Lets get down to the dirty stuff right away, DiRT 2 is one of the best racing games I have ever played, it is a game which successfully mixes together traditional European style rallying with the glitz and glamour version which is coming out of the US.
Throwing both styles together is a smart move from Codemasters, it provides their usual audience with more of the same high quality racing while tapping into a wider market by including stars such as DaveMirra and Ken Block. Having extreme sport legends like this present in the game adds a new dimension to the career mode as you become friends with them over time and have one-on-one challenges against them. The career mode has been overhauled from the firstDiRT with the pyramid set up taking a back seat and a world map being taken out of the boot.
Taking in locations ranging from America to Japan via London and numerous others there is a magnificent variety to the types of terrain you will race on. You can go from the industrial environs of theBattersea Power Station in London to the luscious jungles of Malaysia, it makes for quite an experience. It is this variety which makes the career mode work so well as you are free to pick and chose where, and what kind of races you enter, you no longer have to compete in every discipline to progress.
You don’t have it all your own way from the start of course, you can’t go racing in Japan straight away, you must boost your in game ranking. You do this by earning experience points for winning races or completing tasks like driving on two wheels for a couple of seconds. In addition to unlocking new places to race in when you level up you can earn gadgets to hang from your rear view mirror or to balance on your dashboard. Watching a pair of dice or a skull dance around your car while racing through treacherous mountain passes is quite something.
That mountain pass from Croatia can be traversed in a slightly rejigged rally mode. You are no longer the only driver on the road, other characters in the game are present in the event setting off before or after you, as such you can pass them on the course. I received a pleasant surprise when my co-driver warned me of a crash ahead, wondering what he was on about I promptly smashed myImprezza into the side of the mangled Lancer Evolution. Then again I could have gone on a gatecrasher run with the goal simply to finish the stage with as much time left on the clock, time gained by yes, crashing through numerous bright yellow gates.
Other events such as trailblazer and raid are great additions to the game, trailblazer is similar to the hill-climb events from DiRT 1 with a bit more variety in the types of tracks while raid sees you jostling for position with numerous opponents on some extremely wild point-to-point races. In all of these events you will find yourself making use of the flashback feature which we first saw in GRID, while some of the hardcore fans are likely to be outraged at the inclusion of this time-twisting trick I found it a great addition. Too many times in the originalDiRT I would ruin my race with a silly mistake at the end of race, with the flashbacks those frustrations become things of the past.
Of course you can’t use flashbacks in multiplayer which is where DiRT 2 really shines, as long as you get past having to use Games for Windows Live. All the modes from the single-player side of the game are present, it really is great racing along some of the wildest stages in the game madly trying to keep in touch with everyone else. The only trouble is the Games for Windows system which causes a fair bit of head scratching when trying to join a race for the first time, once you get to grips with it though it is a doddle.
This really is a great addition to the DiRT series, it takes everything Codemasters have learnt from GRID and made a truly immersing and more importantly, fun racing game. It may not appeal to hardcore simulation fans, but for everyone else it is a must play.