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Colin McRae DiRT 2: Super Review

Codemasters shows everyone how it's done

Let's just say it straight. No other racing game has the attention to detail that DiRT 2 has in terms of vehicle control and graphical accomplishment. It's insane. A random example: the friggin' tyres actually squash against the surface of the track. We didn't even know that was possible on current hardware, let alone done with this shrug-of-the-shoulders modesty. Gran Turismo 5 Prologue has a quality sheen, sure, but never the velocity or mayhem of DiRT 2's engine.

Above: OK, now you're just showing off

It's hard to imagine what else could reasonably be improved graphically before the next generation of consoles hit home. It's the tiniest subtleties which really catch your eye: like when a wing mirror detached by a crash continues to reflect or a wall topples over when you glance off it - elements that normally become showpieces in lesser games buthere arejust run of the mill background elements. At this point a video is the bestway to do it justice.

And then there's the peerlesshandling. The sensation of breakneck speed, twitchy steering andperceptible change in the friction ofthe various off-roadsurfaces are enough to let anyone have collision-filled fun with the game, while for pro racers, the combination of manual gears and the handbrake button allow for an exceptional degree of control. Hitting the handbrake into a hairpin to get the back to step out then downshifting to second and using the engine's torque to powerslide through the turn makes you feel like a driving god.

Expert or not you can't approach Dirt 2 like a normal racer. There's a glorious sense of unpredictability in the wayraces pan out, that for the most part laughs in the face of racing lines and apexes. The perilous road surfaces and often narrow, unpredictable courses see to that.

Then you've got to contend with a muddy puddle obscuring your view at a crucial bend orhitting a bump in the road at too high a speed and finding yourself embeddedin aroadside tree.It's constantly challenging but always entertaining -if it all gets the better of you, youcan just hit the show-stopping rewind button and try that failed powerslideagain.

If we were looking to pick holes we'd sayraces involving slower vehicles with their ultra-spongey suspensionswere the least enjoyable on the tour, remindingus of Race Driver 2's Land Rover races, which were a low point in that game. However, it's a minorinconsistency in an otherwise brilliant and varied set of racing disciplines - especially as you can stiffen the suspension in the car's settings.

Dirt 2 reminds us that Codemastersis undoubtedly among the top three console driving game experts in the world today alongside Polyphony and the Forza team. As it stands though, on Dirt 2's showing, with it's seemingly effortless graphical prowess,satisfying vehicle handling and ostentatious events it's currently residing in the number one slot. With so many race types, DiRT 2 may be an off-road'jack of all trades' but it is unquestionably 'master of most'. And that's what makes it 2009's first must-haveracing game.

Race Driver GRID?
You want a definitive answer? Yeeee....... no. DiRT 2 is superior in almost every respect - the game engine is more refined, the presentation's even slicker and the events work better as a coherent whole. But GRID is faster, more adrenaline-fuelled and requires more knowledge of driving to do well.If you already own GRID, DiRT 2 is sufficiently different to warrant owning both. So buy it.

Yes. MotorStorm on PS3 may still be a looker, but the racing is slower andless varied.While the crashes still look good in slow-mo, the lack of a rewind option and uncompromising AI opponents mean that it's much less forgiving. The track design is inferior and the similar festival feel is more detached, so even though you can find it in the bargain bin now, DiRT 2 is worth the extra cash.

Yes. Rally may have an advanced track degradation system and comparable graphical sheen on the surface, but there's less attention to detail, poorer crashes and only one event type. DiRT 2 is so far ahead, it's like it's on a next-gen system. Having said that, there is more scope for learning the shorter, circuittracks in Rally and trying to master them, if that's your thing.

Dirt 2 plunders the best bits from two great racing series to create what is essentially Colin McRae: GRID. The quality is so high, you'll wonder how your console is doing this at all, let alone so seamlessly.A racing classic that does Colin McRae's memory justice.

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DescriptionDirt 2 plunders the best bits from two great racing series to create what is essentially Colin McRae: GRID. The quality is so high, you'll wonder how your console is doing this at all, let alone so seamlessly. A racing classic that does Colin McRae's memory justice.
Platform"Xbox 360","PS3","Wii","PC","DS","PSP"
US censor rating"Everyone 10+","Everyone 10+","Everyone 10+","Everyone 10+","Everyone 10+","Everyone 10+"
UK censor rating"Rating Pending","Rating Pending","Rating Pending","Rating Pending","Rating Pending","Rating Pending"
Alternative names"DiRT 2"
Release date1 January 1970 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)
Justin worked on the GamesRadar+ staff for 10 whole years. Imagine that. Now he is a contributor, specialising in racing games, retro, and Sanic.