I have been playing around on this game none stop since its imminent arrival through the post very early yesterday morning, and I have to say I have been pleasantly surprised with the overall quality. I am one of the people that has been following the Colin McRae games since the original on the PlayStation, and so have grown familiar to the European style of rallying down dirt tracks with a co-driver reading out the instructions. Since the original Dirt game of this generation, however, Codemasters have decided to push away from this to a more Americanised X-games style of off road racing. This isn't really a bad thing as previous McRae games have felt a little disjointed from the action - especially in the more recent years. This time, you are well and truly in the thick of the action, and the game really makes you feel it.
First of all the menu's this time take place around the crowds where you will move the camera around your trailer, where you select your tracks, to your garage where you keep all of your cars, and also select your courses from the map that is laid out on the table in your trailer. This sounds like a very simple addition, but you will be surprised by how much more involved you will feel, and it really keeps you going. You get phone calls to your mobile from other drivers who will fill you in on all the latest on racing, cars and countries, and you will also be able to modify your cars with everything the outer pain job to dashboard items and even furry dice that hang from your mirror.
The gameplay has been improved a great deal this time around. Codemasters have clearly listened to fans thoughts and complaints from the original game, and I think the Grid outing has also helped in the further development of how the cars control. They feel much more real this time, with just the slightest bit of movement needed to make your way through corners. It takes a great deal of concentration, particularly on the rally raid tracks, but although at first feeling a little difficult you will quickly get to grips with it, and it is definitely a less arcade feel with the controls.
On the other hand, the way the game is laid out, IS more arcaded. You will follow all of the different types of events, through the world tour - going from country to country in all sorts of different vehicles and climates. You can go to China, Croatia, Japan, Morocco, California, London, and many more, and in this sense there is a very wide variety. There are buggies, vans, cars, and all of the customization for each of them, so there is a lot to get to grips with. However, you do jump from one style to the next very easily, and I have not yet found a Championship mode like there was in the original Dirt, so there isn't really an option where you can choose one racing style and go through a championship series. The career mode is what you get - and it is done very well, but it would have been nice to have been able to follow each mode separately a little bit more.
The graphics are excellent - and I really mean excellent. Each blade of grass is visible and they blow in the wind (not that you can tell when you're driving along at 70mph, but they move), and the level of detail in the terrain, weather, lighting and track design is phenomenal. It really is something special to look at. It runs smoothly, with no slow down whatsoever.
Overall, this is a great game. A little too Americanised for my liking, but it doesn't "ruin" the game as some people have said online. Some of the music is a little questionable at times, they have clearly gone all out to make this game "extreme", but the variety involved in the gameplay is incredible, and really makes up for the minus points. There is an online mode where you can race against your friends, which I can't comment on as I have yet to try it out, but I have heard good things from friends. All in all, I recommend this game very highly. There is plenty to do, and it is genuinely good fun to play. Rest assured, you will get hours of pleasure from this game.