Formula 1 racing just isn't all that challenging. The problem is, your car goes where you point it. What with the huge sticky tires and enough downforce to gobstop a dwarf its hard to go wrong. No, what really challenges a good driver is a half-broke pickup truck barreling around a dirt track faster than Evel Knievel would find advisable.
And that's what DiRT2 is about. You start out in a humble (yet storied) Subaru and the kind of RV a frat boy wouldn't set foot in. But you have a dream – you can be the dirtiest, bug-eatenist, least-heedful-of-personal-well-beingness guy/girl to ever race around a bunch of mud. This will lead you to the promised land – The XGames and the associated XBabes/XDudes(tm). There, finally, extreme people will extremely appreciate your extremeness in an extreme manner. Also, your RV is amphibious, so going to races in Europe and Asia is not a problem.
Along the way you will meet, hear from, and make friends with various famous personages who have gone before. Well, not literally. I mean, Colin McRae is dead, sure, but if he were alive he'd want his car back, so it's a good thing for you he's still dead. The other voices are still alive, as far as this reviewer knows. Really, though who knows (except for them, maybe) as I'm sure they'll get dropped from the XGames the minute they have a bad race. The XGames goes through athletes like MTV goes through VJs. (Do they even have VJs any more?)
Anyhow, DiRT2 is a racing game. This means you mostly pick a car, go around in circles, and see how things turn out. There are five racing disciplines: Rally, Trail Blazer, Raid, Land Rush, and Rallycross. Sadly, there is no spanking, so the emphasis is on the racing part. The different disciplines serve to provide a mix of experiences. Some are tracks while others are straight-line, some are twisty, others are turning, and some are all over the place. This breaks up the monotony while confusing NASCAR fans.
Your vehicles come in three major flavors: car, buggy, and pickup. Each handles differently and has certain races to specialize in. Damage can be turned off, made cosmetic-only, or be full-on. Damage modeling is good, if forgiving at the extremes. This reviewer, despite head-on collisions with bridge pilings, never completely demolished his ride. As a nice touch, bonuses are available which allow you to pimp out your ride (just like your sister) for that custom feel. This reviewer came to own several rides which he kept in his garage and got in and out of at will (just like your mom).
Pre-race adjustments of your vehicle can help tune it for optimum performance in the coming race. Effects are similar to the overall physics of the game – the effect is noticeable but not overwhelming. As a whole the in-game physics follows two rules. First, it is obvious what should happen. Water slows you down, dirt is slippery. Second, physical effects add to the fun of the game without being the game. This is not a simulation. It is not an arcade game, either. It is a way to have fun driving around in the dirt. It should not be taken too seriously, but enjoyed for the fun and appreciated for the skill that obviously went into it. Much like this review.
Adding to the fun is a bit of forgiveness. Each race provides a number of flashbacks. A flashback is an opportunity to roll back the action a few seconds to before you screwed up. Very handy when one doesn't hit a jump square. Rumors that the Prince of Persia wants his gimmick back are premature. This is also the primary effect of the difficulty levels, in that the easier the difficulty, the more flashbacks you get.
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