Following up Colin McRae’s brand name switch to Dirt, Dirt 2 brings another level of entertainment to the old Colin McRae series. Big on atmosphere and high adrenaline, Dirt 2 has everything you want out of a racing game, and then more.

The Colin McRae series has been one of Codemasters most stable series over the years, and even though I have a fond place in my heart for some of the earlier, more pure versions of rally racing, the Dirt series has been warming up to me. The Colin McRae series might not what it used to be which is alright because the new and improved Colin McRae has so much more to offer, so racing die-hards you might want to check your attitude at the door and examine Codemasters second offering o
f Colin McRae: Dirt 2.

It's fun to play in the Dirt
Dirt 2 might be filled with a lot more swooping graphics and radical vehicles liveries, but one thing it doesn’t shy away from is the core mechanics of racing. The racing is as tight as ever, and now in its second next-generation outing, it looks as good as it drives. Dirt as a series is straying further away from its simulation roots into the wide-spread genre of the arcade racer, although we are thankful that it hasn’t made a full transition. Compared to another racer like Forza Motorsport, Dirt 2 will feel a little loosey-goosey and over exaggerated, however slapped against some other arcade racing products, Dirt 2 feels like Forza.

From the "casual" difficulty, or bumped up to the final setting of "hardcore", you should be able to find the racing expreince you expect out of a Colin McRae game. A few of the vehicles handling can be a little questionable, but when it comes to getting behind a Subaru Impreza WRX STI, Dirt 2 pulls no punches and feels right at home.

Back to basics, and then some
The race types in Dirt 2 heads back basics with some nice "rally" and "rallycross" events. You also get to participate in "trailblazer", "landrush" and "raid" race types. The Rally races are point-to-point tracks with an audible co-driver giving you course notes. To win a Rally race you have to have the fastest time when you cross the finish line. Rally races take place in five different locations in Dirt 2 and each local does a great job to keep the pressure on you with the challenge of navigating through some brutal and often varied types of terrain. Rally Cross events kick racing into high gear in outdoor and indoor courses. Eight racers compete on these tracks that often are short with a lot of turns and half and half off-road and tarmac. Trail Blazer races are races across more dramatic landscapes filled with sharp hairpin turns, cliff edges and up and downhill paths. The Trail Blazing races are some of the most intense moments in the game and if you need a quick mode to wow your friends, this would be it. Land Rush races are similar to the Trail Blazer races expect they are filled with more jumps and are 100% off-road races. The final mode, Raid is another off-road race that is a multi-vehicle event with eight competitors, the swerve being its point-to-point racing.

Along with the normal races there are three special modes that are added on to the normal race types. These modes vary up the action within Dirt 2 and act as fun diversion from the normal racing. One of my favourites is the "Gate Crasher" mode that is playable in Rally races. This mode has you smashing through as many gates as possible to add time to a clock that is constantly counting down. "Domination" is another special mode that has you holding on the bet time in a sector based course. Points are awarded to the number of section under your control to come out with a winner. These events take place on Rally cross and Landrush circuits. Following these events is a "Last Man Standing" mode which kicks the last place racer out of the game until their one surviving car.

You're my new Best Friend
New to Dirt 2 are multi-car races that have you picking a teammate that you befriend during you travels and racing with them. To befriend another person all you have to do is win a few races against them, and when the time is right they will challenge you to a one-on-one duel. Defeat them there, and you have won their respect. The concept of having friends on the track is a neat idea that makes the whole journey feels more personal. This doesn’t exactly translate perfectly in races as you can ram into a buddy and they take it with a grain of salt. If Dirt 3 keeps with this theme of having friends in the game, then I hope they work on the A.I. and create a slightly more dynamic system.

Dirt 2 fully embraces the racing culture of off-road racing along with providing pulse stopping races. Dirt 2 has done an excellent job making sure a number of real-world competitors likeness have been thrown into the mix including Ken Block, who is a legendry figure to anyone who knows skateboarding, rally racing, or even sneakers. Along with Ken expect to see other familiar names like Dave Mirra and Travis Pastrana. (Three drivers Dirt 2 actually sponsors in real-life). Dirt 2 keeps the races moving forward by letting your experience racing in a global sense rather than strictly in the UK. In Dirt 2 you will have to chance to race across four different continents in real-world environments. These include North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. In these areas you will visit popular race spots in China, Malaysia, Morocco, Baja, Croatia, England, Japan, Utah, LA.

