Previews

Colin McRae: Dirt 2

Preview: Hands-on with Wii's first 'proper' racer

It appears that what's true about buses all arriving at once is also true for racing games on Wii. Not content with releasing the console's first 'proper' racer in the form of F1 2009 (see previous page), Codemasters are also releasing its second 'proper' racer too.

The Colin McRae1 franchise has long been the benchmark by which rallying games are judged, and has consistently delivered on quality. Except on Nintendo consoles, where the series has only ever appeared on Game Boys Advance and Color. (We have to admit it was pretty tidy on GBC, mind.) So this makes Dirt 2 not just a Wii debut for the McRae series, but its debut on a Ninty home console. No pressure, then.

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As with F1 2009, development is actually being handled by Sumo Digital, but with support from Codemasters' internal racing studio. Our first impression is that both will end up being of a similar standard, and that the standard will, hopefully, be high. Obviously the worlds of F1 and rallying are poles apart but a similar approach has been taken for both titles in terms of allowing you to tailor the game to your individual preferences..

Slide rule
So what's on offer here? Well, pretty much everything you'd expect from a rally game. There's a big career mode, numerous quick race modes with a variety of adversarial and against-the-clock race types, challenge modes for up to four players, plenty of officially licensed cars of various different classes, and tracks of varying terrain to race them around. In terms of gameplay options, it's ticking all the boxes.

As with F1 2009, you can turn the numerous driving assists on and off to suit your skill level. There are various control set-ups too, including support for the Logitech steering wheel, which we found a lot easier to use in Dirt than we did in F1, more because rallying is more suited to using a wheel rather than any mad 'skillz' on our part.

It's likely most people won't be using the wheel, so it's good that the default nunchuk-and-remote setting is fine for the slip-slidey driving style.

Torque sport
Perhaps recognising that tearing solo through miles of countryside isn't going excite the core Wii audience, there's a slant towards competing against other cars here. As you plough through the career mode you'll encounter four-car point-to-point races along with lap-orientated challenges.

In fact, this is a reflection of the sport as a whole, there being a general decline in traditional rallying, mainly down to most of the beleaguered car manufacturers pulling out of what's a very expensive pursuit.

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That's not to say there's a dearth of vehicles in the game. Far from it, and we sampled some dusty Mexican courses and icy Scandinavian tracks in a variety of vehicle classes. It's early days in development but the handling feels solid and noticeably different depending on your ride. The high-riding truck-alikes teeter on two wheels when negotiating tight corners, for example.

We also got to grips with most of the challenge modes. Here you're against the clock and tasked with stuff like spending a set amount of time in the air or sliding around corners.

Elsewhere you'll need to pass through a set number of gates, and there's more besides. There are three levels of difficulty for each of them, and you earn medals depending on your performance. These are a nice addition to the main event and don't feel tacked on.

With this amount of early promise, Dirt 2 could be a Wii motoring essential.

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