Colin McRae: DiRT 2 Review
|Release Date:||September 11th, 2009 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Andy Hemphill (Bandit)|
"Hey Andy, we're getting ready for a big race in Baja, want to come along?"
I'm sorry, did my Xbox just talk to me? Did legendary rally driver Travis Pastrana just call me by name and invite me to an event in Baja? Yes he did, and just like everything in Dirt 2, the personalised in-game talk adds a whole new level of fun to an already brilliant game.
Following on the heels of about a million Colin McRae rally games, Dirt 2 is yet another step forward for the rally gaming genre, this one dragging the series into the next generation in fantastic form.
Though the game has pretty much dropped the 'Colin McRae' moniker after the great man crashed his helicopter in Scotland, you can rest assured the legacy of one of the world's best rally professionals ever lives on- and Dirt 2 offers you the chance to match his success, even so far as to offer you McRae's old Subaru as your very first car.
After signing up for the Dirt Tour, the game quickly introduces you to your support team, the famous drivers touring the world and your funky little RV.
Rather than a game's usual main screen, the RV serves as the hub for the game's multiplayer and single player options, as well as the home for the game's instructional videos.
As soon as you've signed in you have to tell the computer what you want to be called, be it nickname or first name- and from then on you're dumped right into the action, with a car to use, two races to choose from and a bunch of fans massing outside the swing-door of your trailer.
In the main Dirt Tour you start out as an unknown and unloved rally newbie, yet to prove yourself against the better drivers on the circuit. Starting out with no cash, no sponsors, and only McRae's beaten up Subaru for a ride, you have to build up your reputation, attract sponsors, earn cash and upgrade your motor until you can compete with the best drivers in races across the world, ranging from tense rally stages atop Italy's cliffs to aggressive street racing in London's West End.
The lengthy campaign sees you take your newbie driver from nobody to legend, facing some of the modern rally greats and slamming into many, many walls, cars, parked busses, barriers and signposts as you go (or was that just me?)
As you earn cash on the tour you can buy new cars, upgrade your engines, respray your chassis, or even buy ornaments for your dashboard- I was a big fan of the nodding dog and furry dice combination.
And if you're a rally nut you can even adjust your engine's attributes, swuch as downforce or differential, though for the inexperienced- like me- it might be better to let the computer decide for you.
As you compete in the dozen or so different types of events, you earn cash and kudos for your driver. More cash means more fans, and more fans means more events, and before long you can be leading the way on the international circuit, befriending other drivers as you go- or annoying them if you keep forcing them to crash into a wall on the tricky third corner of the dirt track event in California.
The rally stages are a whole lot of fun on their own- since there are no other drivers to keep an eye on, the simple, yet clever, control system really shines through, as does the voice acting of your co-driver, who continually lets you know what's coming up around the next corner and will add humourous little comments when you make a mistake, ranging from "It's only a scratch"- when you tap a wall while drifting around a corner, to yelled profanities when you flip the car upside down and go careening off a cliff (which I did quite often.)
But don't despair. Though crashes are inevitable, the game's clever 'flashback' feature allows you to rewind time, Prince of Persia-style.
This means you can keep on driving no matter how bad an accident you're been through. Different difficulty settings have a different number of flashback tokens, and though the option to reverse time might be seen as a way of cheating the game, it sure makes that eight lap race a whole lot more fun - when a single crash doesn't mean you have to start from the beginning.
Aside from the brilliant single player campaign, Dirt 2 also has the usual collection of multiplayer modes, ranging from straight races to rally stages, and a few more interesting modes just to add a bit of variety, but i'd suggest a lot of practice in the Dirt Tour before taking to the phone lines- some of the online drivers are really, really good.
Though the online multiplayer is fun, the game's lack of a split-screen mode is a shame, as I have many a fond memory of playing Colin McRae games with a few mates round, though I expect Codemasters might add one eventually thanks to the wonder of DLC.
Graphically the game is simply stunning, both inside the cars and out. The courses, ranging from wind-swept plains to sandy dunes, are all rendered in stunning colours and textures, and the mud flying from the cars' back wheels almost looks real.
The cars themselves are also rendered nicely, with realistic damage and shiny surfaces which can quickly become caked with mud as you take your rumbling engine round the tight corners.
The sound design is also brilliant. Though the voice acting can sound forced, the nickname system adds a lot to the immersion factor of the game, and hearing a fellow driver cursing as you cut them up can really make a race a lot of fun.
Engine sounds, rumbling roads and the whine of hydraulics all sound great as well, as does the soundtrack which, while consisting almost entirely of heavy rock and trace beats, is never intrusive and is brilliantly implemented in the action replays, which are worth watching for the graphical beauty of the game alone.
So, Dirt 2 is a definitely a fantastic addition to a venerable series. Though sadly lacking a split-screen mode, the engrossing single player campaign and addictive multiplayer can absorb you for hours, and the stunning graphics, sound design and gameplay dynamics certainly kept me entertained, as I fought to make my driver number one.
"Andy, we're off to America for a dirt race, you coming along?"
Just let me grab my helmet...
- Brilliant graphics and sound design
- Lengthy single player campaign
- Addictive driving style
Not so good stuff
- No split-screen
- 'Flashback' can make races too easy