DiRT 2 Hands-On ImpressionsBy Brian Leahy - Posted Aug 07, 2009
Even though Colin McRae died tragically in a helicopter crash in 2007, Codemasters is keeping his video game legacy alive with DiRT 2, which runs on an enhanced version of the EGO engine, which was used in the original game as well as Race Driver: GRID. The enhancements are immediately obvious, as the game looks even better than its predecessor. Little touches like water spraying onto the windshield in cockpit view help push the visuals over the top.
As for the gameplay, it’s more great rally racing across different types of events. Each event plays differently and helps add variety to DiRT 2’s career mode progression. Players might start with a Rally-X event and unlock a choice between a pure Rally race or track-based off-road event full of jumps and water hazards. Vehicle classes change between these event types, but vehicles can be upgraded with event packs that allow them to be entered in different events. This way, you can get the most out of your favorite vehicle, using it for more than its specialized event.
RPG = Racing Points Gained
Additional locations and events are unlocked by earning XP and leveling up, which also unlocks new sets of livery to decorate and re-skin the various vehicle classes. The first few levels can be gained with a few first place finishes, but you’ll eventually hit a point when you’ll repeat events to get enough XP to unlock the next thing. Bits of XP can also be gained by completing stunts during events. These might be for getting some serious airtime or rolling your car. The little bonuses are great, but it did make me wish I was earning experience for simple things like sliding around a corner, passing another racer, or drafting. Thankfully, you’ll get some XP no matter where you place.
As for difficulty, Codemasters is still balancing the different levels, but you’ll be able to change the difficulty individually for each event. Higher difficulty wins yield more XP and more cash as the races get harder. You’ll also get less “Rewinds”, which can be used to jump back in time in cases of botched turns, collisions, or other mishaps. CPU racer AI is good and there doesn’t seem to be any rubber-banding. I also noticed several collisions occur that I had nothing to do with, which is my “feature to look out for” in racing games ever since playing Need for Speed: Shift.
Why Dump a Good Thing?
My only regret is that Codemasters ditched the amazing user interface from the original DiRT in place of a more immersive UI that centers around the character’s RV as he travels between the different real world locations. It’s immersive and still shows stats during load times, but it just doesn’t compare to the style of DiRT’s interface.
DiRT 2 won’t reinvent the genre or even add that much to the offline portion of the game, but it does look poised to deliver another great rally experience to series fans. If you’re considering picking up a racing game in the next few months and are interested in some off-road action, keep this one on your list of games to watch.