DiRT 2

For the Love of Mud

DiRT 2 does its predecessor one better in every single way, and establishes the series as one of the breakout next-gen racers.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: October 6, 2009
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When you play a couple hundred games a year, you tend to get something of a sixth sense about a game. It could be the way the PR department releases screens (and Codemasters, I love you guys, but you're the kings of bullshots), or the amount of pre-release coverage access that we get to things or just some intangible impression a game gives off. All of these things, though, can't really compare to the first fifteen or so minutes with the game itself. The final, complete, developer-intended experience in all its glory, that's where the real mojo lives.

And honestly, in those first 15 minutes, you'll pretty much know what you need to about the game. Does it control well? Are the graphics solid? Do the bits of gameplay first introduced offer the potential for depth and longevity that keep the game interesting well past that 15 minute mark? What about the 15 hour one? The answer to all of the above -- at least in the case of DiRT 2 is a resounding, whole-hearted, "hell yes." A meaty, varied, engaging racer lies at the core of some of the slickest tech I've seen pumping out of the PS3, and before I even dig into the why of my infatuation with DiRT 2, it's worth it to just tell you to stop reading and go buy the thing already.

The original DiRT excused the hilariously broken capitalization of its title by providing one of the meatiest off-road racing experiences out there. It ran well, controlled well (despite being decidedly more arcade-leaning than its Colin McRae-based roots) and offered hours of stuff to tool around in. The sequel, on the other hand, takes all this and gives it a shot of programming nitrous, upping the graphics in every way (the scenery is more detailed and varied, the locales are more diverse) and delivering some of the lessons learned on GRID, the game Codies' Racing Studio had worked on in between the first and second DiRT games -- chiefly the incorporation of a rewind feature.

This isn't something that's completely new to racers, but it is one that I increasingly find myself unable to race without. So many things happen in a turn when you're jostling around, and despite things like physics and handling improving by leaps and bounds over the past few years, they still aren't to the point where cars will behave entirely... right. I'm not excusing the occasional spin-out quirk found in DiRT 2 (and yes, they will happen -- particularly on some landings off big jumps), but what could have been a source of unneeded aggravation is mitigated at least a little by the inclusion of the ability to hit a button, scrub back along the last 30 or so seconds of the race and then drop back in whenever you choose.

What started as a way to avoid stupid crashes quickly became a lesson in how to properly approach a turn. DiRT 2's particular kind of slide-heavy physics means that getting a new car -- particularly one with more muscle which often comes at the cost of some handling, an attribute I prized over all others when picking cars -- can often be a bit of a learning experience heading into the same corner you've taken a few dozen times before. That can be instantly re-applied through the judicious use of the rewind feature, allowing you to take what you've learned in near-real time and adjust how you head into a corner.
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