All the dirt on DiRT 2

Though we were only able to race on one of the new X Games tracks in the multiplayer session, we’re told that DiRT 2 will contain updated versions of the Rallycross, Trailblazer, Landrush, and Rally Raid events in addition to standard Rally. Real world events and locations like Baja are interspersed with new original creations, like the Rallycross circuit at London’s Battersea Power Station. “We’ve created a killer race course in the heart of the capital, somewhere which would be amazing to stage a race, but impossible in reality,” Matt enthuses. With imaginations running wild, the team has fantasized up several such courses for rally fans to explore.

In the actual X Games rally car racing, every care is taken to ensure driver safety and prevent accidents. DiRT 2’s extreme sports focus, however, is all about pushing the boundaries of physics beyond such mortal concerns. The inevitable shunts, bumps and rolls resulting from crowded fields in Rallycross and X Games events may rankle purists, but we rather enjoyed the full-contact, unpredictable chaos that ensued. When combined with the intense realism of car handling and performance, DiRT 2 gave us the thrill of pushing a car past its limits without the real-life consequences. As Ken Block put it, "The consequences are a lot worse in real life. It's fun for me because it doesn't hurt as much, or cost as much." Of course, the developers are sensitive to the desires of hardcore sim fans, and car damage can be switched from “cosmetic only” to “full” for a more realistic experience.

Accurate physics and tight controls are the most important elements of any racer, obviously, but DiRT 2’s attention to detail is startling. Amidst the gorgeous environments, broken pieces of debris (and other cars) litter the course while pebbles ping against the underside of the car. Whether sliding through gravel or screeching across pavement, great attention has been paid to accurately recreating the soundscape of rally car racing.

While rally still has a long way to go to catch up to NASCAR here in the States, events like the X Games showcase the speed, skill and daringness of the sport and offer a level of excitement not achievable by driving around a big oval for 3 or 4 hours. Thus far, DiRT 2 appears to be doing a fantastic job of translating that excitement into the game, keeping the sport fresh and hopefully appealing to some new fans along the way.

Next page: Gameplay videos!