For this current generation, Codemasters have really expanded its audience thanks to its new racers DIRT and GRID. Mixing the general strategy of simulation games with the presentation and performance of an arcade title is the main reason why these games are entertaining.
Graphically, the game has made quite a number of improvements. The lighting engine is improved, and the colors are much more vibrant this time around. Effects such as dirt, dust, and water look good as well, especially when driving in cockpit view and driving through puddles. The damage modeling from the last game is still there, with subtle improvements that add up, all of which runs at 30fps. Unfortunately like in the last game, rear view mirrors still project terribly low quality models. The tracks themselves look great, with crowds, fireworks, lighting and shadows.
Thanks to its extreme sports makeover, the game has voice talent from stars from the genre such as Jade Taylor, Ken Block, and Dave Mirra among others. Their voices come from quips between and during races, as well as when visiting a new location. While I appreciate the work and effort behind it, the delivery on their lines falls flat for the most part, and the taunts and quips they say during the races, though it still adds a nice touch, can get very repetitive after a while. These are professional racers, not voice actors. The soundtrack is what you would expect from an extreme sports games, which a mixture of high tempo rock and alternative tracks that don’t play during the actual racing.
Gameplay remains largely the same, though the tweaked physics engine adds improvements to the actual racing of the game. You can tell the difference your cars feel when driving on mud as opposed to dirt or asphalt. This coupled with the different car classes, forces players to change up their driving style depending on the track, especially on your first try. Also included is the flashback system from Race Driver GRID, which makes the game much more enjoyable and is becoming a standard in racing games now. It’s a good thing that they included the flashback system, as the A.I. in the game can be satisfying challenging, especially in crowded races as they have a tendency to send you spinning out of the road (or cliff depending on the locale). Thankfully, the A.I. is also more organic, frequently butting heads at times and not all following the racing line in a predetermined manner. There’s also a tuning option you can perform before races, though it’s not a robust tuning selection, offering only a few categories with several varying degrees from one end to the other. One problem I do have with the game is despite the excellent damage modeling, there doesn’t seem to be as much of an effect on the driver’s performance. You can crash head on and take yourself out of the race and spin out from a bad clip, but there doesn’t seem to be any in-between, which leads to finishing races in total wrecks while only suffering “minor wheel damage”.
Most players will be spending time in the game’s robust career mode. Instead of the Pyramid Structure that the first did went through, the player instead is an aspiring off road driver, living in his trailer, which serves as the hub – containing your records, free race, online, and the map screen. There are several locations from around the world, and within those locations are different event types, from rally to trailblazer and beyond. The car selection spread across the genres is rather limited though, and instead of unlocking brand new models as you move up, you unlock different packages that boost the performance to match. I would’ve also liked some more track variety as it simply felt that many of the events repeated the same tracks too many times. Thankfully, for all your races, both offline and online, you are given experience, and as you level up, you unlock more events in career mode, as well as unlockables such as liveries for your cars, horns and dashboard toys, as well as cash bonuses to buy more vehicles and their upgrade packs.
Though I kind of wish they stuck with a more subdued style instead of the extreme sports makeover, there’s no denying that DIRT 2 still offers some of the best off road racing out there. Though there aren’t as many tracks, cars, or race types as other games may offer, what is there is done very well. Along with a level up system that keeps players satisfied along with the flashback systems to prevent players from becoming too frustrated which still keeps an even level of challenge, this game succeeds in being accessible as it is fun to a general audience. If you’re looking for fun off road racing, DIRT 2 can be a ride you want to take.