Dirt 2 Review

By Jason D'Aprile - Posted Sep 08, 2009

Dirt 2 is here, and Codemasters has made a concerted effort to make up for the previous game's shortcomings. The sequel certainly isn't a complete overhaul, but gives fans more of what made the first game so good. There are hours of racing for on and off-line players across a wide array of venues all over the world.

The Pros
  • Looks fantastic
  • Plays well
  • Tons to do
  • Solid multiplayer
The Cons
  • Physics are still a bit floaty

Codemasters has been making a name for itself among racing fans for a while now, and with good reason. Though it’s been cranking out Colin McRae Rally games for years, the company finally gained much wider notice in the US thanks to the re-titled sequel, Dirt. An unbridled success, the game set the bar for off-road racing, but was maligned for its terrible multiplayer options and rather floaty physics.

Dirt 2

Get it Dirty!


Dirt 2 is here, and Codemasters has made a concerted effort to make up for the previous game's shortcomings. The sequel certainly isn't a complete overhaul, but gives fans more of what made the first game so good. There are hours of racing for on and off-line players across a wide array of venues all over the world.

Right off the starting line, there are two immediate facets of Dirt 2 that strike you. First, the graphics are gorgeous. The original game looked spectacular, and the sequel has enough minor refinements to make it just as impressive two years later. Deformable tracks and obstacles, a mix of dirt, water, pavement, and other road types, terrific car models with remarkable damage modeling, and great lighting are the highlights.

The second aspect of the game to make Dirt 2 stand out from the competition is the controls. In comparison to a straight-up arcade racer like Sega Rally, this game almost feels like a sim. Dirt 2 has enough customization options to give hardcore fans a run for their money, but novice gamers might find themselves sliding into everything but the finish line for the first few runs.

This is an advertisement - This story continues below



X-treme Driving


Granted, the game teeters between arcade and simulation, but there's a real satisfaction in getting the hang of the controls, mastering the power slide, and taking on a variety of real-world opponents like Dave Mirra, Ken Block, Tanner Faust, Travis Pastrana, and Katie Justice, among others. How you race against them affects their attitude toward you, and you make friends and enemies based on your driving skills and level of aggression.

Novice players will especially appreciate the flashback feature, which is a limited-use rewind option for single player races. You only have a few for each race, but using them after a bad turn or monster crash can be the difference between first and last place. The game hasn't quite ditched the arcade feel of the physics though--especially when it comes to hitting obstacles, which still feel a bit too bouncy. For the most part, Dirt 2 reaches a happy middle ground between the two driving styles.

Dirt 2 is heavily focused on the extreme sports culture, which means lots of energy drink sponsors and the ability to complete in three X-Games competitions across the world. X-Games aside, you'll travel the globe and hit such racing hotspots as Croatia, the US, England, China, Japan, Malaysia, and several others. There are over 100 events to complete that run the gamut of Rally racing -- both multi-car races and solo events that mirror the more traditional sensibilities of pure rally racing.

Dirt 2

Live and Let Livery


Each type of event requires a certain type of car or truck, but instead of just buying a one-use vehicle you can actually buy add-on packs to modify a current car to a new style of racing. There are seven vehicle classes in total, and an amazing array of licensed vehicles that are customizable through an even more dizzying variety of liveries that you unlock as you gain experience.

Experience points are a vital part of the game as well. Winning races earns both money and experience, and you'll advance in level, RPG-style, as you race. New countries and events become unlocked regularly, but you'll have to be a high-enough level to access them. Another small, yet impressive, touch is the use of extensive voice work. All of the competing drivers have contributed to the game, but a few like Dave Mirra and Ken Block went the extra mile and were recorded using an extensive list of names so they actually refer to you by name -- provided your name is on the list.

Finally, the multiplayer options are far more extensive this time around. You can actually race in multi-car bouts, including multi-track and mode tournaments. The frame rate in single and multiplayer is rock solid as well, and the eight-player matches proved to be very stable. For diehard competitors, the game is set up to help you network with other players by broadcasting scores, achievements, and events across the Dirt 2 world.

Dirt 2

Mud is Fun

Though it seems Codemasters has made a concerted effort to move away from the more simulation-like Colin McRae days, Dirt 2 should prove to be a great choice for both arcade and serious virtual drivers. There are a ton of races to complete, wrapped around a gorgeous presentation, and the game is simply a lot of fun. The addition of decent multiplayer helps immensely as well, making this a well-rounded sequel.