more party friendly feel to its online functionality.
In fact there was so much new stuff, we were handed details by no less than four of DiRT3’s top men. Each stepped up on stage and talked us through what was new and how it affected the experience when playing the game. There was also demo for the Gymkhana mode, the multi-player Outbreak game mode, and at one stage, rally driver Kris Meeke took to a console to race one of the games designers (rally driver he maybe, but here he got owned!). Then finally we were treated to a Q&A with Ken Block and Kris Meeke so they could share their experience and involvement in the development of DiRT3. All this was hosted by the very charismatic and entertaining Christian Stevenson of Kerrang! TV fame, who actually also has a big involvement in the Dirt franchise, helping to put the soundtracks together while also voicing your PR agent within the game’s career mode.
It was a lot to take in at the time, but I think I got it all. So here is what DiRT3 has to offer you…
In the career mode, the rally content for DiRT3 has been taken from the past ten years of the Colin McRae franchise, to make every corner of every circuit and every timed stage more realistic than ever before. Also, the career mode driver roster will be comprised of all today’s leading off-road and world rally cross drivers, including the likes of Ken Block, Kris Meeke and Sebastien Ogier. Weather systems have been either improved or entirely newly implemented, with the Snow and Ice being more effective than ever. Snow in particular is extremely impressive as it now deforms on the track to make surface grip more difficult to master. They have also added the F1 franchise’s rain mechanic to make surface and driving conditions closer to the real thing, and the game will now include night-time stages for the first time on both rally and rally cross modes.
To compliment this and make for more immersion, you can now select from a wider range of rally cars than ever before, almost every rally car ever to compete is now included. That ranges from the 80’s group B cars all the way up to today’s competitors, such as Ken Block’s Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
Brand new to DiRT3 is the Gymkhana mode. This is the style of driving that Ken Block himself has brought to the forefront of today’s motor sport, combining the speeds and skills of rally driving to a close control circuit, filled with obstacles and hazards. In reality, Gymkhana is more of a display piece, which drivers use to hone and build their skills in controlling the car, however in DiRT3,Gymkhana will be a competitive sport, with points being awarded to the related skills and driving techniques that get you around the course, thus earning you a position on a leaderboard.
Those are the competitive modes, however, DiRT3 will mainly be based around what is known as the DC Compound. This section to the game basically acts as your home/base, and is split into three different areas. First is the parking lot, which, simply put, is a free space mode where you can simply throw the car around until your heart’s content. Basically, here you can do whatever you like and mess about in your car without the worry of hitting a obstacle. The second area is known as The Depot, this is a much more confined space filled with shipping containers. The purpose of this area is learning to handle the car in very small spaces; you will need to be sharp on the break and quick on the turn to avoid smashing into a nearby container. Lastly is the Power Station itself, where you’ll have access to the outer area of the grounds, all the way down to the water and along the embankment. Here you’ll be able to test your aerial handling with a series of corkscrew jumps.
Attached to the DC Compound is something named Joyride; a mode that will unlock after you have competed in your first Gymkhana event. Joyride unlocks the entire compound, bringing each area together as one big playground for you and the car. You’ll be able to get to any area and try all skills in one drive. It is also mentioned that in Joyride, there are hidden areas for you to discover, but it will take specific skills to access them.
Alongside this is the Gymkhana Academy, which acts like tutorial sections to the game, where Ken Block will teach all you need to know about the driving skills needed in DiRT3. This will be in the form of step-by-step lessons as you progress through the game. It doesn’t stop there either, as DiRT3 also has a YouTube uploading feature which allows you to stop the game at any point and use the replay mode to create your own clips. Once you have selected and edited a clip you will then be able to upload to an attached YouTube account so you can show off your driving across many of the social networking mediums. Times of clips vary upon what speeds you choose your clip to playback at, but at normal speed you will be able to upload a thirty-second clip to post on Facebook, Twitter etc…
Multi-player wise, the game is stacked with some very interesting modes. It appears that DiRT3’s online emphasis is very much on the party aspect of online gaming, and here Codemasters have put in three game modes that seem like winners. Firstly you’ll be able to lobby-up and hold games with up to eight people, and from there the fun begins with the variety of game styles available. Invasion is a simple concept where killer robots have invaded Battersea Power Station, although the killer robots are only cardboard cut-outs. The aim is to run down as many as you can without hitting the surrounding skyscrapers (I’m guessing these are probably just cardboard cut outs as well, and not actual skyscrapers). It doesn’t sound that much, but at the event we were informed that this mode is “rawkus fun!”, as eight cars race about battering cardboard around Battersea.
Another of the modes is named Transporter, and here you have effectively capture the flag. The aim is to race to the flag and return it to your base without getting hit by the opposing side. To keep it fresh, the flag and base positions are constantly moved around the map, so no camping will be possible. This mode will be for both team and individual play.
Lastly, you have the much-talked-about Outbreak mode. It’s been said that this is Codemasters’ zombie car game, and although they tried to deny it on the day, it totally is! What happens is that all competitors start off the same, yet five seconds in, one car is randomly chosen to be infected. Then within the remaining time, it is that car’s goal to infect as many other cars as possible and end the round having infected all other competitors. To make it that more fun, any infected car gets to see the map and the position of any uninfected cars by the way of a red mark. However, if you are a survivor, you have to use instinct and skill to find hiding places and out run the infected. To me this sounds like the winning online mode that will keep players coming back for more.
With all that I’d learned about DiRT3 on the day, I have to say it was getting me excited. There was more excitement to come, as the day wasn’t over; it was time to actually test out the game for myself. Firstly, I got my hands on a rally stage, and the first thing that hit me was the handling. This game isn’t messing about; you really do have to have the knowledge of rally driving to handle the cars as they go around corners. What I got to play was an African rally stage, the visuals were every bit as impressive as Dirt2 and I was informed the improvements graphically are in the detail of the things that usually go unnoticed. It was a shame I didn’t get to experience any of the new weather mechanics, but from what I played the career mode to the rally career is as firm as ever.
Then it was time for the main event; I got to test out the Gymkhana gameplay and throw the ford Fiesta around the Battersea Power Station arena. Firstly the environment of Battersea is spot on. Putting it into cockpit view, you really got a sense of what Ken Block must have been experiencing outside. Then secondly, you really understand that you are going to have to learn hard and fast to achieve the skills to master the Gymkhana course. There was a part to the area where you could doughnut the car around the crane attachment of a digger, I have to say I did spectacularly poorly at this. You get a sense that you need to know the right speed and angles to approach an obstacle if you are going to skilfully achieve the right moves and tricks to manoeuvre around it. I sadly didn’t get to play for as long as I wanted, as there were tons of people wanting a go, but from what I played, it was immensely fun.
Afterwards, I hung out a bit more with James Joell-Ireland from the WeDoGames network, who I had actually travelled to London and spent the day with. We watched Ken drive about like a chav in stolen car on council estate, discussed what we saw and how impressed we had been by the day’s events; Codemasters and the gang really know how to put on a spectacle for a game! Sadly it was time to make our way home, but not without a few more freebies, like more Monster Energy drinks which made my pee fluorescent for the next 24 hours, and a goodie bag that included a T-shirt, poster, and a Monster Energy condom… I kid you not.
My experience with DiRT3 on the day left me very impressed; it looks good, the game modes are very appealing, and the gameplay, especially for Gymkhana, was very fun to mess about on. For me this is a day-one purchase now. Previous fans of the Dirt franchise will not be disappointed and newcomers are sure to enjoy!