Simply put, Dirt is visually luxurious. This debut for Codemasters' in-house Neon Engine (also being used for next year's Race Driver One) is an impressive showcase for the obvious power behind the technology, making rival racing titles such as Forza Motorsport 2 look about as appealing as a tapeworm sandwich in comparison. So stunning are the locations, you'll feel your neck redden under the heat of the desolate dustball tracks, and you'll practically feel the moisture rising up through your socks as you zip around a waterlogged recreation of the forestry of Japan.
The benefits are certainly more than just cosmetic, mind you; weak side-barriers that would previously not be moved now crumple under impact, and if you're so inclined you can break your way through them. And better news is that they've managed to sort out those framerate issues we detected in early preview versions - the action purrs along as though powered by pure silk, meaning there's only one possible way it can all end - by us breaking out the full stops and declaring Dirt the best looking racing game ever.
And it plays a mean game of, er, rally as well, although the biggest fans of the previous McRae offerings might be the last to appreciate it. See, the word "rally" hasn't been omitted from the title by accident - Dirt instead fancies itself as the roughhouse version of TOCA. Rallycross, hill climbs, buggy racing - if there's a chance it'll splash mud in your face, there's every chance it's featured in Dirt. So, does this expansion into other areas of racing dilute the core rallying experience of previous games? Well, in a way, we're afraid it does.