Operating from the back of your RV you'll embark on some of the world's most famous rally courses alongside some of the scenes biggest names including Ken Block and Dave Mirra.
Controlling somewhere in between sim and arcade, DiRT 2 is a compelling racer that not only gets the pacing of action just right, but also gives you a sense of progression through excellent presentation techniques.
Colin McRae: DiRT 2 boasts a single player campaign that will last anywhere upwards of 15 hours alongside integrated tournaments, scoreboards and a full online component.
Colin McRae: DiRT 2 is presented in a unique but deeply intuitive manner. Before launching into a race scenario the whole game is operated from the back of your racer's RV van. Navigating towards the world map positioned on the nearby table-top zooms you into the launch environment for setting out on your racing career. With events beginning in London and Baja you'll eventually earn the money to improve your racing roster and become a super-star rally driver. Artistically the game has a sticker book look to it, with elements of the menu system represented by hand-written labels and lanyards. The game is constantly filling you with on-the-fly information, hand-written notes on your map regarding how many miles the DiRT 2 community collectively drove in the past week, your progress through the DiRT 2 career and more. It's all deeply charming.
As you progress through the game and become a better driver, you'll notice your RV start to litter with mementos from your travels. Is very subtle but it really gives you a sense of progression. A Croatian flag pinned to the wall reminds you of your success across Europe, likewise a simple Chinese ornament adorns your desk following your first race in the country. The progression is also emphasised by the amount of rewards the game gives you. Every successful race gifts you with new liveries, car horns and cash for more vehicles. Your relationships with other racers also improve over time, although we did feel like everyone in the game was a bit too nice. It would have been even cooler if the game developed a sense of rivalry with your AI rivals, but it's a minor niggle.
DiRT 2 feels somewhere in between being a sim racer and an arcade racer. It's probably fair to say that the cars don't have quite as much weight as Codemasters might have hoped for, but there really is nothing quite like sliding your way around a muddy hairpin bend. The inclusion of a "rewind" tool also makes the game accessible to learning/casual drivers — allowing you to rewind the last 10 seconds or so of your race in order to correct any mistakes.
DiRT 2 has excellent pacing to it. The game puts you behind the wheel as much as possible, and fills out the loading screens with important information. The impressive thing is that you never feel detached from the experience, which goes a long way towards making DiRT 2 one of the most engaging racing games of the year. The range of modes also help to constantly mix things up with standard race and rally modes interluded with unusual game types such as gatecrasher — a "hit-the-checkpoint" type mode.
In every sense, Colin McRae: DiRT 2 goes the extra-mile. It adds the personal touch from the start, asking you to fill in your details for "health and safety" purposes. From there, you are able to select a recorded name from a vast list, which adds a real personal touch when your fellow racers refer to you by your real name. Of course, it's shame if your name isn't on the list, but there's quite a list to choose from so lots will be supported. There are also other neat little touches to the game, such as the music videos from the game's soundtrack playing on the RV's TV and really in-depth statistics tracking and leaderboards.
DiRT 2 is an incredibly addictive racing game. The tight pacing and fun gameplay mechanics do enough to keep you hooked, but the game's XP system also will have you striving for perfection. If that wasn't enough, the game also has sub-missions that reward you for specific milestones — distance travelled, time in the air, etc.. You're made to feel like you're always achieving something in DiRT 2.
It won't be everyone's cup of tea, but DiRT 2's mix of "driving tunes" really help to drive the experience. The music is well integrated, standing out prominently in the menus and mixed ambiently when in the RV. Tunes from the Subways and Ladyhawke will keep your head bobbing while you're waiting for the next race to start.
A bright, detailed colour palette helps to make Colin McRae look particularly gorgeous. The frame-rate remains particularly solid throughout most racing, stuttering occasionally during periods of heavy traffic. Whether it's the gloomy, firework-lit skies of London or the cloudless daytime beauty of LA; DiRT 2 really pops on an HD screen. The car models are also rather nice, lacking the sheer detail of Gran Turismo for example, but doing a sterling job of modeling damage and reflections.
We had initial concerns with DiRT 2 when we first started playing. Expecting the cars to control with much more weight, we were initially a little thrown by DiRT's handling. Controls can be a little twitchy, causing oversteer in some places and resulting in frustration early on. But once you get a feel for the game, you'll have a lot of fun with the not-quite-sim-not-quite-arcade racing mechanics. We guarantee it.
Colin McRae: DiRT 2 has a complete multiplayer component that we'll discuss in more detail when we've had time to test it in a retail environment.
Colin McRae: DiRT 2 is a masterclass of engaging pacing, enjoyable racing and innovative presentation. A real spectacle.