Even from beyond the grave, Colin McRae is the biggest noise in rally games. As proof, witness Dirt 2 on Wii, marking the first appearance of the highly regarded series on a Nintendo console, and our consequent assumption that we’re guaranteed a top-quality rally experience simply because of the name and the pedigree of the earlier games on other formats.
Sadly, it’s not great news for the great man, as this is a game that suffers enormously from the loss of its technical prowess in a Wii conversion that seems to be little more than an afterthought. It does all the basic things you’d expect from a rally game. There are off-road courses set in different global locations and a selection of vehicles to send power-sliding across gravel, pavement, snow and mud tracks. The cars get dirty and dented as the race progresses, and there’s a career mode where you compete for medals to unlock the next set of challenges. Kick its wheels and it seems structurally sound.
But once you get it out on the road it drives like a cut-and-shut job made from the chassis of a Vespa and the castors off a shopping trolley. It’s a featherlight vehicle prone to sliding sideways seemingly of its own accord, and it glides over any surface like it’s powered by some kind of anti-gravity lawnmower engine.
When you’re expecting something full of beefy power and muck-spraying traction, it’s surprising to find that your 400bhp beast of a car never feels like it’s actually connected to the road surface. When you feather the throttle to correct a drift in the, erm, proper Colin McRae games you experience the thrill of fighting realistic physics to bring your car back under control, the back end fishtailing as the wheels scrabble for grip in the dirt. Nothing much like that really happens in this version.
Slow down a bit and you’ll make it around the corner. Go too fast and you’ll slide into a barrier that will ease you back onto the right path. If there’s no barrier, then you’ll get reset onto the track as soon as you’ve even thought about cutting over the grass on that hairpin, and even if you slid off the track with the pursuing pack of racers growling into your tailpipe, the reset is so fast and generous that you’ll still be in the lead when it warps you back onto the road.