STAFF REVIEW of DiRT 2 (Xbox 360)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009.
by Tony Ingrassia

DiRT 2 Box art There?s something about racing that just gets you going. The rev of the engine, the speed, and let?s face it, the cars. These shiny, exotic pieces of art can make grown men cry. In Dirt 2 we leave the well mannered vehicular eye-candy and asphalt tracks and highways behind for some off road, high speed, roll your car in a ditch fun. The folks at Codemaster may have skimped on a few minor things in Dirt 2, but one thing they did do well was deliver a great looking, well laid out racing game that is both exciting and entertaining, so If your worried about getting mud on your shoes or your wheels for that matter, buck up, cause Dirt 2 will defiantly kick up some dust.

Dirt 2 takes you globe trotting across the world over 8 locations and a seemingly endless list of events over various disciplines, from Rally events being guided by your co-pilot, navigating you through twists and turns to Rally Cross events that consist of tight circuits with a mixture of asphalt and dirt terrains. Besides the 5 more customary disciplines are included some extra, fun modes such as Gate Crashers that will push not only your precision, but also your speed and accuracy while you crash gate after gate, padding your time while still trying to finish first.

Like most racers your stats increase with experience gained by winning and placing in race events, along the way racking up cash for some new vehicles, liveries and other fun items such as your XBOX Live Avatar hanging from your rear view mirror. As you level your skills more events and challenges are available to you in various locations, aside from the regular events you will gain access to World Tour Events, the X Games and even have direct challenges by some of the sports biggest names like Dave Mirra. ?Throwdown? events offered by the other racers in Dirt 2 are a mix of one on one, head to head event?s and sometimes against a pack of the big boys. I nice wrinkle to the game that ties into the Throwdown events as well as the regular events is that if you get the attention of the ?Stars? in Dirt 2 on a regular basis you actually build on relationships adding to your ?Friend Bonus? and eventually these allies will be available for the ?Team Up? events. Once on the tracks a variety of in race missions are presented to you that vary from mastering corner drifts, overtaking your opponents to fun stuff like kicking up some dust while doing donuts with your vehicle, all the mission?s keep padding your experience and leveling your racing skill.

Codemasters came up with a very nice, non typical interface for Dirt 2, all your options and event choices are navigated in and around your trailer, not a lavish amenity filled trailer mind you, but a cluttered poster filled space that does add to the feel of the game and living in the pits. Events are chosen from a map on the table, you can walk outside your trailer to choose vehicles, check out your rides and adjust the in game options.

Dirt 2 doesn?t offer a huge stable of vehicles or options for fine tuning them. Here is where my slight problems with the game are. Your vehicle choices are relegated to about 10 or so and spending your hard earned cash on them is a bit of a challenge if not just guess work. Looking at each vehicles ?Stats?, cars that are price at, let?s say $100,000 are almost identical to those priced for twice as much and more. The vehicle stats are 3 basic slide bars indicating Top Speed, Acceleration and Drivability. You can toggle on the tuning mode giving you more control, but again that control is minimal at best utilizing a 5 setting slide rule adjusting a few mechanics such as Ride Height, Gear Ratio and Differential. To enter your vehicles in certain events they need to be outfitted with certain packages to qualify. This boils down to cost and nothing more, enter an event, if you have a ride that can enter but needs the upgrade package just purchase it. Again, this is a minor thing in my eyes and the rest of the game more than makes up for this lack of control, Dirt 2 is not a simulation racer and for those die hard racing control freaks this may be a problem. During events you can choose you?re racing view, all of the usual angles are available, and a nice touch to the cockpit view was that you need to pay a bit more attention when using it. Drive your vehicle through a muddy puddle and you will be blind for a moment while your windshield wipers clear your view and in some events that could mean the end of your race when an overpass pillar shows up right in your face.

The events and locations in Dirt 2 are fantastic, hands down more than makes up for any short comings. All the tracks are well designed, beautiful to look at and challenging, they look and feel great as you maneuver through them with your vehicle feeling bumps and dips along the way. Vehicle physics are just as tight when your car bounces as it lands from a jump or splashes through mud, water and dust. Dirt 2 also sports a nice reflection package that just shines, no pun intended, as your vehicles makes it?s way through different times of day, sometimes with sun flare, some times the reflection from overhead lights from night venues. Adding to the visual offering of Dirt 2 is the ?Flashback? feature which some may remember. The Flashback feature actually plays out to be more of a learning feature than the obvious, I just rolled my car into a pillar, let me back it up and try again. For me it really helped in learning the tracks, which all race fans know is the key to success in racing. Inevitably there is a little bit of a cheaters usage to the feature, in some cases short cuts present themselves and well, you miss them?Flashback and shave a few seconds off your time. Hey, we?re only human.

All in all I was pleasantly surprised with Dirt 2, the look and feel of the game made up for the lack of the ?Sim? factor, but to be honest I enjoyed the more casual approach to it. I didn?t miss the Sim like feel of the Rally Sport series as much as I thought, Dirt 2 offers up simple choices in the pits but delivers big time on the track. The casual feel extends into the events themselves by not making you have to finish all events to unlock new ones keeping the game and racing fun and fresh and still delivering a sense of accomplishment as you move from event to event. So if you enjoy rolling in the ?Dirt??had to do it, Dirt 2 is well worth your time and gaming dollar, a great racing package was delivered by Codemasters with this one.

Expanding the vehicle selection a bit and maybe the tuning options, but overall a fantastic effort.

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 8.7 / 10


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