by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Churning up the mud
Iíll admit, I am not a huge rev-head. I do enjoy the occasional spin in a car that, if damaged, wonít cause my insurance premium to rise. DiRT Rally 2.0 allows me to do just that whilst cruising through some lovely countryside. As an added bonus, I donít need to wash it when Iíve been driving it through the mud.
DiRT Rally 2.0 gives players several modes with which to play, but the Career mode is probably the main focus. Career mode features two main racing choices ó Rally and Rally Cross. Rally is the more traditional race where you drive from a starting point through the countryside to a finish point a number of kilometres away. Whereas Rally Cross has players racing against other racers on a modified circuit, attempting to cross the line first after a set number of laps. Whilst in Career mode, players can hire staff, purchase vehicles and tune them to get every ounce of power out of the off-road machines.
In rally mode, safe driving is good driving. Any damage to your vehicle will not only cause your vehicle to look beat up but will also affect the way your car handles. The damage effects can be rather painful if youíre not careful. On one stage, I bumped into a rock of some sort which didnít seem to make much difference to my driving. But on the next stage, and without the option to repair, I found that my lights had been damaged. And this stage was being raced in near darkness ó not an ideal situation. But the realistic nature of the damage effects work great. I popped a tyre near the end of a stage and was noticeably being pulled to the left of the road as a result.
Rally Cross, being that it is generally raced on tighter enclosed circuits, allows a bit more dangerous driving, with competitors on the same track as you rather than competing separately in a time trial as is the case with the Rally mode. I found the Rally Cross to be a bit easier than Rally, because you can memorize the bends and shape of the tracks as you complete several practice laps prior to the races. In Rally Cross, you compete in four heats on each circuit. If, within the four races, they obtain one of the top twelve times, racers will make it through to the semi-finals and then on through to the final. Points are awarded for each race, and the winner of the most points wins the championship.
Other game modes include casual races, historical racers with some lovely classic cars and online racing against human opponents. As with most racing games Iíve played, racing against human opposition is far more unpredictable than the AI competition. But with the number of vehicles to choose from and the number of circuits or stages to race, there is something for everyone.
As someone who isnít into the finer aspects of mechanics, this probably placed me in a slight disadvantage when it came to fine tuning the vehicles. It did however prove that DiRT Rally 2.0 can be played in somewhat of a drive and play mode. I didnít really play around too much with the vehicle settings, as I donít really know how they affect the vehicleís performance, especially with the way I drive. But for those who are into fine-tuning vehicles to the nth degree, DiRT Rally 2.0 lets them do so. Most of these configurations are completed prior to the start of an event, but some (including repairs) can be completed at the end of each stage. This can come in handy if the stages are completed on different terrains.
Sights and sounds
And that terrain is great in DiRT Rally 2.0. The game features some lovely scenery, and I must admit that on my first few stages in Rally mode, I spent way too much time getting up and close with the local flora. Damn, I hate it when those trees jump out in front of me. From the rocky Argentinian mountains to the red dusty plains of the Australian Outback, DiRT Rally 2.0 has placed plenty of effort into getting the settings authentic. Weather effect such as rain and fog also alter the terrain as do the day and night effects. Sun glare can even be a factor when racing. On a number of occasions, the blinding light shone through the dusty windscreen causing me to miss a turn. It was annoying, but wonderfully realistic. Night driving too, gives the game a whole new complexion and as mentioned earlier, the darkness makes it more important than ever to drive safely.
The Rally stages have your-co-driver calling out the upcoming turns as you speed through the countryside. At first, it seems like he is speaking a whole different language as he calls out directions. For fans of rally driving, these calls will no doubt make sense, but for a rally novice such as myself, it took a few stages to work out what each of the instructions meant. Over time, this does begin to make sense, and his advice helps to guide you through the many stages. Unfortunately, I occasionally found that his guidance was muffled out by the sound of the over-revving engine as I sped up out of the bends and slowed down into the sharp curves. This does become more apparent as the car gets beaten up ó which Iím saying I only did for testing purposes ó as the motor struggles to build up the power you request from it. The sound of the pebbles and mud splashing into the wheel walls, wheels squealing around tarmac corners and crowd noise give DiRT Rally 2.0 that authentic feel.
Although Iím not a huge motorsport fan, Iíve really enjoyed my time with DiRT Rally 2.0. The Career modes are great, allowing you to not only build up your own skills, but those of your pit and support crew. A range of driving styles becomes available with the different game modes, and with a plethora of cars to choose from, all of which handle differently, racers will not easily be bored. The landscapes that you drive through will also keep the interest high, as you zoom through a range of locations, each more spectacular than the next. The weather and day/night conditions keep you on your toes as you ride the corners and bumps of the tracks all the while listening for the helpful tips of your co-driver. Everything comes together wonderfully in DiRT Rally 2.0, making it the ultimate rally game ó even if it is tough to keep on track at times.
Wonderfully varied locations and racing styles. Realistic damage effects.
The co-driver commentary can take a while to get used to if youíre not a Rally Car aficionado