Codemasters latest racing outing DIRT 2 comprises a combination of both games mentioned previously, and so providing the DIRTY approachable gameplay from the original DIRT whilst incorporating some welcome additions that first made its debut and appearance in Race Driver: GRID.
But for those petrol-heads who played Codemasters first DIRTY expedition they should feel completely at home with the sequel, though bear in mind being the sequel, you'll find some subtle differences.
There are a few elements carried over from Codemasters 2008 racer, GRID. This is mainly the rewind feature which offers a specific amount of "flashbacks" to use up which enable you to rewind time sufficiently enough to fix a potentially devastating mistake; however, much depends on the difficulty at hand. One of the other noticeable things is the sometimes unpredictable A.1., which can make mistakes randomly and crash. There are certainly welcome additions to DIRT 2, though, so the further that games can push away from typical "flawless" A.1., behaviour the better. Yet sadly missing from the original DIRT was any degree of online competitive multiplayer racing; but Codemasters have now rectified this problem with several options made available in DIRT 2 so that online racing can veritably cater for up to 8 players with a matchmaking system in place.
You're able to compete in racing events right across the globe, and, in doing so, you'll certainly be seeing the bright lights, tall buildings and dark cities, race through a jungle etc., and, as you win races, you'll quickly accumulate experience which will further unlock new racing events, challenges from other drivers who over time will become your friends, throw down the gauntlet to issue the occasional "throw down" 1-1 challenge. From this you will undoubtedly gain more experience which naturally unlocks some new vehicles over time, as well as some goodies to decorate your rides, including liveries/paint jobs, dash and windscreen items, the latter of which will let you have your Xbox LIVE Avatar hanging from the wind-mirror – this you'll find is fairly cool – cool, that is, before you crash for looking at yourself too much!
There's nothing like driving through the off-road and muddy terrain with some dirt hitting your windscreen in the passing breeze. As with the original the sequel appears rather stunning to say the least, with environments such as the well-lit jungles and the bright and moody atmosphere of Japan with its many buildings and spectators – plus the typical DIRTY terrain as you plough your tyres through some mud!
Naturally the in-car view has of course returned and we have to say that one of the more interesting aspects is the ability to have your Xbox 360 Avatar hanging from your wind-mirror. One of the most noticeable elements visually speaking – because you can't really see where you're heading – is the many puddles that lie scattered throughout some of the tracks. For instance, racing through at top speed and hitting a puddle (whilst in the in-car view), will result in it splashing on your windscreen, that will then temporarily block your vision, ensuring a brief moment of panic when your windscreen wipers do their job – in fact, all this is rather heart-pounding stuff on some occasions, especially if it's your first time on the track. On the other hand you could just press LB, being a sissy in the process, by using one of the other viewpoints, yet miss the finer details of the in-car view.
As far as audio is concerned DIRT 2 does its job to high calibre, from the swishing of splashing puddles hitting your windscreen, to engine noises, spectacular crashes, and even, of course, honking your horn (which, by unlocking, can include some basic comedic horn sounds, to an ice cream truck's horn!).
More interesting, however, are the voiceovers: you'll be hearing Ken Block regular as clockwork plus many other drivers including the likes of Dave Mirra who's more famously know for his BMX antics. You'll find that drivers will frequently shout out support and even some trash talk, should you accidentally or not bump into their ride. Of course the more rally focused races will see you side by side with your co-driver, who, as could be expected, will bark out instructions so you know what lies ahead! In fact, it all pieces together rather well, so creating bit more of an atmosphere during the races.
With the DIRT tour being the main focus for single-player there's certainly plenty to keep the player busy with events including challenges from other drivers, X-Games and World Tour races, as well as competitive online multiplayer, which we must say, was something severely lacking from the first titles outing. This feeling of repetition can quickly kick in though, if you're focusing your attention primarily on one location at a time; and with that said – don't – it's better to skip around the different locations, doing an event a time, to try and break some of the tracks apart.
If you're not so fond of the realistic or simulation based racers such as Forza Motorsport or Race Pro, and perhaps prefer the more approachable, more importantly, arcade racers such as the likes of the Project Gotham Racing series, GRID, and, not overlooking the original DIRT – well, then, Colin McRae: DIRT 2, will certainly appeal as the finest racer of 2009, even if it is somewhat overshadowed by the dated original.
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