Dirty Fun

I've only just got around to playing Colin Mcrae, "Dirt" on my Xbox 360. I got it for my birthday ages ago (at least it seems ages ago) and I've been too busy with other things to have a go. But tonight I put aside a couple of hours for fun (it is Saturday after all) and fired it up.

I love it.

I've not been that keen on Colin Mcrae games in the past because they seemed too focused on technical accuracy and genuine handling for me. (translation: I crashed all the time). But the new one seems to have toned down real life to a level I can cope with, albeit at rookie level, and I think it is great.

I had a go at the truck racing stuff, which seems to have taken several leafs, nay perhaps a whole bunch of chapters, from the PS3 Motorstorm game. It has the same bouncy handling, insane opponents and funky vehicles, but without the charm or sheer improbability of the tracks, which all look a bit dull to me.

But the proper rally championship is another matter. Me and my little Clio have been tearing up a storm, hurtling through very impressive looking locations in the UK, Italy and Germany. The handling is just right, very believable but sensibly forgiving. And the bonnet cam view is wonderful, until you go off the road onto the verge, where I found myself flinching as foot high plants smashed towards my face.  One of the best features is the co-driver who calls out instructions as you hurtle towards the next blind jump. Once I'd learnt the grading scheme (the smaller the number the nastier the curve - get that the wrong way round like I did at first and things can get very frightening) he really helped me get the car into position for the next part of the course.

And it was nice to have a rumbly gamepad for a change. For a variety of technical and legal reasons Sony left this out of the PS3 and I see it as a huge omission. Nothing brings home just how hard you've just hit that tree like a controller that suddenly tries to leap out of your hands. I notice from the instructions that Dirt also supports the Xbox force feedback steering wheel, which is looking very tempting.....

Until now I'd regarded the rally mode of Gran Turismo as the ultimate in off road driving fun, but Dirt, with its superior graphics and greater variety, is the new rally king.