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DiRT 2 Review
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The future of the Colin McRae series was always going to be interesting and Codemasters job was made even difficult this iteration with the rally legend no longer with us. How could Codemasters take the series in a new direction whilst also creating a game that Colin would be proud of? It seems our questions have been truly answered with this year’s iteration and it’s an instalment that has taken the series to a new audience with its bold direction. This year Dirt has become more extreme with bigger jumps, stylish stadium events, more beautiful with water effects, impressive lighting and more immersive with in car radio communication to the other drivers on the race track.

Guiding us through this year’s game is Dave Mirra who motivates you throughout the Dirt tour. Other famous X-Games stars included in the game are Travis Pastrana and Ken Block. So our seat belts are locked, the green light has flashed, just how has this game panned out?

Story – N/A
Not really much of a story here but then why would you want one in a racing game? What is really clever is the fact that you get rallied on by a number of racers commenting on your progress throughout the Dirt tour with Dave Mirra introducing you to the different racing disciplines as they are unlocked.

Gameplay - 8
There is plenty of variation in Dirt 2 from existing racing disciplines to additional fictional modes. There are five different event types in Dirt 2. Rally, rally Cross, trailblazer, land rush and raid. Your treated to some amazing routes throughout the world including; Japan, United Kingdom, China and Croatia to name just a few. If standard rally and race types aren’t enough there is also an elimination race type and another variation where you have to dominate certain checkpoints in the race. You can even smash through polystyrene walls in a mode reminiscent to the cone challenge on PGR. In tour mode you are constantly levelling up and given choices to buy new cars whilst also being rewarded with new car liveries, quirky horns and in car toys. To throw some more of that X-Games love, there has been some X-Games tournaments thrown into the tour mode that can only been accessed if your professional level is high enough, these events are always greeted with grandeur, especially in the finals when stadium events are notched up during the night with pyrotechnics and packed crowds.

Codemasters have stuck in a time trial mode that links directly to online competitions with those that win given a headline on a magazine, varying degrees of difficulty to make the game accessible or as challenging as you require and even an extensive online mode that is actually worth playing unlike the original Dirt where it was the games biggest downfall. As homage to Colin McRae Codemasters has added an event whereby you can unlock a tribute video to him, a nice touch we feel. Where Dirt hasn’t gone to town is the customisation, these are very limited to tweaking suspension, ride height etc. It’s only worth really tweaking with these settings in time trial mode, where it will become absolutely necessary to tweak these settings to get the best times. This is no detriment to the game though, as the primary focus has been kept on making the racer enjoyable and a bit of a thrill ride. The third iteration of the EGO™ engine is impressive as ever with car handling keeping a nice balance of Semi-simulation.

Back from GRID (and probably in every racer anyone puts out from now, given Turn 10 has decided to use the feature in Forza 3) was Codemasters coined flashback button, where you can rewind a race live to make up for your mistakes. This can be extremely helpful as allot of circuits can be narrow and terrain can have you skidding around the place if you take a turn incorrectly. It does have a negative impact in the fact you can rest on your laurels and rely on the flashbacks but crank the difficulty up and you’ll get less of them with improved drivers to boot. Unfortunately the game doesn’t sport a local split screen multiplayer mode on the PS3 version, something that is becoming the norm for high def consoles, for those that feel local multiplayer is an absolute must, we recommend the Wii version that actually supports it.

Graphics & Audio – 9
Although not recommended, smashing your car to the proverbial pulp just feels satisfying in Dirt 2.There is something about seeing yourself mindlessly pound around the asphalt hitting everything in the replay. Damage effects are great in Dirt 2 though a little more forgiving than in GRID and the sounds of gears turning, horns blowing and the cars tyres switching between different terrains is uncanny. Even the vibration feedback feels right in Dirt 2 the attention to detail is phenomenal. There is deterioration of the race track to a degree, you can certainly feel it around the bends but it’s nowhere near the level you experience in Sega Rally however it doesn’t detract too much from the experience. The biggest draw for me was the beautiful track choices. Croatia’s rally event looks sublime with old brick walls cresting above a nestling of trees or the sense of seclusion as you drive across a narrow dirt path across a lake in Malaysia it all hits you upon your first play and leaves you smiling.

When you thought that the graphical bliss wasn’t going to end you start driving through Battersea power station at night and are greeted with fireworks and stadium lighting that adds sense to the occasion. Where was the weather though? Granted we have puddles to splash through, but the lack of weather really stops a perfect ten here. Kudos must be paid to Codemasters though for once again pushing a menu system to new levels. Everything in Dirt 2 is accessible from your trailer and when you want to race or check out your car, you walk outside to be blinded by light then hit with music and crowds as if you’ve parked up in the middle of a music festival. Brilliant!

Lastly, I wanted to talk about the music in this game. It’s been awhile since a games choice of soundtrack has actually worked so well with a game. In Dirt 2 the mixture of music just feels great and I love the seamless transition from live music outside to the volume increase in the loading screens, it just has that extra polish I’ve not seen elsewhere. Allot of games just chuck on a bunch of signed artists to give you some music to listen to when your idling, Codemasters have actually bothered to care about this and whomever picked the track listing should be given a medal in musical taste.

Fun Factor – 9
Dirt 2 is just out and out fun from start to finish, if the tour mode becomes a little nonchalant late on, go straight online to mix it up a little. I did find myself having to tweak the difficulty settings a few times as race events were too easy on casual and rally events proved more demanding to get pole on professional, unless you are willing to find those lines where you don’t lose speed. The variety of the game is entertaining and the single player mode does have staying power as there is always something to work for.

Online – 8.5
Codemasters have plugged the hole where the original Dirt may have leaked some high score juice from. Its online mode has been vastly improved to include most of the game types included in the single player but with options for team races, head to head, full contact and no contact variants. Getting started is very easy and the menu system doesn’t over complicate itself. Codemasters have also sorted out the idiots whom try to wreck races by disqualifying any stationary cars and the flashback feature doesn’t exist within races. I don’t feel though that it has the entertainment factor of GRID when it comes to playing online, there is an element of feel safe about this version. I loved the possibility of suffering terminal damage in the opening corner of races and that isn’t here in Dirt 2. In terms of Playstation 3 this is certainly an instant purchase for it’s online as the system is still struggling to get a plethora of great racing titles.

Overall Score 8.6/10
Dirt 2 is well worth the purchase for a great presented driving experience that has great visuals a nice driving engine and a stable online mode. Its attention to detail is for the most high. With added weather effects, extra terrain deterioration and a return to a strategic online play it will be on its way to a 10 in no time.

Reviewed by James Joell-Ireland

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DiRT 2 Review, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
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