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Colin McRae: DiRT Review

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Another solid racer from the McRae franchise

★★★★

Although the title may sound more like a German scat movie than a gripping console racer, DiRT is the latest instalment in the only console rally series to consistently deliver filthy thrills while its myriad competitors crashed and burned. And in skidding onto the Xbox 360 and exploiting every ounce of the machine's graphical muscle, DiRT is easily the best looking edition in the franchise to date.

While the rally action is perfectly pitched - giving players the option to play in a pacy arcade style, or pump up the difficulty and be punished by a brutally realistic simulation - what's most astonishing is the convincing car damage; taking a corner at the wrong angle and smashing into a tree or scraping along a fence will see your windscreen shattering, doors ripped off and vital components of your ride strewn across the road, the threat of total destruction making each corner impossibly thrilling and forcing even the most impatient boy racer to master the brakes.

The tracks themselves are also gloriously realistic, with fences that splinter and crumble as you smack into them, and a wide variety of surfaces that constantly keep you on your toes as you roll from tarmac to mud and back again. And with a pant-filling illusion of speed that makes a game like Forza Motorsport 2 seem embarrassingly pedestrian, DiRT is guaranteed to keep you glued to the action until you've lifted the cup in every event.

Sadly, this superb racer is dragged down by the developer's insistence on using cars that pivot around a central axis, a bewildering move as it often feels as if the motors are hovering just above the tracks and not making contact with the ground. But while this sense of improbable physics sits uncomfortably in such an authentic package, DiRT is still tremendous fun and a worth addition to any rally fan's library.