Dirt 2 First Impressions

Dirt 2 Cover

Although off-road racing has become the center theme for a fair share of games, not too many have stood out from the crowd save for Motorstorm and the Colin McRae-sponsored releases.  Fortunately, these games have usually offered plenty of solid racing action to keep players entertained for any number of hours.  The latest entry in this line of racing games, Dirt 2, comes sliding across several terrains with moderate expectations after its solid predecessor.  Just how well does the game seem to have improved based on the first few hours?

As with the first Dirt game, Dirt 2 manages to really get your interest with a striking interface.  However, this has changed from a seemingly endless branch of brackets and tables to placing you in the eyes of a racer traveling the world in his trailer.  The menus are all seamlessly integrated by having your character look and walk around in short distances.  Though it can get tiresome having to walk through the same areas again and again, it still does a great job trying to sell the atmosphere of the game.

The events you take part in are broken up according to countries, with the game taking you to Europe, Asia, Japan and plenty other locales.  Having multiple country locations to race in helps keep the races variable though there are still issues with repeating environments even during your first few races.  Race types range from Baja circuits, to Rally races, to “Gatecrasher” events (drive through small boxes to keep the timer going) and the other usual suspects such as time trials.  You’ll also be given the chance to take part in X Games competitions which are essentially tournament-style events and can also race against actual Rally racers one-on-one.  Completing races will upgrade your rank which will give you money (to buy vehicles), new liveries (pre-set paint and vinyls), horn styles and accessories for your cars.  The ability to upgrade your car’s performance is available too but is only done through packs so those hoping to get in-depth with the customization will be disappointed.

When it comes to the racing and gameplay, Dirt 2 is really quite simple.  Select a vehicle to race with, work your way through whatever type of ground is present (dirt, tar, mud, water; the usual suspects) while staying in the lead and try not to bang your car up too much.  Though, if you do happen to total your car or didn’t take a turn so well, you can Flashback to a recent point and proceed with the race from there.  Of course, you’re limited to how many times you can use this feature so don’t expect to constantly hop around the field like you’re Nightcrawler.  Racing is generally fun with the thrills coming more from pushing and sliding through loose landscapes rather than the speed itself.

However, the game has a distinct lack of depth; at least, when compared to other games such as Forza Motorsport and Midnight Club as of recent.  Sadly, this only contributes to how shallow the game is.  Since the tracks are almost entirely closed off it makes the races themselves quite linear.  The only exceptions to this are the Baja races which sometimes an alternative path for a small section of the course and are also noticeably larger than the other areas.  Since this is an arcade racer, however, most people who buy the game likely won’t be bothered by this.

Visually, Dirt 2 manages to look even better than its predecessor with more lively colors, generally sharper texture detail, a far more consistent framerate and relatively brief load times.  Both the car models and locations have been given a great amount of detail; both look equally impressive with pop-ins being virtually nonexistent.  If you take a real close look you might find some blurry, less detailed spots and some off hit detection but this is a fantastic-looking game regardless.

The audio front isn’t nearly as impressive as the visuals, but still has some strong points.  Character chatter comes up very frequently, with Rally racers giving suggestions to guide you through the ever-growing event map.  You’ll also hear racers make remarks every now and again during races which thankfully don’t occur too frequently but help make the events a little more personal.  The same can’t be said for your assistant when setting time trials, especially if you’re not familiar with the terms tossed out like a robot on quick speak speed.  Sound effects, on the other hand, are quite pleasant to hear, with engines revving and stuttering while splashing, sliding and at times crashing all sound great together.  As for the soundtrack, Dirt 2 is mainly composed of alternative bands such as Queens of the Stone Age, Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand and The Stone Roses.

Dirth 2 seems to have most of the fundamentals down for a good, enjoyable racing game.  The interface combined with excellent visuals, solid audio work and generally fun gameplay all come off very well.  But the game simply isn’t very engaging and, as a result, is hard for me to imagine justifying a full purchase for.  If you got the chance to try the demo the full game isn’t too far off from what you were offered there.  This is to say if you don’t mind very basic races and are fine with pre-set vehicles performance-wise making up your selections then the game might be for you.  Otherwise, if you’re like me and are longing for more options, than Forza Motorsport 3 and possible Need for Speed Shift will be the best options available.

First Impression Score: 82

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