Colin McRae Dirt 2 for PS3 Review by Stephen Heller
The Colin McRae series has been with the Codemasters camp since 1998 when the first title was released on PC and Playstation platforms. Since then Codemasters has branched out to create a number of great racing titles, most recently Race Driver: GRID and Colin McRae Dirt, both of which struck a perfect balance between realism and arcade. Dirt 2 is ready to launch from the starting gate, but does it have enough to win the race?
The original Dirt was praised for it’s innovative menu system, and the developers have built on it, creating one of the most immersive, and functional menu systems to ever hit a videogame. The menu is based inside your RV trailer which has access to all the games functions spread around the trailer. The world map will have the events from the career mode, a TV that shows tutorial videos for event types, then head outside to see the festival setting for the country you are in to buy new cars, liveries and check out event results. It’s intuitive, a pleasure to navigate and makes you feel like you are really living in the trailer.
Career Mode has you filling the role of an new rookie on the circuit, making a name for yourself and progressing towards becoming a champion. Each race earns you experience points, which eventually levels you up unlocking new races, liveries, vehicles and dashboard items such as fuzzy dice, skulls with rolling eyes or hula girls. Dirt 2 rewards you often for your hard work, and the leveling system really streamlines the career progression.
The game features six difficulties, which cater well for arcade fans right up to simulation aficionados. The difficulties don’t affect your career progression, but you will earn slightly less EXP and cash for each race. Regardless of your difficulty you will move up from the Amateur events to the Pro Circuit and into the All-Star races. There are approximately 100 events, which are locked based on experience level, which cars you own, or certain events you are required to win. Along with the typical events there are a series of special events which are a nice change of pace, including three X-Games events, five World Cup Tournaments, and a tribute event to the late Colin McRae.
Dirt 2 keeps the game fresh with a series of invigorating locations. The tight and narrow corners of Morocco, the quiet hillsides of China, the bushwhacking of Croatia, the change of scenery keeps the game feeling fresh and exciting.
Driving mechanics are a little hit and miss. The developers get it spot on for the rally discipline, newcomers will sit on the edge of being in control or losing it as they learn the weighted breaking and acceleration system, yet on the higher difficulties simulation pros will be fighting against near flawless AI. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about trucks and buggies that are featured in other disciplines. They simply don’t handle with the same technical finesse, are simply too easy to lose control of when bumping into competitors, and handle with arcade simplicity.
It is the arcade events that will have longtime fans and simulation junkies feeling jaded about Dirt 2. The Rally discipline feels exactly as it should, but the time-trial rally events only account for roughly 20% of the career mode. The rest of the racing is taken up with events such as Gate Crasher, which has you crashing through foam gates to increase time limit, which simply feels like a realistic version of the arcade Ridge Racer titles, the rally cross, raid and trailblazer events simply don’t cut it when compared to the full on rally events. It leaves the player feeling the game is more about flash and pizazz than rally driving. That’s not to say that these events don’t work well, they offer a fun and often rewarding experience, they simply don’t feel as deep as point to point rally racing.
The developers have thrown in a nifty feature with Flashback. If you crash your car or mess up a corner really badly you can go to the replay, rewind time and choose when you want to take control of your car. It comes in handy to avoid a race ending crash, or shave precious time off a corner to give you the edge over your competitors. The amount of flashbacks you can use per race depends entirely on what difficulty you are racing on, easy allowing five flashbacks per race, hardcore allowing none. It’s a great feature that will help new-comers come to grips with the dynamics of Dirt 2.
Dirt 2 is a visually stunning game, running at a consistently perfect framerate and featuring the most impressive and realistic visual damage system you are ever likely to see this generation. Environments are perfectly modeled, and the vehicles look impressive. The greatest treat is when racing in cockpit view; crashes and bumps have you sitting on the edge of the seat, dust blocking your view, and driving through puddles and mud will have you cursing your windshield wipers as you can’t see.
Multiplayer is breeze, simply pick what event type you want to take part in and you will be on the track with seven other racers, battling for online supremacy. Every car is unlocked in multiplayer, regardless if you own it or not in the career mode. It is fun with friends, but unless you are a die-hard racer it doesn’t have enough pull to make you stay when compared with other racing titles like Forza 2 or Project Gotham.
The Final Verdict Dirt 2 has an impressive feature set that makes it worthwhile sitting behind the wheel. Visually stunning graphics, a varied track list backed up with a functional multiplayer offering and fantastic damage modeling. Rally events feel just as they should, but unfortunately the game tends to spend more time in the more “novelty” events rather than the Rally discipline. Regardless Dirt 2 is a solid racing title, that will keep fans of the series happy and should be welcoming to newcomers.
A solid racing game that has a great feature set but just spends too much time in the novelty events rather than hardcore rallying.
Visually stunning damage modeling, cars look great and environments feel alive, all with a perfect framerate.
The cars sound decent, the soundtrack is fantastic yet drivers quips during the races are repetitive and lame.
Career mode will take you approximately 10 hours to complete, but you will spend much longer trying to finish in first place. The online component is solid, yet unless you are a die-hard rally fan it won’t keep you interested for long.