Dirt 3: anatomy of a replay

, | Game diaries

I’d just like to point out a few nifty details in the above replay from Dirt 3. Note the little figure dangling from the car’s rear view mirror. That’s my Xbox Live avatar. Mirror and dashboard ornaments were unlockables in Dirt 2, but in Dirt 3, you automatically get your avatar. Nifty touch, sure, but it’s a shame there’s no incentive to drive from that view. Also, you can’t drive from the wider view you see in the replay that shows both the driver and co-driver. Instead, the viewpoints is, as you’d expect, from the driver’s point of view.

This is a rally course in Kenya. That village looks every bit as good as, say, a level in Resident Evil 5 or Far Cry 2, even though you’ll almost never get to see it as anything other than a blur of scenery. Speaking of which, you might notice what looks like a radio tower in the middle of the village. That’s no such thing. It’s the base of a windmill that you can see when the course loads. And if you’ve turned off the music — and good lord, what a relief it is to turn off the music in Dirt 3! — you can actually hear the pastoral creak of the turning windmill. Did you see Meek’s Cutoff? Probably not. But if you had, you’d have an ear for the forlorn creak of a turning wheel.

The camera movement during the replay is automatic, and above you can see some of the more energetic instances of camera movement. It’s a bit gratuitous, but it sure does add a lot of energy. Videogames love to move cameras around, as if they’re lording it over real cameras. It reminds me of the scene in War of the Worlds when Tom Cruise is driving away from New York and the camera is swirling around and into the car while he and his kids freak out. That scene is like the replay from a racing game.

That’s the worst bridge in the world. Someone should tell whomever built it that bridges are supposed to go over the water, not under it.

Of course, I fully intended to hit that little sign with the happy face on it. Although that’s no happy face. It’s a stopwatch icon. Every time you pass those signs, your time is registered and you can see your rank among the other drivers running the course. Now the car behind me won’t know he’s coming up on a checkpoint unless he’s looking on the right side of the road. Ha!

At the very end of the replay, the camera glitches. Did you see it? Don’t blink! I love when that sort of imperfection is coded into a game, like lens flare in the olden days. Most recently, this was used to great effect in Kane and Lynch 2, which was made to look like a cheap digital video, with compression artifacts and smeared lighting. It was one of the boldest aesthetic choices I’ve ever seen in a videogame and I loved it.

I have no idea what kind of car I’m driving. It’s, um, a Monza Sport XL-5 Rally Car 2000. Okay, I made that up. Dirt 3 is really terrible about making me care about the cars.