Probably bought this in the wrong order having acquired Dirt 2 first but I want to summarise the reason for this purchase.
Having already sampled Codemasters' excellent Dirt 2, I wanted to enjoy more racing and realised that there was another PC game that I could get my hands onto.
Firstly, Dirt 2 is so widely acknowledged as a masterpiece that any driving game would have a lot to live up to. I would also like to add, that it would not be a fair comparison because I have loaded this game onto my Pentium 4 machine to give that machine extra life and therefore am not comparing "like" for "like" on a new PC.
Given this fact, I must say that Dirt lives up to any expectations I had and runs very well on my well specified but last generation PC with a decent AGP graphics card. It seems that the handling model is very similar to that of Dirt 2 although I have read reviews where it has been reported that the vehicles stop very quickly. This does not seem to be a major hindrance on this game because once you get used to it you can replicate the same driving experience as you can on Dirt 2.
I only purchased this game recently, but am immediately enjoying the increased emphasis on rally racing. It seems that Codemasters put a lot of effort into this aspect of the game and the scenery is stunningly designed. In fact I would say the stages are very realistic, make you feel part of a rally and are longer than in Dirt 2. There are some great vehicles such as the Lancia Stratos and Fiat Abarth, amongst more modern machines.
There are further game modes such as Buggy and Raid and also some Truck racing (which is very nicely done) and other modes. Therefore, given that the game has put equal energy into all of these areas there is plenty of fun to be had.
To summarise, then: This game is excellent if you have a fast Pentium 4 machine or even a low/medium current generation machine with a newish graphics card. If you already have Dirt 2 you will love this game. In comparison to newer racing games such as Dirt 2, from what I can surmise because I haven't yet done a full comparison, the graphics aren't quite as good and the menu design is older but once you are actually racing this doesn't matter. Also bear in mind that this game will be cheaper than the newer titles. This title obviously was a great rally racer in its time!