In Dirt 2, you assume the role of an up-and-coming race driver who’s competing on the off-road circuit against such pros as Ken Block and Travis Pastrana for the first time. That’s a daunting prospect, but one of the many great things about Codemasters’ latest racer is that you can have a lot of fun with it and end the lengthy Dirt Tour career mode a champion regardless of your skill level. Your opponents aren’t pushovers; in fact, they put up a believable fight from start to finish, but the vehicle handling and damage is forgiving, the difficulty level can be altered before every event, and a slick flashback feature gives you the option to instantly replay portions of a race if you make a mess of it. Dirt 2 isn’t as realistic as some of the other excellent off-road racers that have come before it, but it’s as accessible and exciting as any of them.
Your career gets off to an auspicious start when you’re presented with your first car: a Subaru Impreza that belonged to the late, great Colin McRae. Like all of the 35-plus cars in the game, its performance is measured in ratings from one to 10 for acceleration, top speed, and handling. Your rides are relatively slow as your career gets underway, but as you move up through the ranks, you get to upgrade them; not one part at a time, but with the purchase of kits designed for different event types. Those upgrades are mandatory, but you also have the option to tinker with settings before each race, and the good news is that even if you don’t know your downforce from your differential, there’s a good chance that you can do so with some success. That’s because there are only seven variables, which are all clearly explained to you, and there are only five different settings for each. It’s not deep, but it’s fun to play around with, and any changes that you make are immediately noticeable once you get behind the wheel.