World Tour, Hillbilly Delux Style
The HUB in Dirt 2 is one of the most interesting sections we’ve seen in a racing game. Repackaged, Dirt 2 has taken a page from all of the other Codemasters racers like GRID and Toca and turned the HUB into a first person type of deal with your character touring around the world in a fifth wheel type of arrangement. The world "Hillybilly Delux" comes to mind. The presentation is eXtreme in a cool X Games type of way, and before you shake your head, you have to see Dirt 2 running in person. It’s a little excessive, but its works. From your trailer you can arrange your next race, check out your stats and head into the games multiplayer. Outside of the trailer you can have a nice view of the location you’re at, set up your ride, or purchase new vehicles for your upcoming challenges.

Take me to your Dealer
The vehicles in Dirt 2 are more varied than any other Colin McRae racer. In total you have seven classes to burn up the track. The cars are officially licensed cars, off-road vehicles which include trophy trucks, classic buggies and more. For a quick list expect to see all your favorite brands including Subaru, Nissan, Ford, Mitsubishi, BMW, Hummer and more. Adding a little flair to the Dirt 2 world is the ability to customize your ride with new liveries, new horns and dashboard toys which includes Avatar support for Xbox 360 gamers. Under the hood you can also customise your car from its suspension to its differential. The depth is a little light, but as any custom racer knows little changes can tip the scales in your favour, if you know what you’re doing. There is also the option to turn damage on, or off in Dirt 2 which also brings in a little more realism in an arcadish way.

Oh No, Not Flashbacks
One change made to Dirt 2 that I wasn’t overly happy to see was the rewind feature called "flashbacks" that first made its way into GRID. In Dirt 2 you can also rewind time at anytime as long as you have a token available. On the casual and serious level you will have more than enough of these to make your first place without much effort. Dirt 2 has already been arcaded up enough, and this is just a little too much. If you are like me, stubborn, then you will simply refuse to use this feature because in the real-world there is no do-overs. This doesn’t mean Dirt 2 isn’t challenging because if you bump this puppy up to the Hardcore level the competition becomes dangerously tough without any flashbacks to save you from those rocky smash-ups. Even with my negative attitude tilted not to use flashbacks, newbie racers will probably be abusing this feature to get more fun out of the game, and that's a good thing. Instantly with one added feature, Dirt 2 becomes that much more accessible to the average player.

Menu to Menu
One other feature that I would have liked to see in the game was a better incursion of the multiplayer features in Dirt 2. The separate menu system works for standard multiplayer, however in the way of leaderboard results it would have been nice to see them presented after you have finished a course. In other racing games when the leaderboard positions are posted of your friends after a race it gives you extra motivation to keep playing tracks multiple times. Unless you don't score a first place finish, this doesn't happen in Dirt 2. To get to the leaderboards In Dirt 2 you have to exit to your trailer, hop into the races section, and then head into another section with even more menus! This takes up too much extra time and looses and important part of the online competitive spirit that could do Dirt 2 wonders. Next time Codemasters should do a rework the online and single player section to be more cohesive.

Filling out the Wish List
Lastly, this one is easy... where's the snow! Racing through cobblestone streets, rock cliff sides and jungles is great and all, but where are the ice races, or the snow filled terrain? Rally racing in the snow is an amazing feet and more than entertaining in a game form. Varied weather effects and snowy racing is something that is clearing missing from Dirt 2. If we have to rename the game to snow, let's hope the Codemaster's team can bring some holiday cheer into our Dirt 3 wish list.

Dirt 2 isn’t only for rally fans; it’s for all racing fans that have ever enjoyed pushing the pedal to medal in neck-and-neck high speed race. Not only does Dirt 2 have the speed, but it also has the danger, the graphics, and polish to be one of the most notable racers in the "next-generation" era of gaming. Codemasters knows how to make an impact and Dirt 2 continues to push the boundaries of off-road racing to the next level. The purists might not want to admit it, but hell; Dirt 2 is one smashing rally racing game. Sure, the sim aspects have been toned down, but Dirt 2 still has enough mojo to make you forget what you've missed in the first place. If you are a fan of racing games then Dirt 2 should be moved up in your priority list... this is one racer you shouldn't miss. Colin McRae would be proud, Codemasters has done it again.

Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 09.21.09

  • slamming presentation and graphics
  • real-world environments are breathtaking
  • lots of vehicles to choose from
  • abundance of unlockables to bling up your ride
  • rally car handling is superb
  • lots of modes and tracks to race on
  • new friend system makes the experience feel more personal
  • dashboard accessories?! and now back to the racing!
  • loosing more and more of the "sim" aspects in every game
  • save the flashbacks for GRID 2
  • not enough "pure" rally elements
  • leaderboards are not exposed after races
  • only fun in the sun... where is the snow?

Similar Games: DiRT Showdown (6.0) | Colin McRae 04 (7.0) | DiRT 3 (8.5)


Colin McRae
Dirt 2




US Release
September '09


PS3, X360

1-2 Players
Sys.Link 2-8
Online 1-8
5.1 Surround
HDTV 1080i
D/L Content
Steering Wheel