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The auto-racing genre is split into either one of two categories: simulation versus arcade. On one hand, there are wildly unrealistic and fun-centric titles, such as the Burnout series, and on the other hand there are ultra-realistic simulations, like the Gran Turismo series. Meanwhile, die-hard fans of one game will probably not appreciate the other as much as you might think.
Codemasters, in particular, has been toiling to find a middle ground between these extremes. While its older TOCA Race Driver series leaned further on the simulation side of things, GRiD developers worked hard to find a balance between mindless fun and a realistic simulation.
DiRT 2 continues the trend. While the fantastic driving model should satisfy the simulation purists, the playing experience can be tailored to arcade-like tastes by turning damage off, changing the difficulty, and using the flashback feature that lets you reverse time and undo your critical mistake. With these options, anyone can be a winner. And the simulation elite can truly be proud of their accomplishments under the most difficult and realistic settings.
It might sound like a perfect compromise between simulation and arcade, but walking the line like this will rarely yield a superlative experience that games such as Burnout Paradise or Gran Turismo offer in their distinct categories. Having said that, DiRT 2, like GRiD, remains a great game that can appeal to a much larger audience. And let's not forget, as a rally game, it's in a niche aside from the road-racing offerings out there.
But what about the practical aspects DiRT 2? Well, it's an X-sports take on off-road racing and is not your traditional rally car racing game, yet it is an in-your-face title on the cutting edge of the sport. The game is literally packed with options. Some of the options include five racing disciplines ranging from an old-school rally to a stunt-heavy land rush, seven vehicle classes ranging from cars to buggies, and customizations including liveries (sponsored paint-jobs for the vehicle) and dash ornaments. Online play is well-implemented, with up to eight-player support in a wide range of events including online tournaments.
What are our complaints? Hardcore simulation fans might miss the fact that vehicle damage is simply erased between events. There are no consumable resources to manage, such as tires, and performance-customization options are simplified. From our limited play time, the game doesn't seem to offer as much team-oriented management as GRiD does. In addition, the extreme-in-your-face flavor of the game and its transitions can grate on the senses after a while. But these are nitpicks really. The game is a blast and does a great job of making Rally Racing fun. And it is absolutely gorgeous.
Speaking of gorgeous, what about DirectX 11? As one of the first major titles to support the new application-programming interface, this is definitely a factor in our decision to choose DiRT 2 for this month's performance analysis. We're going to dig into what exactly DirectX 11 support brings to the table when it comes to DiRT 2 and see just how much--if at all--its inclusion enhances the game.