DiRT 2 Review
Visual splendor and superb driving mechanics feature in this slightly flawed but very enjoyable racer.
Aside from a few hiccups DiRT 2 is a fine piece of craftsmanship from Codemasters. The main reason for its success is focused around the great feel of driving. Single player or online the driving just feels fantastic. There is excellent traction feel throughout the various vehicles and you get a real sense of speed. Not far behind the driving mechanics is the wonderful graphics engine creating a spectacular looking and feeling racing game especially if you can try DirectX 11.
The 3D menus are back with most of them being very smooth and pleasing to the eye. The game features some real rally drivers such as Ken Block and Dave Mirra although their place within the game was poorly worked and they come off as disappointing additions. The multiplayer functions much the same as the single player elements although with some more waiting required. You will progress through the single player gaining levels and unlocking liveries, vehicles and new race events. The game includes quite a few racing events against other vehicles in addition to the standard rally and trailblazer events against the clock. It’s a shame some things from GRID haven’t quite carried over to DiRT 2 but Codemasters have still pinpointed the driving experience and created a smooth ride.
The pure driving elements in the game are really well done and it all starts from the control and feel of the cars. On PC there is native support for the 360 controller which works fantastically well and keyboard also works really well. You’ll need to get a feel for the tracks, the traction and speed required to take turns and the handling of your vehicle. You’ll learn this pretty quickly and if you stick with a vehicle for a few races you’ll start getting very good positions on the podium.
Races do often repeat, or reverse their direction so you’ll learn many quickly. It offers a variety of difficulties so you can tone back or ramp up how hard it is to win matches. The AI drivers seem really good here too, although quite passive. They will back away if you take the inside line and they foresee a collision, and take the inside line if you happen to overshoot turns. They do crash and will collide with other vehicles, offering some amusement during races although perhaps not often enough. Many of the rally tracks will have water puddles on them and these will slightly slow your vehicle on entry so avoiding them is another of your duties during races while you battle with the traction to stay ahead.
During the rally races against the clock you will be fighting against the track and your vehicle in order to keep pushing your car faster without losing control. Throughout competitive races you can play quite an aggressive roll due to the relatively low damage modelling. Most of the time all I received was minor wheel damage and it didn’t make a huge impact on steering direction, veering me slightly to one side. Taking the inside line and using other vehicles as a form of direction control is a good option for overtaking around corners. Players who make minor (but deadly) mistakes will be pleased to know that flashbacks are back from GRID. Providing a brief time rewind to fix catastrophic errors you may have caused and continue on your way. The number of available flashbacks decreases with difficulty. On Savage difficulty I was given two which seemed ample during races and rally sections. The flashbacks serve to really keep the single player flowing as you will not need to restart many races. Aside from the standard staggered rally races there are quite a few other race modes.
Other races available include gatecrasher, trailblazer and domination. Gate crasher combines the time trial nature of rallies with precision control of hitting destructible gates to gain +2 seconds to your time. This combination really focuses in on your vehicle control so it’s a handy one to try out early. Domination involves getting the best split times in each section of the races and winning the race. Although sometimes Domination seemed to show how fast opponents drive when you are well ahead of them. Trailblazer is like a rally event only it’s set on very open, very fast tracks where you’ll be going flat out much of the time. One particular favourite of mine was racing through the canyons of Utah, listening to the engine revs echoing against the rock walls and enjoying the view.