Colin McRae: DIRT 2 Xbox 360 Review
You wouldn’t know that Colin McRae: DiRT 2 was developed by a British developer: it’s headlined by a group of American drivers (Ken Block, Travis Pastrana, Dave Mirra and Tanner Faust) and the presentation is way overdone, so much so that it’s over the top. Codemasters are obviously aiming to make an impact in the American market as this sequel is even more Americanised than the original. Well, at least Travis Pastrana mostly leaves us in peace this time around and we have the option of a Scottish co-driver in the passenger seat, as well.
For those who can tolerate the BIG presentation, it’s actually pretty good. A magazine cover keeps you up to date with your own triumphs, as well as others on your friends list and also lets you know what is happening throughout the community (perhaps yesterday there was a lot of crashes on a particular track). Loading screens once again show stats and achievement progress, whilst text is always big and bold, just the way the American’s like it. Moving on, traditional menus have been done away with, in their place is a trailer park, wherein you can go inside your trailer and access the different modes, your stats and more. It’s certainly better than the traditional menu screen and makes you feel as if you are actually backstage and waiting to race.
Like the original, this sequel plays host to many different off-road disciplines, meaning it’s very different from the first five games, which were solely about the rallying. Alongside the latter, the game has Rally Cross (racing against opponents on mud, tarmac and gravel), Trailblazer (rallying without the co-driver‘s verbal assistance), Land Rush (buggies and trucks on circuits with some big jumps), and Raid (buggies and trucks in cross country rallying). If you like off-road racing, then this is obviously your game.
There’s also a more diverse set of modes, with Domination, Throwdown events, Last Man Standing, team events and Gatecrasher. Domination has you and your opponents battling it out to own the track by getting the best times in each sector (scoring points for doing just that as well as your current position), Throwdown events give you the opportunity to go head-to-head with another driver whether in races or against their set times, whilst Last Man Standing has the driver in last position being eliminated every 20 seconds until there’s only one smug driver remaining, team events pair you up with a driver of your choosing (you‘ll make friends with the professionals as you make a name for yourself, each have their own specialities), and finally Gatecrasher involves smashing through gates to keep a plummeting clock alive.
The game has a massive World Tour mode, a mode that will take most of us a long time to get through due to the huge number of races and events. You’ll be racing across the four continents of Asia, Europe, Africa and North America in your quest for off-road supremacy, gaining experience along the way and testing your tyres on varying terrain.
Earning experience comes through success on the track, it is also awarded to you for completing missions. There’s quite a number of missions, ranging from simple things such as using the Flashback (indeed, it’s the very thing that GRID introduced, allowing you to rewind following a botch and hoping not to repeat it when back in the race) feature 100 times, overtaking 1000 vehicles, to driving 500 miles and destroying 250 objects in the environment. It’s satisfying to complete a mission during a race, raising your experience level and then returning to the event screen, often finding some new events upon doing so.
Throughout the World Tour you’ll also unlock liveries for your cars, but more novel are the dashboard and windshield toys. You obviously aren’t going to care much for these if you don’t use the interior view that often, but for those that do it’s a nice little feature that might bring about a smile, as well. As two examples, it’s possible to have an evil minion from Codemasters own Overlord series sitting on your dashboard and a mini version of your avatar hanging upside down and bobbing about on your windshield.
The racing itself is reminiscent of the original, combining arcade with the slight subtlety of simulation. Like said original it will have its detractors and those who would like Codemasters to return the series to the mindset of days gone by, but others will enjoy its responsiveness, whilst also finding a learning curve to driving along each track like a true off-road specialist, and a reason to listen to the co-driver during rally events. The races with simultaneous starts rarely pass without incident, even the AI are prone to making mistakes. Bringing me nicely on to the flashback feature: this isn’t only there to rectify silly mistakes involving yourself, a tree, a wall or a rock, as well as racing incidents that have wiped you out, but also to perfect corners and portions of tracks that are troubling you. The lower the difficulty setting (there’s six, ranging from easy to hardcore), the more flashbacks you’ll receive, on the flipside the higher the difficulty the more cash winnings will be potentially headed your way, allowing you to buy yourself some new motors or to upgrade ones you already own in order to use them in particular events.
Graphically, the game also adds to the thrill of the racing. Codemasters EGO engine is looking better than ever with environments (including the jungles of Malaysia, twisty mountain rally roads of Croatia the fast desert tracks of Utah, amongst others) that are as equally detailed as the vehicles that race through them. Being a Codemasters game, the damage is once again brilliant and vehicles can become almost as crumpled as a scrunched up crisp packet, it’s just a shame that there’s no weather effects, particularly as the water that splashes against the windscreen when driving through puddles looks so convincing, so much so that I was always begging my windscreen wipers to hurry up and give me a clear view.
Sadly, this sequel is once again without the traditional offline multiplayer mode, well unless you can be bothered with System Link. I have good memories of taking it in turns in the rallying of old, the aim to set better times than my siblings, but like the original DIRT, there’s no such options. Online, the game does everything it should, with all the major events, vehicles and tracks available from the single player mode, more importantly it generally runs very smoothly, as well.
Colin McRae: DiRT 2 is a brilliant off-road racer, it’s flaws are few and it’s plus points are vast. The Americanisation, the lack of weather conditions and the overdone presentation don’t weigh too heavily on what is a fast, fun, dirty racer, and one that has plenty of driving diversity of the off-road kind.