Doing thousands of dollars of damage to cars we'd never have a chance to drive in real life sounds like great fun, but there's one big problem: the rest of World Racing 2 isn't actually enjoyable.
Some pretty cool damage modeling is the game's main appeal. Car bodies get scuffed, bent, muddied, then pieces start flapping in the wind and eventually break off completely. But the unpredictable physics that supposedly produce damage vary, from unforgiving steering that spins out front-wheel drive cars too easily to bouncy collisions that toss tons of metal around as if it were cardboard. World Racing 2 is neither an arcade joyride nor an accurate simulation, careening between the two with all the control of a student driver.
The career mode doesn't improve things. Sure, you've got standard races - against AI cars that enjoy poorly tuned catch-up boosts that ruin any run shy of perfection - plus vanilla time trials, knockouts, and rallies, but they're presented in a strictly linear progression that involves almost no choice. Every event must be completed to get access to the next, and heaven help you if you get stuck on one, as you don't even have a difficulty setting to tweak. Chances are you won't even make it that far, thanks to a "Speedbucks" system that rewards you for weak power-sliding and air, but actually punishes you for taking shortcuts and rubs your face in the smallest mistakes. Worst of all, the directional arrow signs lag so far behind, they're virtually useless. Better memorize the track.
Don't let the Live Enabled packaging fool you - there's no online racing, only a few limp content downloads and local four-player split-screen. Taking "free ride" trips across poorly-textured renditions of Miami, Egypt and Hawaii can be flawed sandbox fun, but it's not enough to make up for World Racing 2's flaws. With so many fantastic racers available for the Xbox, this one's anything no bargain.