The original Colin Mcrae: Dirt took a new direction for the fan-favourite rallying series, with whole new ways to play the game thanks to a host of additional vehicle types and game modes. However, in 2007, rally legend Colin Mcrae tragically passed away, prior to the release of Colin Mcrae Dirt 2.
A cloud of uncertainty hovered over the future of the Dirt 2 series, with many fans waiting with bated breath to see what would be the outcome for Codemaster's latest and greatest...
First things first, I'm pleased to report that Dirt 2 is one of the best rally games I've played in a very long time. In fact, this is the game that the first Dirt could only dream of. From the moment Dirt 2 is loaded up you are treated to some very impressive presentation values.. The game always gives you something to look at and shows new and interesting statistics and figures, which cleverly distracts you from the loading times that can sometimes take a little while. The entire menu system is played out in a pitstop of sorts, where you can access your cars, races and tweak all manner of car settings.
Progress in Dirt 2's campaign mode is fairly straightforward. You earn cash for every event that you finish which also nets you experience. Once you've gained enough experience you'll automatically level up. This in turn unlocks new awards, such as new events to compete in and new liveries for your car. There are six difficulty levels available for the player to choose from. Each difficulty nets you a different level of cash and a certain number of flashbacks that you can use during a race. Crank up the difficulty and you'll be awarded more cash for winning an event, but you'll have less flashbacks at your disposal. For those unfamiliar with one of racing gaming's most recent assets. the flashbacks are an opportunity to rewind time, averting what would otherwise be a teeth-grindingly annoying finale to a race. If for instance you are involved in a big crash, you can rewind time to a point before the crash with the press of a button, allowing you to correct any misjudgements or lapses of concentration you may have had prior to the crash
One of the aspects that I personally love about Dirt 2 is the fact that it isn't an out-and-out rally simulator. Sure, you can choose the rally mode and have bucket loads of fun, but there is much more to this game. There are new race-modes such as Last Man Standing, Domination, Gate Crasher and Rally Cross (which is a race in a stadium-type environment with tight turns, lots of jumps and loads of dirt, real X-games style!) Domination literally requires you to dominate certain parts of the track with fast times, whereas Gatecrasher requires you to drive accurately and with great precision, to hit as many gates as you possibly can to add precious seconds to your timer and extend your run. Last Man Standing is another name for an elimination race where the back-marker gets eliminated till there's only one racer left.
The number of cars available was a bit of a let-down at first, but luckily this aspect doesn't even seem to bother you once you get hands on with a few of the cars. The attention to detail is absolutely spot-on, both visually-and-sound-wise. The driving style for each individual vehicle has been created completely uniquely, which lends this title the authenticity that many other racing titles fail to capture.
The career-mode found in Dirt 2 forms the basis of this game. It will keep you happily occupied for quite some time, taking you on a globe-hopping journey across seven different countries, including Croatia, China and even the dust-fuelled wilderness in Morocco. Dirt 2 includes an online friends system which allows racers to chat in-race in team-based events. Another nice touch that adds to the appeal of the game is the real-life motoring superstars like Ken Block, Dave Mirra and Travis Pastrana which have been incorporated into the game in the form of virtual representations. These guys (and girls) keep talking to you throughout the course of the game and even while racing in events, which makes sure that there's never a dull moment.
Graphically Dirt 2 literally blows me away every time I start racing, despite it already creeping up to five years of age. This isn't a game where you can smash into walls and trees, bending and breaking your car and just keep racing as if it were but a scratch. Every mistake you make impacts on your car, the way it does in real life. While it's demoralizing to see your beloved car crumple like tinfoil, it's gorgeous at the same time to watch it happening in such a lifelike fashion. From the amazing lush environments to the smallest dust particles that get thrown around, this game is one heck of an example of what developers can do. Even the lens flare has been so faithfully recreated that you involuntarily squint your eyes every time the sun reflects off the windshield into your eyes.
I can honestly find few faults with Dirt 2. From the word 'go!' I was entranced, right until I finished the game and beyond. My only minor gripe is the lack of split-screen support, but this really is a very minor issue. This is one of those games that you simply have to add to your collection if you haven't done it already! This is one game that is truly testament to the legacy of Colin Mcrae. It's aged a bit now, but if you shop around you can pick it up for an absolute steal.