Dirt 2 Review – What happened to rally games?


I’ve always been a fan of rally games, real rally games that is. One of my greatest gaming moments was on Rally Championship PC nearly a decade ago. Twenty minutes into a sunny forest rally, I lost second gear due no doubt to my granny shifting (just like real life). With a good few minutes left of the course, I was forced to maintain speed in third and fourth gear. Slowing down was not an option, without a second gear available I needed to stay in a high gear or end up dropping all the way down to first and crawling along the finish line, losing my position and hard work for the last twenty minutes of perfect rallying.

I crossed that finish line, I maintained enough speed so as not to drop gear and it was exhilarating, racing at full throttle to victory, one of my fondest gaming memories. For those last few minutes I felt like a rally driver, I was so immersed in the game making critical rally decisions, carrying on to the end in a broken car, a scenario that I guess all rally drivers have experienced.

But now we have the new generation of rally games, Dirt 2. Don’t get me wrong Dirt 2 is fun, but only for 25% of the time. Dirt 2 is totally sexed up, it screams X games and feels like someone from the skate boarding world came along and started adding bits until the actual rally game was left hidden behind the liveries (car stickers), rock music, partying, fireworks and radio chatter. Ken Block and his buddies shouting abuse over the in game radio does nothing other than annoy you.

Where there is rallying, Dirt 2 is great, the handling is spot on (unlike the first Dirt which felt like cars sliding around on an ice rink) and the graphics are gorgeous. This was the Directx 11 show case game. After all it came bundled with my Radeon 5870 (well a Steam download code came inside the box) and really shows off some of the Directx 11 features like realistic cloth, of which you end up not even noticing when screaming around at 100mph, but at least its there advancing the background from the days of 2D stick trees!

Either way it looks great and runs perfectly smooth at a constant 60fps now, thanks to the latest Catalyst 10.3 update. I first played Dirt 2 when the demo came out for Xbox Live gold members last summer, but the latest ATI drivers gave me reason to come back to this game on PC and play it all the way through. Ok there are no 30 minute rally sessions with realistic wear and tear to engine, gears and suspension, but I’ve learnt not to expect that anymore. What is disappointing about Dirt 2 is all the other so called ‘rally’ events.

Landrush, domination, rally cross, gate crasher and last man standing have absolutely nothing to do with rallying. The vehicles in Landrush are slow, handle like crap and sound like whirring annoying machinery not roaring throaty rally cars. Domination and last man standing feel like last minute add ons to give some variety but just end up being tedious game modes to play through until the rallying starts again. Gate crasher is another gimmick, which I very much doubt has ever been a real life event. Rally cross, a multiple lap based mode around short tracks set around various non rally locations such as London’s Battersea Power Station do nothing other than showcase the engine’s lighting effects.

If you can stick it out and play through or avoid all these extra game modes, then you can enjoy some beautiful scenery and some great rallying around the jungles of Malaysia and the green forests of Croatia. Ignoring the fireworks at the end of each race there is a hidden joy behind all the X games style overlay and rock music. Ignoring Ken Block and his friends chatter, jump in the MKII Escort and power through the long China countryside and this becomes a great rally game. It could have been so much greater without all these extra’s if they had just focused on the rallying, instead of these extras which only cater towards selling the game to kids who want a quick fix of so called off road rallying.

7.5/10 No longer a Rally game, but worth playing for a few classic rally moments.

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  1. #1 by TheSquarePear on October 18, 2010 - 2:44 pm

    Great review

    There should be ban on reusing the same tracks/track elements in different events 🙁

  2. #2 by Lc on October 19, 2010 - 9:42 am

    Thanks. Lets see what happens with Dirt 3 ;o)

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