Written By Wrecker & Predat0r
The Colin McRae rally games have built a solid reputation over the past decade or so, and although the man himself is unfortunately no longer with us his legacy carries on with Codemasters continuing this popular driving series. The series has progressed from initially being a true rally simulation to the more arcade style of late. The latest instalment, Colin McRae: DiRT 2, continues this progression as it makes its series debut on the Wii.
The game starts out in your ‘motorhome’ and the various areas within it act as the main menu. The menus include some good ideas for example your collection of postcards represents the various locations where you can race.
The main single player career mode, world tour, includes four different championships spread across numerous continents in various single and multi car modes of racing. Initially only the easiest level is available as the others need to be unlocked as you progress. There is also a single player arcade mode which is pretty much the same as the world tour but on a smaller scale. Noticeably within all modes there are only a maximum of three other competitors on track at any one time.
There are also some single player mini-games to compete in called challenges where your objective is to obtain the most points in certain driving disciplines, such as utilising various ramps scattered around a level to gain ‘airtime’ or maximising drifting around corners in ‘powerslide’. Gold, silver and bronze trophies are rewarded for points accumulated. These challenges add some variety to the racing gameplay and are actually quite fun.
Initial impressions of Colin McRae: DiRT 2 are quite good, with the environments and car models looking decent and play running and feeling quite smooth. After a while though you’ll begin to realise that the car physics are not quite spot on. Vehicles feel as though they don’t interact with the track realisticly, and at times float a bit, tending to lack grip, especially around corners. Car movement can also tend to feel somewhat sluggish and any significant crashes are pretty much non existent, as a lot of the time hitting a sign, barriers or rock results in you coming to a standstill. Either that or your vehicle is automatically reset before any dramatic crash can be shown, taking away any impact or sense of a danger.
Colin McRae: DiRT 2
contains a four player split screen mode. After players enter this mode there is a countdown to which you’d assume would go straight to the race. Instead it goes to the level selection screen which seems a bit strange. Some of the courses allow you race in reverse or in circuit or raid mode. These variations allow variety in play so you won’t get too bored playing exactly the same levels over and over again. Multiplayer is a mini championship over five races with points awarded to positions.
When playing the multiplayer, it’s tough to know which corners lie ahead as, unlike the single player mode, there is no on-screen map provided. You’ll often realise too late and end up slamming into a concrete barrier. It’s a matter of memorising the tracks, and although most tracks are not terribly long or complex, some upcoming corner indicators would have helped.
The range of officially licensed cars included in Colin McRae: DiRT 2
is quite nice, but is limited to just thirteen overall, ranging from rally cars (including the Subaru WRX STi) to SUVs/Pick Ups (such as Hummer H3 and Ford’s F-150) and sports cars (BMW Z4) to more specific off-road vehicles like the Ickler buggy. There’s even an old Escort Mk II rally car you can fang. The game would have benefited from a greater scope of cars to choose from, as a lot of these vehicles are from the American market and therefore unfamiliar.
The vehicle selection screen allows the choice of two additional bodykits. However the graphic does not show these and only shows a white outline of the car, and you cannot tell what they actually look like. A simple side on view of the car would have sufficed. At times the interface in this title seems to be trying a bit too hard to look cool with its extreme sports/games kind of look.
Cars only obtain little if any damage at all and this is a common trait in driving games, especially the more arcadey style ones. Another point of contention is the lack of dare we say it, ‘dirt’. Although the cars appear covered in mud and dust, there is no sign of any muck thrown up from the track as you tear it up and this is what rally/off-road racing is all about. Its little things like this that add up to the overall somewhat empty feel of this title.
It’s good to see that Colin McRae: DiRT 2 caters for most of the different control devices available for the Wii, including the Wii Wheel and Classic Controller. Using the Wii Remote on it’s side it also an option, however we found the Remote/Nunchuk combination to be the best method as it was the most responsive and precise.
The controls as a whole work well and feel intuitive with B to accelerate, A to handbrake and Z the standard brake and reverse button. There are four ‘common’ racing camera angles available, all which work well, with the bumper view giving a great sense of speed. Although the Wiimote vibrates over any medium to hard bump it doesn't really add anything to the game.
Although this is the Nintendo Wii, the graphics in Colin McRae: DiRT 2 are fairly basic including the car models and don’t appear to be of a current generation console standard. The in-game visuals appear somewhat dull, with the colours tending to have a washed out palette and slightly grainy appearance. Much the same can be said about the in-game menus which look confusing and a bit messy with a fluro/pastel colour and a strange mix of fonts which look half finished. Some of the trophy icons earned when playing are also particularly hard to see due to their small size.
The races are staged in different locations around the world with environments that are not greatly detailed or inspiring. Roadside objects are particularly basic, repetitive and unimaginative with trees and spectators looking like cardboard cut-outs at times. However you’ll be concentrating on the race so this shouldn’t be terribly noticeable. The tarmac sections of track tend to look better and appear a bit more diverse.
Vehicles do give you a sense of speed and the graphics runs very smoothly (maybe due to a lack of detail), however car models are a bit hit and miss with the smaller more defined vehicles looking quite good whilst some of the bigger 4x4 vehicles looking rather blocky. The game contains some good lighting and model shadow effects, but in general there is nothing to write home about in the graphics department.
The sound effects of the skidding and screeching of the tyres is quite realistic in this title. Then again, I can’t recall the last time I heard them whilst driving on the sands of a barren desert. The various vehicles engines sounds are in general a disappointment though. Some are quite appropriate while others just sound really weak. One in particular sounds like a giant mosquito. They just don’t pack any punch or oomph.
The music present in Colin McRae: DiRT 2
is your typical race game type soundtrack consisting of rock/punk tracks. It’s a bit of a mixed bag (again) with some good and some bad songs, including the main menu song which gets annoying. Notably the tracks are not present whilst racing. Overall the audio package is average.
Interest in any long-term play is somewhat restricted in Colin McRae: DiRT 2 . The World Tours are not terribly lengthy or all that difficult to unlock. There is however incentive for good results in races which helps to unlock different body kits for each vehicle. And obtaining the gold trophies in the challenges offers some value. Although multiplayer is not the best, at least it’s included, which is more than can be said for any online play.
The Final Verdict
The Wii is not renowned for good quality car games, but the name Colin McRae is. Although this title plays quite well there are too many little things that add up to make this first Colin McRae incarnation on the Wii a real letdown for the series. It’s no where near in the same league as the other console versions and in basically every department the game is hit-and-miss. For every promising feature there is something negative that holds it back.
Colin McRae: DiRT 2 lacks any real spark or outstanding characteristic and as such is a run-of-the-mill racer. Recommended only for true racing enthusiasts who do not own other consoles, and even then it would be best to try before you buy or wait to see how F1 2009 pans out.