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Colin McRae Dirt 2 is the seventh game in the acclaimed series, developed by Codemasters. But does it still offer the same, or even match past titles? Well, the game aims to take the racing game genre by the scruff of its neck, and rub the faces of the competition in the mud. Obviously, there are more racing games around these days then you can shake a stick at, but do any of these offer the same feeling you get playing this particular title? For me no, there is nothing like power sliding a Subaru Impreza around a tight corner and just narrowly missing a tree.

The game presents you with a wide variety of options to choose from, and in doing so you can complete the events as you please. This means you don’t have to complete all the rookie events first, and can just skip to the more difficult events in the higher tiers. In addition to the main races, other drivers will sometimes challenge you to a one on one race. Dirt 2 has a very solid career mode which will have you traveling around the world – to exhilarating locations such as London, Baja, Croatia and even Los Angeles. There are nine different locations in total to choose from as you progress and unlock new areas of the globe to try your driving skills at. ”What about the actual driving?!”, I hear you scream. Well there are in fact over 100 stunning events to complete which range from intense solo challenges to aggressive multi-vehicle races. Dirt2 features an exciting line up of the best new rally drivers including Ken Block, Dave Mirra and Travis Pastrana who will help you build your own racing career.

My favorite disciplines are Rallycross, where you have to race against a number of other drivers and negotiate hard corners, along with the odd jump. Gatecrasher is a light hearted event where you smash your car through yellow foam blocks, and try to complete the course as quick as possible. And no fan of Colin McRae would be happy without the point to point rally events. Completing events nets you cash and experience points. As you level up you unlock new races types, locations and new items for your rides like liveries and both windshield and dashboard toys such as the famous Hula girl. You can also earn XP by completing Dirt tour missions which are set goals for you to complete in races, such as Drifting, catching some air or just simple doughnuts.

The car selection is narrow but tailored to each discipline – there are around 10 cars to choose from for each race. Including the Colin McRae R4, Mitsubishi evolution IX and Dodge power wagon, making your choice is not easy, as the displayed stats on the vehicles are very similar. Also, rather then introducing new vehicles in the upper tiers, Dirt 2 just requires you upgrade your current rides to the eligible standard. There is a basic vehicle set up that has options like ride height, gear ratio, suspension and brake bias. The vehicle setup is bare bones, but then it is mainly there for the petrol heads out there. The setup option is also set to off so you will need to turn this on to access before a race.

Dirt 2 La Rallycross

Dirt 2 is a beautiful driving experience, with lush terrain the sharp reflections on cars and puddles just showing off the brilliant lighting engine in the game. Most tracks look almost realistic, and not many games can boast that. The feeling you get when driving in cockpit view, as you hit a muddy puddle and the windshield is covered for a few seconds, is just breathtaking. The damage is also very well done, and can make your car react differently as the race wears on. The audio is great from the engine back firing to the gear changing, and the soundtrack is of a good standard with artist’s like The Prodigy and Block Party.

The online modes let you compete in ranked tours or custom events against up to seven other opponents. You have the option to use any vehicle on any race type, but you will be warned if this is a bad decision. Pro Tour is where you will want to head if you want to play competitively in modes like Time Bomb, where you cannot make contact with another vehicle of you will be penalized with a time penalty. Skirmish will be the opposite to time bomb, where full contact is encouraged. Then there is Ruckus – a funky alternative to the race types which will include last man standing races and domination. Jam session is where you will find Quickmatch, Custom Match, and Create Game. There is also a leaderboard which will tally up peoples’ lap/stage times to online fame.

So the game is called DiRT, and man did they get that right. You will race over all kinds of surfaces – from dusty roads and slippery mud to hard tarmac. Each type of surface comes with its own specific way of how your car handles. This adds great depth to the gameplay, as you will need to learn the course layout and vehicle handling. You will also have to take into account the road beneath you. Conquering the sharp and fast bends of Croatia will differ to the slippery mud of Malaysia. All race courses have different terrain areas, so one minute you could be tearing around a muddy bend, when suddenly, you have a puddle covering most of the road, which will slow you down dramatically. Mastering these transitions could be the difference between victory and defeat.

One of the best features in DiRT 2 has to be the grid flash back system. Basically, if you hit a wall or spin out of control, use the flash back to basically rewind time and start again from a certain point in the last few seconds. This is identical to the system that featured in Grid, so you know you’re in good company here. Purist’s do have the option to up the difficulty so that flash backs can’t be used (flashbacks can’t be used online either). One of the weird parts I found in the game was the Respect Meter. The Respect Meter is basically how other drivers see you. So, between enemies and friends, most will end up being you’re friend. This leads me to my only gripe with this. If you smash into a so called friend, they just say something like hey watch out man and that’s it, so you could completely wipe say Dave Mirra out and he will be fine with it. I would have liked codies to make the meter work around your driving, so if I kept on ramming a guy he would get mad at me.

Overall DiRT 2 is an amazing game, and I cant stress enough that this is a must buy for any racing fan. Hell, I would even say anyone that enjoys games in general will like this. The variety is great, and you will never experience the same race twice. Get ready for the ultimate off road competition ladies and gentlemen. I think we have a rival for the racing genre crown. The late Colin McRae himself would be over the moon with this game. This really is the best racing game I have ever played.

9.5 Ninja Heads out of 10

Ninja score 9 out of 10