Dirt 2 Single Player
Dirt 2 in my opinion is a less serious, more fun version of the original Dirt. I’m currently at about 80% completion with just a few landrush/raid races left. I’ve been playing with the Xbox Pad for Windows and had no problems whatsoever with controls. Once you understand where and when to use throttle or brakes, the handling becomes quite predictable allowing you to use the inertia of the car to your advantage by using the previous turn to assist with the next one. Scandinavian flicks and big power slides are both possible, with the rallycross cars allowing you to reach silly angles and still recover.
The choice of cars is adequate, although there doesn’t really feel like there’s much difference between any of them, the RWD cars will oversteer a bit easier than the 4WD cars, but that’s about it, with the trucks and buggies, the differences are a bit more noticeable, but still not massive. The addition of a few classic cars such as the mk 2 escort, Metro 6R4, Ford RS200 and Colin McRae’s 95 Subaru are nice and gives a bit of variety to the very similar standard cars, but again, there doesn’t seem to be much difference in how they actually react. The career menu is nicely laid out and works smoothly, having the option to walk around the paddock style area is a nice touch, and the fact that it doesn’t take too long to move between areas means you’re not sat waiting and getting frustrated. The flashbacks are a good feature, allowing you to rewind time a couple of seconds when you make a mistake and try again.
The graphics are superb, with bright and vibrant colours and surroundings. The water effects are excellent and add to the realism and excitement by obscuring your vision through the windscreen temporarily. Other effects such as muck getting thrown up from the wheels and tyre marks in soft surfaces are well modelled and look realistic. The detail of the vehicles is very good, and being able to see parts like the suspension moving and the tyres deforming is very satisfying, even just seeing your car getting filthy in the muddier areas can put a smile on your face. The damage you can inflict on yours and your opponents cars is also excellent with large portions of the car either coming away or deforming.
The AI is pretty good, but can occasionally do something stupid, which if you can avoid can be a benefit, but if you’re not quick enough you can end up totalled, especially with the big jumps in the Raid races.
The sounds are excellent, the vehicles sound realistic and make some glorious noises, particularly the Impreza hatchback which spits and crackles on the overrun and has a great rally car soundtrack; and the V8 buggies for V8 greatness. Each vehicle has its own sound and represents the different engines very well. The in game music is also good, the tracks seem to match the feel of the game nicely, although this is obviously a more personal thing.
There are only a few issues I have with Dirt 2, none of them are really game breaking. The first is the difficulty, the jump between Serious and Savage feels far too large. On Serious I can win a rally by 10-15 seconds, but on serious, I could be 5 seconds behind the leader, and in the Raid and landrush races, the opponents seem to have much more grip on the loose surfaces meaning it’s extremely difficult catching up without having to resort to smashing your way through. In Rally stages, I could probably concentrate a bit more and win on savage, but in trucks I think it would just annoy me.
The other slight issue is the pace notes given by your co driver in rally events, they’re just not quick enough sometimes and you’re on the bend before the co-driver has finished telling you what it is, usually resulting in a shout of annoyance and the consumption of one of your available flashbacks. Once you know your way along the stages this becomes less of an issue, and due to the smallish number of stages, this happens quite quickly. Yes there’s around 8 locations, but each one only has two or three stages, so you usually just end up going one way down the stage, then going the opposite way, so it doesn’t take many races before you know every bend on the course.
Overall it’s a great game, with predictable handling and smooth looks. You can tailor the experience with the difficulty options, depending on whether you want a quick blat down a muddy track for fun, or a proper hair raising, seat of your pants challenge. Despite being nearly 4 years old I think it can still hold its own against the newer titles, and it also means you can turn all the graphics options up to full and get a decent framerate. On my Q6600 and GTX460 I’m running everything at full and haven’t noticed any slowdown. The need for ‘Games for Windows Live’ might put some people off, but it’s not noticeable once you’ve signed in, all it really does is keep track of the achievements.