The original Colin McRae DiRT saw Codemasters attempt to take its Colin McRae Rally formula to the masses by making it more accessible and incorporating an Americanised X-games element. Was it successful? I haven’t played it myself, but if the glowing reviews are anything to go by, then the answer is an emphatic “yes”.
The overall tone of DiRT 2 screams “mainstream” – from the 3D Tony Hawk-style narrative interface to the pop-punk and nu metal soundtrack – but the handling and control mechanics are anything but. DiRT 2 is fairly difficult, even in the early stages of the game. The handling is particularly unforgiving, with the slightest of errors sending you careering off the track. Sometimes it won’t even be your fault – an unwelcome nudge from an opponent will severely disrupt your course and send you spinning. And if you spin out just once, your chances of catching up are fairly slim. Luckily there’s a neat function stolen from Grid that allows you to rewind the clock so you can reattempt the corner that you’d previously misjudged.
But just to make things that little bit more difficult, the game features an (admittedly impressive) damage system that will further hamper your efforts. Damage your wheels? Your steering will pull to one direction. Damage your engine? Your speed will reduce. Thankfully, the damage can be set to “visual only”, so you still have a shot at making the podium after slamming into a roadside barrier.
With a little perseverance there’s a lot to like about DiRT 2. While I found the game pretty frustrating, rally purists with the patience and reflexes required will probably lap it up, and for good reason; DiRT 2 is a solid and extremely goodlooking racer with realistic mechanics. But I feel at this early stage that I can only recommend it to the hardcore rally fans out there, and even they may be put off by the increasingly mainstream direction the franchise is heading in.