|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PC, PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Codemasters Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Codemasters||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 8, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 (8 Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Codemasters has struck pay-DiRT once again. Their Colin McRae headlined, rally racing franchise is back and it's a surefire way to sate your need for speed and desire for trading paint. The visual presentation is top-notch - the environments are detailed and varied, and the damage and physics engine are spot-on. There are loads of cool cars and rewarding trinkets to unlock and buy, and the pro racer support helps the title feel AAA. Also, the new multiplayer features are fully-fledged. From a gameplay perspective, the controls are tight yet challenging, and the tons of different tracks and race types will test your mettle and keep things fresh. This all comes together to make one heck of a good racing title.
First and foremost, DiRT 2 is an extremely fun racer. Whether racing through the lengthy career mode or heading online to challenge seven other drivers in various events, there are hours upon hours of quality racing to be had. One thing I was very impressed by was the way the developers were able to make disparate tracks, terrain types, and automobiles feel distinct. The controls, while often touchy to the unaccustomed, just feel right after a couple short hours of play.
It's a good thing that controls are so good, because players will quickly notice they will have to be able adeptly switch between multiple race types. For example, one event will have you racing in a time trial rally race, looking for the best lines in order to shave precious milliseconds off your effort, while the next will drop you into a suped up pick-up, trading paint with a group of other drivers a la MotorStorm. As such, there is never a dull moment in DiRT 2.
Unfortunately, all this skipping about does lead to a problem for rally purists: the game never defines itself as either a sim or an arcade automotive title, instead it ops for giving players experiences from both sides of the spectrum. While the five distinct race types keep players from ever getting bogged down, Colin McRae fans from way back are likely to feel they've been given short shrift in terms of the paltry amount of pure, technical rally action. In fact, only one-fifth of DiRT 2's career events can be considered rally - complete with co-pilot direction and hairpin turns - as Rallycross is strikingly similar to the arcade action found in the other events. It seems the game, despite its affiliation to Colin McRae, is no longer a rally racer but an off-road challenge - this may be a bit disappointing to some, but others will likely care less. Besides, this minor flaw could be nicely ameliorated by future DLC that lays on the rally thick.
On the upside, the arcade elements are very well implemented. The game's Raid, Land Rush, Trailblazer, and Rallycross events are a ton of fun - easily competing with the best off-road arcade racers out there. Additionally, a rewind function known as Flashbacks, similar to the mechanic established in Grid, allows players to avoid making bonehead mistakes by rewinding a limited amount after a crash or a spin-out in order to take a better, smarter line. Flashbacks are limited, however; don't think you'll be able to just reef on the rewind button all race. A maximum of five Flashbacks can be used in an event if playing in Easy difficulty, and no Flashbacks can be used whilst racing in the Hardcore setting. While I think the use of the mechanic is bound to please players, I almost never used it - except when I was faced with otherwise insurmountable competition. To me it feels a bit like cheating. Instead, I simply press the start button and restart the race. For other perfectionist (obsessive?) racers like myself, you'll be happy to know that starting over is done instantly with no load screens!
Another positive effect of the sim vs. arcade nature of the title is that the diverse game modes really help to beef up the excellent multiplayer offering. Leaderboard support would have been well and good if the game was a pure rally racer, but being able to participate in highly competitive races due to the addition of arcade modes is far superior. This time around, the multiplayer option feels complete and compelling.
Another important feature of DiRT 2 is how excellent the game looks. This is one area where a contemporary racer simply can't fail, especially considering every top racing title out there looks amazing. In fact, modern automotive titles are part of the most graphically-competitive genre. Thankfully, DiRT 2 passes with flying colors. For starters, the environments are beautiful, detailed, and distinct. Tracks in particular are quite nicely put together.