Publisher: Codemasters

Rating: 12 (PEGI)

Platform: PlayStation 3

Four years after the tragic death of Colin McRae, the gaming series whose tracks were paved to glory with his name, is back once again.

The first big and noticeable difference in DiRT 3, is in the menus. There’s a giant leap from the simple trailer-car interior of the rising star rally driver, to a swanky showroom style aesthetic that uses floating shapes reminiscent of the futuristic look of Wipeout.

What is familiar however are the general mechanics of the game brought to us by Codemaster’s very own EGO engine. Anybody that played a former DiRT game or Race Driver: Grid will be familiar with how exceptional this engine is for racing games.

The DiRT series and the Colin McRae Rally games before them have always been difficult, but this latest instalment could easily be the ultimate challenge - the learning curve is huge. On the easiest settings, it’s hard to imagine that even a 3-year-old would struggle to navigate around the winding courses. However, things become incredibly hard when braking and steering assists are disabled.

On offer are plenty of different event types including circuit racing, point-to-point, and drifting and best lap. Players aren’t necessarily forced to complete certain events, so they can tailor their own experience to better suit their taste.

There’s not the huge roster of vehicles that games like Forza Motorsports or Gran Turismo don, but the selection of cars is still vast and offers more variety than most racing games. What is strange is that players no longer buy their cars, they get given them for sponsorship and recognition instead.

The party modes are plenty of fun, sporting some crazy yet genius ideas that lend DiRT 3 a unique flavour. A game of car tag or capture the flag offers interesting variety to the norm.

But there’s one issue that really dirties-up the DiRT name for me – the loading times. Even the swank and crisp menus are tarnished by the thumb-twiddling pauses the loading times unfortunately create.

The fine graphics, superb weathering system, and the perfect blend of arcade and simulator racing ensure that DiRT 3 is the best game in the series by far.

SCORE: 8 / 10