DiRT 2
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-09-26 PS3 Racing T (Teen) Codemasters

Where DiRT was widely praised for its great driving physics and immaculate presentation, DiRT 2 does its predecessor proud, by providing an accessible and intuitive take on the off-road racing scene.

The game is filled with some of the world's biggest extreme sports nuts, as well as famous rally racers (Dave Mirra, Travis Pastrana, and Tanner Foust, just to name a few), who introduce you to the world of off-road racing by inviting you to compete in events rewarding experience points that increase your reputation level. The higher your reputation, the more celebrity racers you can befriend, and the more ingrained in the racing world you become.

Helping pull you in is one of the most unique menu designs I've come across to date. In place of a computer-like screen with options to scroll through, instead, in between races you are placed in a campground like setting, viewing the landscape through the eyes of your virtual character.

Races are accessed through the map inside your camping trailer, while cars can be bought and tweaked on the tarmac outside, which your in-game representation quickly walks to. Magazines are scattered throughout the environment that give you information on current online tournaments, or provide hints and tricks for the game's many race modes, and by investigating a stack of papers on a nearby table, you can fiddle with any number of game options like sound and HUD details.

Races come in multiple forms, from the standard lap-based Rally Cross (a mixture of off-road and asphalt) and Land Rush (all dirt circuits), to the more unique additions like Gate Crasher or Last Man Standing events, which, respectively, task you with knocking down foam barricades to stop an ever-decreasing timer, or keep yourself from being in place when the elimination buzzer goes off until you are the only car left.

But of course, this couldn't be a true off-road racer without traditional Rally events, and DiRT 2 does a nice job of representing the team-work required therein by driver and co-driver, as your co-driver shouts out racing jargon, warning you of an upcoming turn or hill as you make your way from point to point.

As you complete events, new races, paint schemes and vehicle accessories (windshield and dashboard toys) are unlocked, until you have an event list that spans the entire globe, from Baja and Utah to Croatia and Japan.

If you play the races in the order they are presented to you, it will take a couple of hours to see everything the game has to offer. However, if you tend to skip around, traveling to new locations as soon as they are unlocked, the variety dwindles rather quickly, as you are shown the game's entire hand before really tackling the bulk of the career mode.

Either way, like most racers, completing DiRT 2 is a long, repetitious process. The race tracks are varied and quite beautiful (the lighting effects are especially noteworthy on night races), but eventually, the only thing setting two Rally or two Last Man Standing races apart will be the direction assigned to the track (that is, whether you're on the standard or the reverse version) or the time of day, with night races adding a bit of extra challenge due to the lack of overall visibility.

That being said however, the racing in DiRT 2 is solid, and does offer a varying degree of challenge based on your vehicle type, whether or not you rely on Flashbacks (time-reversals that let you repeat a section of the race if you were to make a mistake and crash), or your chosen camera angle, with the in-car camera adding even more realism to the experience.

Cars handle nicely, and there is an appreciated sense of speed on long straight-aways (the few that the game contains), as well as an option to bring your drifting skills into play on the many hairpin turns found on most every track.

DiRT 2 is easily playable in short bursts or in marathon sessions, due to its availability of single or multiple race events, and the game's trophies and in-game missions (which reward additional experience points) offer an added incentive to keep driving. Additionally, the online multiplayer component offers instant replayability, as facing up against real opponents is obviously a far more challenging endeavor than simple stomping all over the game's AI.

For dedicated racing fans, DiRT 2 is hurt little by its repetitive nature. The game's unique menu system, voice acting (if you happen to be lucky enough to have your name to choose from on the AI-recognized speaking list) and awesome licensed soundtrack create an enveloping experience, regardless of the lack of an in-depth plot. Even for the very few flaws it does contain, DiRT 2 is a highly polished racer that succeeds where it counts.

Special thanks to Jean Son and Codemasters for providing a copy of this title.