The main mode sees players earn reputation points in various events to gain the interest of sponsors who provide them with new vehicles. Flashbacks return from Colin McRae: Dirt 2, which can be used up to five times in any difficulty, but cost reputation points to use. A new gymkhana mode puts players in obstacle courses, challenging them to perform various tricks to earn points. Featured in the game are various party modes, involving events such as smashing wooden targets, spreading a zombie infection, and capture the flag. Other new features include a Hardcore mode which limits players to the cockpit view with no assists, the appearance of rain and snow, and the ability to upload replay clips directly to Youtube.
ReceptionEditIGN gave the game a score of 8.5 and an Editor's Choice award, praising the gameplay and online functionality while criticising some of the design choices. Game Trailers gave the game a score of 9.2, praising the gameplay and presentation, although criticising the limits of the YouTube functionality. GamesRadar gave the game a score of 9/10, praising its impeccable gameplay though noting slightly lower structure presentation compared to the previous game. Official Xbox Magazine gave the game a score of 8.5/10, hailing its impressive car design and smooth handling, while criticising the lack of dynamism in the surfaces and poor social features.