Game Review: Dirt 3

Dirt 3 (Codemasters Racing Studio)
Xbox 360 (also for PC, PS3)

It took a while for Dirt 3 to click for me. At first, I loved bombing around the beautifully rendered tracks with all of the driving assists turned on, racking up easy gold medals. Then I got bored because everything felt so automatic, and progressing didn't require any skill. So, I turned the aids off. That was a wake-up call; I'd never I worked so hard for a last-place finish before.

When I learned that a wide-open throttle – and the throaty subwoofer-rattling exhaust it produces – was meant to be a last resort rather than a rule of thumb, I excelled. With each driving aid I stripped away, I felt even more empowered: Finally, I earned that first-place finish with skill, not luck.

Dirt 3's driving just feels good. Whether I was tearing through the Kenyan desert or a blizzard-stricken Aspen trail, each car felt responsive and its weight felt believable. You'd be amazed at how far a minor adjustment to the gear ratio goes to help your off-the-line performance, too. No, you can't tweak tire pressure or spark plug gap, but the tuning options here take a lot of the guesswork out of being a gearhead, with simple sliders and voiceovers describing what each one does.

It's too bad the voiceovers wear out their welcome well before everything else, holding the player hostage for a minute or longer to explain menus or detailing your progress, regardless of how deep you may be into your racing career. And for some reason, you'll hear not one, not two, but three different voices assaulting your ears anytime you aren't in a race. It's a tad excessive - especially when one is a Ryan Seacrest bro-wannabe and the other could be his Australian twin brother. Stop telling what an event is and let me jump in for myself, please.