Muddy Driving

‘Dirt 3’ is too hard;
‘MX vs. ATV Alive’ is too rote

Game Dork: May 28

By Doug Elfman

"Dirt 3"As I've said before, games must make good first impressions, or else many players will give up on them quickly and take them back to the store.

The new racing games “Dirt 3” and “MX vs. ATV Alive” make terrible first impressions — undercutting the fact that they aren’t bad.

Both are so hard when you first play them, they are unforgiving. If you make just one slight over-steer in “Dirt 3,” you crash into a wall or spin into a backward-facing position, and you can lose the whole race.

Dirt 3

“Dirt 3” is an off-road rally racer that looks fantastic. You drive over dirt, snow, mud and gravel tracks, wending through tree-lined mountains, lakes and snowy terrain from Michigan to Finland.

It’s huge, letting you race across 32 rallies in Peugeots, Subarus and other rally cars based on the real autos. But it’s best-suited for fans of racing simulators — race car games simulating real conditions.

“Dirt 3” can be played on an easier “casual” mode, but that leads to tediously just keeping the gas pressed while the game controls your brakes and route. “Dirt 3” does offer five rewind buttons per race, to erase the last few seconds of a tailspin or wreck.

But not even the rewind button helps me. And I’m a pretty good racing-game driver. Not awesome. But skilled. Yet, I’ve struggled with these racing simulators for years. “Dirt 3” is no exception.

On the other hand, “Dirt 3” is a well-crafted simulator that fans of simulators might love. And it comes with online multiplayer, so you can compete against real gamers.


MX vs. ATV Alive

Likewise, “MX vs. ATV Alive” tries to be realistic to the MX dirt-racing experience. It seems to me to be about 80 percent simulator and 20 percent arcade racer.

It begins too hard, too. In the early races, I drove perfectly except for hitting one tire obstacle lying on the side of the track — and that one blip knocked me back to fourth place for the entirety of the race. However, once I got the hang of “Alive’s” driving physics, and memorized the tracks, I won races by, like, 45 seconds — boring blowouts.

Also frustrating is “MX vs. ATV Alive” won’t let me race on most tracks or in powerful bikes until I’ve played the first four tracks over, and over, and over — until I’ve earn enough points to move on. That’s dullsville, which is too bad, because I absolutely love the dual-stick racing mechanics of “Alive.” And it comes with eight-gamer online multiplayer and split-screen modes.



So “Dirt 3” is fine for fans of simulators, although I think it’s boring. And “MX vs. ATV Alive” is decent but not complex enough to hold my attention.

But that’s my more objective viewpoint. Subjectively speaking, I won’t be playing either game anymore.

• “Dirt 3” by Codemasters retails for $60 for PS 3 and Xbox 360. Plays like an unforgiving simulator. Looks great. Super challenging. Rated “T” for alcohol reference, mild violence, mild language. 3 stars out of 4.

• “MX vs. ATV Alive” by THQ retails for $40 for Xbox 360 and PS 3. Plays decent but limited in scope. Looks great. Moderately challenging. Rated “E” for mild language, mild suggestive themes and mild violence. 2.5 stars out of 4.

Doug Elfman (  is an entertainment writer for the Las Vegas (NV) Review-Journal.

Categories: Family Friendly