Its 11 years since the first iteration of the Colin McRae Rally franchise and 2009’s Colin McRae Dirt 2 represents the 3rd generation of hardware for this ever-evolving series. Dirt released in 2007 moved the standard WRC focus into a bigger bolder world, taking into account a range of different vehicle types and environments. Alas, the quality of handling didn’t match its potential providing an unrealistic game with little depth, disappointing to fans of the original titles while doing little to increase the popularity of the series in the way intended.
Now the focus turns to its sequel, all aspects improved but is it the rally game we all want or simply a glossy presentation covering a relatively simple product? The opening is big bold and colourful, it creates a wonderful happy world of racing and with a cool rock soundtrack, this is the true vision of Dirt, the realisation of the original concept and featuring new frontman Ken Block. Your mission is to kick off as a rookie driver and work your way up the series. You’ll be shown your humble caravan abode then set loose on to the world of the X-Games.
I would usually go deep into the structure of the game but the first thing that strikes you is the impressive graphics, 2009 is undoubtedly the year of the racer and Colin McRae Dirt 2 is right up there with stunning attention to detail. Everything is rendered with a range of spot effects for every surface and weather condition. Though on personal reflection the bloom is often overused, orange haze giving a feeling of heat but with a similar haze used on several circuits, there’s little to differentiate some of the environments.
Either way, you can’t take anything away from Codemasters EGO engine, certainly one of the best anywhere in the video game development world and flexible too, we look forward to seeing its next-generation outing on the forthcoming F1 2010.
Moving through the game and you’ll gain the opportunity to drive a range of off-road vehicles; these vary in size depending on the environment and power required. Driving is more about controlling this power, powering through corners keeping balance in the car and its handling characteristics, this still isn’t what you could call realistic but it’s a massive step back to form from the lows of Dirt 1 and makes the game great fun to play.
This translates into a very aggressive playing style with corner cutting and off-road techniques not only required but also encouraged. This is a good and bad thing and will result in the online game being more about knowing the limits of the road and the relative exploits rather than skillful rally driving, of course, there will be a selection of disciplines.
Ultimately it appears your speed will be affected by your choice of controls and at this point the pad appears far quicker than the wheel. Of course, the wheel is a lot more fun to drive but controlling traction with the pedals while adding the correct steering input is tough, at the time of writing I can’t figure out where whether smooth or aggressive works best?
Either gentle steering minimizing oversteer or aggressive steering with quick and powerful opposite lock. Either way, the range of vehicles will all require a slightly different approach but all lack a critical feeling of weight, certainly something for Codemasters to work on in the future in finding that balance.
The aforementioned race disciplines range from standard rally mode to off-road, one on one to the gate crasher mode. An interesting addition where the player must smash through barriers lay in the road throughout the course. The player is not given enough time to finish the course and each barrier gives the player two seconds, this forcing a balance between precision and speed resulting in some tense moments. It forms a nice blend of ideas and given the varied vehicles available there’s lots of variety, of course, should you make a mistake there’s always the flashback rewind option as seen in 2008’s Grid.
Online the game is great fun and highly addictive, one aspect I did enjoy was the staggered rally start. You all start in a queue and are then fired off every few seconds, a standard rally style. This also means its possible to catch your rivals on the section, though make a mistake yourself and you can quickly find yourself falling into the clutches of rivals. With a range of modes, it’s encouraging to see Codemasters will be supporting the online community with regular tournaments and activities, besides news boards giving information on the progress of your friends.
Overall Dirt 2 is a great game, bold and colourful, providing a wonderful atmosphere for newcomers to the X-Games and Rally genre. Jack of all trades and master of none would be unfair to put against this title but it does leave holes in the market for the traditional rally game. Dirt 2 has left its routes and embarked on a new era and that will certainly be an exciting one, not for everyone but certainly great for those new to gaming in this ever-expanding industry and a worthy contender for this new generation of racing.
Dirt 2 is a great game, bold and colourful, providing a wonderful atmosphere for newcomers to the X-Games and Rally genre. Jack of all trades and master of none would be unfair to put against this title but it does leave holes in the market for the traditional rally game. Dirt 2 has left its routes and embarked on a new era and that will certainly be an exciting one, not for everyone but certainly great for those new to gaming in this ever-expanding industry and a worthy contender for the new generation of racing titles.