Dirt 2 Updated Hands On Preview - Filling in the Gaps
Written Sunday, August 09, 2009 By Dan WebbView author's profile
It’s been over two months now since my last hands on with Dirt 2 and whilst the setting had changed from the glitz, glamour and in-your-face neon that was E3, to a relatively subdued and relaxing London hotel; the game was very much the same beast. It’s truly amazing though that away from the white noise that was E3, how many new things you can actually pick up about a game in a more focused environment – go figure!
Let’s start by touching on the multiplayer arena because let’s be honest, the original Dirt’s offering was nothing to write home about. At E3, Codemasters were a little hesitant on mentioning too much about the online modes and capabilities; down in London however, it was no holds barred.
Dirt 2 will feature many different multiplayer modes with what seems like something for everybody. On the one hand, players can step into an 8 player online rallycross race and race around circuits in major cities including Tokyo, London and Los Angeles. Why 8 you ask? Well it’s not a technical limitation because the game is built on the same Ego engine that Grid was based upon. The answer is simple ... any more than 8 and the race gets overcrowded, and after spending some time racing against 7 other souls, it became apparent that this wasn’t just some PR excuse but was very much a fact. Even with 8 players, the start of a race was utter chaos and chances are that more often than not, players will still be part of an 8 car pile-up on the first corner. It’s always fun to watch if you somehow manage to avoid it, yet less fun if you happen to be involved it. I can’t even imagine what that chaos would have been like with 12 players. Thankfully, we won’t ever find that out.
If rallycross isn’t your thing, fear not, those who want the traditional point-to-point rallies can get involved in those in their revamped form. Codemasters ran us through two types of the point-to-points on offer in Dirt 2; the first that pitted you against a series of your opponent’s ghost cars, and the second - and the more interesting - the staggered start variation. In the staggered start variant, players will join a queue of opponents dropping into the race at their designated time slot. So not only is the short wait at the beginning, part of the new allure, players can also see, catch or be overtaken by their rivals, meaning that those traditional rallies are lonely no more. In fact, the staggered starts also feature in the single player career too.
While we’re touching on new single player elements, I think it’s worth mentioning that Dirt 2 also makes use of the flashback feature – as successfully debuted in GRID and subsequently picked up by other racing studios like Turn 10 – whereby if you end up hugging one of the game’s many trees or rolling down a cliff face, you can rewind the game to avoid the utter embarrassment and continue as if nothing ever happened. No more cursing yourself for taking that final cliff side hairpin too fast. Of course, there is also the pretty spectacular night time racing now as well, and seeing the Battersea, London course under the cloak of night is a sight to behold as the game demonstrates its impressive night time lighting tech, fireworks and the new party atmosphere.
One of the other more noteworthy points Codemasters discussed regarding the online multiplayer actually came from their community feedback. The number one, most requested feature for the multiplayer aspect of the title was actually “jam sessions” – which essentially means, any car, any track, any game mode – so players are free to mix and match this coming September.
Codemasters also touched on a new feature in this year’s title; the McRae Memorial Challenge. Once players have completed the tour, and defeated the best there is at the X-Games, they will then take part in the McRae Memorial Challenge which is a tribute to the legendary rally driver that the game takes inspiration from. The McRae Memorial Challenge is a one off, three stage rally event where you face off against Colin’s own family – his father Jimmy and brother, Alistair – and a whole load of unannounced motorsport superstars.
The overall presentation of Dirt 2 is something I’ve not yet touched on and is absolutely fantastic. I’m not just talking visuals here because we all know they’re pretty sublime, but the menu music is very fitting with the whole gritty X-Games meets Glastonbury atmosphere they are obviously shooting for. Any game that has the White Lies feature as part of their soundtrack, obviously means that someone on the team really knows their music. The nice audio touches extend out into the gameplay as well and the first time you wrap your car around a tree and your co-driver utters the words, “don’t do that,” you can’t help but laugh. It’s a good example of the attention to detail the game really nails and doesn’t stop with your co-driver either as opponents will generally look to make a remark or two should you cross them. Aside from the soundtrack itself, and the fact that Kerrang Radio’s Christian Stevenson is on hand to mix all the tunes, the menu system is very appropriate to the vibe the game is trying to capture. If you thought the original’s sleek menu system was pretty impressive, you’ll be pleased to know that this just takes it to a whole new level.