Colin McRae: DiRT 2: PC Review

  • Format: PC (Version reviewed), 360, PS3, Wii, PSP, DS
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Codemasters
  • Developer: Codemasters
  • Players: 1-8
  • Site:

DiRT 2 is the seventh instalment in the long running Colin McRae series and despite the Rally legend’s untimely death in 2007, the franchise shows no signs of slowing down. The DiRT series itself is a curious beast; whilst on the surface it may appear to continue the legacy of the old Colin McRae games, in truth the experience has had the hard edges sanded off, we presume so that it can reach a wider audience. Whatever the reasoning, DiRT 2 isn’t a hardcore Rally simulation. This will be disappointing to some fans, who will balk at the idea of staggered starts for Rally races and be turned off by the presentation, that at times seems more Tony Hawk than Colin McRae. But for the more casual racing fan DiRT 2 has a whole lot to offer and the PC iteration comes as the first game to offer support for Microsoft’s DirectX 11.

Stepping at first into the world of DiRT 2 we’re reminded instantly of Race Driver: GRID, Codemaster’s 2008 racer offering. That’s by no means a bad thing as GRID was a slickly executed racer which introduced the time-rewind mechanics we see reproduced here. The presentation of GRID too is aped, with us selecting a name or nickname which we’d like to be called by, as well as nationality, all serving to immerse us into our role as a newcomer on the rallying scene. It’s at this point that it all gets a bit Tony Hawk as we are befriended by other rally drivers, who invite us to events based on our reputation or level. Most bewildering is the inclusion of a chap called Dave Mirra who we thought was a BMX rider, but nevermind eh? The truth is all this slick presentation seems to exist to ease the newcomer into the world of rallying and move it away from the ultra-serious technical racing discipline that actually constitutes rally driving. But once you hit the track, the presentation is less of an issue, because as you’d expect DiRT 2 is all about the driving.

Well actually, the end of the last paragraph is not strictly true, DiRT 2 is all about the driving and the graphics. DiRT 2 is, you see, a beautiful game. The landscapes are startling, the cars sleek and the environmental effects are second to none. The graphics aren’t simply cosmetic either; you can clearly see the difference in your transition from a dry dusty track baked in the sun, to a more sheltered mud road – and you’ll have to adjust your driving style to compensate for the changing conditions. However the moment where DiRT 2 truly amazes is when you plug a DirectX 11 capable card into your PC and switch on all the Ultra video options. It changes from an extremely pretty game to a mind-blowingly pretty one. The sense of speed and the attention to detail in particular impress. After flying round a rudimentary dirt track in your souped-up rally beast you’ll feel as dirty as your car looks (in a caked in mud way, pervert). Here at Critical Gamer we don’t often wax lyrical about graphics, but DiRT 2 is essentially showing off the next generation of PC gaming graphics. If our experiences here are anything to go by, PC gamers are in for a treat as new releases make the transition to DirectX 11.

As lovely as the graphics here are it’s all to no avail if the game they’re slapped on top of is rubbish. Fortunately that isn’t the case here. DiRT 2 as a racer is a thrilling high speed collision between machine and nature, the latter battering the former as you career around the globe in search of thrills. The different race types on offer fit broadly into five categories – Rally Cross, Rally, Trailblazer, Raid and Landrush. Rally Cross features closed circuit racing and is probably the most traditional racing type of the lot as you’ll compete head to head with other drivers across a number of laps. It’s probably the least interesting mode of the bunch – although powersliding around corners alongside your opponents is always a giggle, we’ve seen it done many times before. The Raid and Landrush events feature heavy vehicles like buggies, hummers and powerful trucks racing simultaneously. Raid focuses on long distance courses filled with jumps and water obstacles, whereas Land Rush takes a circuit based approach. Both are entertaining, as you step away from rallying to wrestling with these giant mechanical monsters around challenging courses. However, they can seem like more of a novelty distraction at times and it won’t be long before you’re returning to the real meat of the game – Rally and Trailblazer.

You see, despite all the game modes and concessions towards accessibility, the best parts of DiRT 2 are those which more closely conform to the series’ past. The Rally mode and its close cousin Trailblazer see you for the most part racing solo across gruelling courses, from the jungles of Malaysia to the dusty sun-baked canyons of Ohio. It’s true you have staggered starts and may encounter opponents on your travels; but for the most part it’s you versus the track, setting the best time you can. The difference between the two modes is that Rally gives you a co-driver to direct you through the hairpin bends and winding tracks. In Trailblazer you’ll be flying solo and whilst it has little relationship to Rallying in the real world, it produces some of the best moments of the game as you struggle to find the balance between speed and control as you race across some spectacular vistas.

DiRT 2 then is a triumph, taking everything Codemasters learned from GRID and applying it to the high stakes, high speed world of Rallying. Rally veterans may initially be disheartened, but if you stick with the game, it serves as a fitting legacy to the man himself, Colin McRae.


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Written by Michael J

Michael is a self proclaimed PC gaming fanatic and is equally at home with all genres, bar platformers and puzzle games. Except Bejeweled, he's awesome at that. Seriously, he is totally like second on his Facebook Bejeweled leaderboard. And they said he'd never amount to anything...

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