DiRT 2 Review

11 12 2009

Introduction

DiRT 2, Codemasters sequel to Colin McRae DiRT, was released on September 8th 2009. While it is a direct sequel much as changed since its predecessor including a completely new game engine and an overhaul of the multiplayer just to name a few. The basics however have stayed the same which consist of players competing in a roster of off-road events that spans four different continents in many diverse challenging real-world environments. Along with new race types you can also race alongside or team up with such stars as Ken Block, Travis Pastrana, Tanner Foust, or Dave Mirra.

Can the latest version of DiRT pass by its predecessor or will it be left in the dust? Continue reading to find out.


Single Player

Upon starting the game one of the first things I noticed was the unique first-person menu screen rather than a traditional list-based menu. This engaging interface is set around your personal R.V. which is used for various tasks such as selecting an event, entering multiplayer, checking your statistics or even to watch instructional videos. Step outside your personal R.V. and you enter your racing headquarters complete with festival type surroundings where you can select or purchase vehicles along with other functions. This immersion and polish set an early precedent that continues to build throughout the entire game.

Dirt 2’s career mode spans many exotic and distinct locales on four different continents: Asia, Europe, Africa and North America. While for the most part the terrain, dirt and different variants of dirt, never changes each area has a variety of events including Rally, Rally Cross, Trailblazer, Raid and Land Rush. Along with these standard race types there are also three special variants in the World Tour mode: Gatecrasher, Domination and Last Man Standing. This variation of race type along with track and array of locations keeps the game fresh throughout the entire in-depth single player campaign.

One of my favorite additions and biggest changes in the series is the inclusion of Flashbacks. This gives the racer the ability to rewind time and replay a certain section of the track because there is nothing worse than making a near-perfect pass then losing because of one miss-step. I initially thought this would handicap the game and completely prevent crashes but it turned out to be quite the opposite. I found this feature helped me learn to be a better driver thus using it less and less. The few times, okay many times, I did use this feature it was only to recover from debilitating accidents or occurrences that would have previously required a complete restart.

That turned out to be a good thing since as the difficulty level is ratcheted up you are given less Flashbacks not to mention the AI is less forgiving. Overall I found the difficulty level to be challenging yet rewarding however if the difficulty is too high you can turn vehicle damage off and lower the difficulty setting before each race with little consequence.

You unlock new races like the 3 X-Games by way of a leveling system. You acquire experience points in two ways, first is based on your performance in events which take into account the difficulty level and your finish position. Secondly, you gain experience by completing certain in game missions which keeps track of your statistics like drift distance, time on two wheels, jump distance and so on. As you gain levels you unlock different sections of the maps from the villages of Morocco or serene hillsides of China to the streets of London with each new location presenting a different challenge. As you gain experience you will also be rewarded with cash which is used to purchase any one of the 35 different vehicles.

It may be silly to others but I really enjoyed the fact that the other competitors actually say your name. While that may not be true of all players I believe this feature should be adopted by other games as its not only satisfying but added another layer of immersion. Also because they mention your name it makes the friendly banter between characters while participating in an event all that more believable and fun.

Even with all these bells and whistles the part of Dirt 2 that really shines is the racing which in my eyes is a testament to the quality of the game. The accurate physics and attention to detail allow the racing to feel authentic even while doing a barrel roll after unsuccessfully maneuvering a tight hairpin turn. Not to mention the controls are responsive and simple allowing me to focus on the task at hand and not try to overcome clunky or cumbersome controls. The graphics are impeccable and surprisingly detailed even while zooming along at 100+ mph. The sound was also a highlight whether it was the distinct mechanical sound for each vehicle or the subtle environmental sounds while racing all were done with great precision and care. Even the soundtrack of the game was enjoyable and never seemed to get redundant or out of place.

Despite the game being fantastic one of the few things I wish could have been added was more of a day and night cycle and/or a weather cycle. It would be awesome if as I was tearing through the mountains of Utah clouds would roll in thus changing the brightness and overall feel of the track or even if during some of the longer events to gradually see the sun set. These small additions would allow some of the tracks to be reused but would feel completely different. Also while I was generally content with the amount of cars it would have been nice to have the ability to customize your vehicle more both visually and mechanically. Granted you can customize your ride to an extent by adding liveries which are basically predetermined decals or by adding dashboard and rear-view mirror decorations that are awarded to you. Plus mechanically you can tinker with some pre-race setting that do noticeable affect the cars behavior however having the ability to go one step further would have been a great addition in my eyes.

The in-depth World Tour is longer than your average racing single player campaign as it took me upwards of 20+ hours to complete. On top of that robust single player the game also provides an almost endless amount of replayability in the surprisingly populated multiplayer. If that’s not enough then Dirt 2 also provides challenging yet rewarding trophies that encourages your progression thus forcing you to keep striving for that elusive platinum.

Multiplayer

The online multiplayer is similar to the single player meaning you level up by gaining experience through your performance on the track. However multiplayer features its very own experience system labeled Fame Points and is strictly used to boast to your friends. You can compete with up to 7 different players in ranked, pro-tour, or un-ranked, Jam Session, matches. Ranked matches are more restrictive by only allowing certain prescribed cars on specific tracks however in Jam Session you can use any class of vehicle on any track although that may not be advisable.

You can setup a race using any vehicle on any track regardless if you have it unlocked in the single player allowing you to instantly become competitive even if you have yet to finish the career mode. You can also participate in community tournaments which are basically objectives to complete during the week and based on your performance versus other racers you gain a certain amount of Fame points. The few times I did play online I had little trouble finding an actual game and when I did they were generally lag free and always a blast to play. Multiplayer also features its very own set of trophies and missions to complete.

Overall

Since I hadn’t played the previous version I came in not having any expectations and boy was I blown away. Dirt 2 was impressive from the very start and didn’t let up until the very end. Dirt 2 is the complete package, it’s accessible, visually stunning, addictive, demanding but not impossible, varied and well paced and is a perfect mixture of arcade style fun with the precision of a simulation racer. The sometimes tedious task of consistently racing has been transformed into something I really enjoy doing. But most of all its fun to play, did I mention it was fun? In my eyes Dirt 2 is everything you would want or expect in a quality racing game.

Dirt 2 hasn’t been on too many peoples radar and personally I think that’s a shame, if you are a fan of the racing genre then I suggest you pick yourself up a copy. Honestly even if you aren’t a fan of the genre I can see how this game could still appeal to you. Dirt 2 is not just the best racing game I have played all year it very well may be one of the best games I have played all year. Try it out for yourself.

For the purpose of full disclosure I did receive a copy of DiRT 2 for the PS3 from Codemasters for review

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To read about our stance on the review process click here for more answers. Find all of other reviews here; better yet bookmark that section so you won’t miss any of our future reviews as well. If you would like other information to be included in the reviews give us some feedback and let us know, or if you would like us to review a specific title drop us a line we welcome and encourage your feedback. Enjoy!

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2 responses

10 02 2010
GregHorrorShow

Totally agree, this is probably the best PS3 racing game out there in terms of fun – especially online.

I love the Motorstorm series but Dirt has a bit more variety in it’s race type and the general online set up is a lot better.

16 02 2010
Game of The Year: 2009 « Beyond The D-Pad

[…] Crossing the finish line at #5 is … Dirt 2 […]

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